In the past 24 hours, I have seen and experienced the yin and yang of customer service at Delta Airlines. At the moment of this writing, Delta is making headlines due to the following story about a group of soldiers returning from active duty being charged $200 per person for having four bags. In just under a day, Delta actually changed their policy.
While everyone seems to be championing this as another victory of the power of social media, I believe this to be a failure of the corporate culture at Delta. Someone up in Baltimore was afraid of losing his or her job by making a decision in favor of the customer. The prior policy stated for military personnel, they get three bags free. Whoever it was at check-in read the policy and seeing soldiers had four bags chose to follow policy and charge a $200 premium for that extra bag. Whoever it was in Baltimore knew if they were questioned about making a decision to not waive the fee on their own they could have been written up, or worse they could have had to pay for the baggage overage themselves, or worse still they could have lost their job all together.
On the yang side of this culture, I had to deal with Delta customer service on a personal matter. My wife is flying to Atlanta tomorrow and had planned to fly back to Baltimore on Sunday. Due to a need for her to be in Houston as her father has a 50/50 chance of survival during heart surgery, I decided to call the SkyMiles line to see about changing her return ticket to fly to Houston instead. In airline parlance, I had to make not only a change of city pairs, but I had to change the date of the return as she would be flying from Atlanta on Friday. The price of a ticket from ATL-IAH roundtrip was going to be $856 or so. I understand a bit about revenue management at an airline and supply and demand so I was not questioning the cost of this ticket. If I were able to change her original ticket, I knew I would have to pay Delta’s ticket change fee of $150 on top of the fare difference.
I placed a call to the SkyMiles number and explained the situation. They put me in touch with the E-Ticket reissue desk. I was able to get her ticket changed for an $80 additional change in fare fee and they waived the reissue fee. They showed compassion and understanding that this is a very difficult personal situation. Someone actually waived the policy without me asking them to do so. For this I am thankful to Delta Airlines.
I wish the culture existed at Delta to empower all employees to make such decisions. This culture would have avoided the entire situation for our brave men and women returning from active duty. Though I know there will always be people who will take advantage of this type of employee empowerment, the vast majority will not. Those who do take advantage will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis. I believe there are far more people who just want extraordinary customer service. Companies should have cultures that romance all of their employees who will then in turn love the customer. I have always said that companies should invest more in customer service that in marketing, but more often than not no one is listening. For my experience with the yin and yang of customer service at Delta, I am glad I talked to that one employee who waived a policy and did something personally for me and my family that is greatly appreciated.
Chuck and Laura Flagg own The Flagg Agency in Canton, GA and our number is 770-355- 9569
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