Customer Experience – Three Ways Alaska Airlines Schooled Delta

“No more Delta if I can help it. I think I am an Alaska Airlines convert,” says Miriam Thomas, former Delta passenger.

That’s the best thing you could hear if you’re Alaska Airlines and the last thing you want to hear if you’re Delta. Here’s what happened, a recent kurfuffel happened where a Delta customer might have been stranded overnight were it not for the kind actions of an Alaska Airline employee. News1130 told the story, Consumerist shared it as well.

After reading the article, you can’t help but feel for both the Delta employees and the affected customer. It’s not like the Delta staff are bad people, nor did they out and out try to give this customer a bad experience, but at the end of the day there’s that quote at the top of this blog. (You can go read it again)

Here’s three ways Alaska Airlines took Delta Airlines to school:

1) Actions speak louder than words. Delta’s words were, “We can’t help you right now, but how about tomorrow?” Alaska’s words… “We see your distress. We’re fixing it, now.” Both speak pretty loudly, and even though Delta was probably doing what it could with the information they had and the protocols in place, it’s Alaska that comes out the hero of this story. No surprise here but you always want to be the hero in your customer’s story. Because really, do you want to be “Excuses Man” or “Come to My Rescue Woman”? Exactly.

2) Communication is key. There were two missed steps here. First, when Delta went ahead and used the rest of the passenger’s ticket value for her rescheduled flight (rescheduled due to Delta’s mechanical issues FYI), she had no more money to fly home. But they didn’t tell her. Did. Not. Tell. Her. Think maybe that would have been important information to have? Hint: yes. People are really understanding if you talk to them and explain an issue. They may not always agree with it but at least they’ll understand where you’re coming from. Though, in this case…why did it cost HER money for a mechanical issue? That’s a company error, not a customer error. Second, while one Delta attendant is telling her to hurry to catch her flight but that she’s fine and she’ll get a seat home, another agent closes the gate on her with a “no soup for you” attitude. How did one staffer have such a different read on the situation than the other? Consistency is key and nothing helps that better than good communication. They have walkie talkies, right?

3) Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Empathy is essential, in life and in business. It shouldn’t matter if the person is your customer or not. From reading this story, Alaska Airlines just cared more.
Exhibit A: “The two women I was dealing with from Alaska were comforting me”.
Exhibit B: “She paid for my ticket, she paid for me to get home. She didn’t know me at all”
I’m sure the Delta staff cared about the passenger. I’m sure they aren’t heartless. But in this case, all they offered were obstacles and some “best we can do”s, rather than trying to put themselves in the traveller’s situation and understand how they could help.

Bottom Line, if you have an opportunity to take care of your customers, do it. Or your competition will.

And then people will write news stories and blogs about it.


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