Monday, February 17, 2014

Great Customer Service Gives the Illusion of Friendship
Delta Airlines is my Best Friend Airline

I have had to call Delta Airlines a lot in the past month. A lot. And wowza. The customer service has been awesome. My family has been helping me through the past few weeks, and they are the kind of family that if you need something, they already thought of it, got it, and opened it for you. So they set the bar pretty high when it comes to being helpful. For me, personally, this winter hasn't been a good one.

A couple of weeks ago, I drafted a blog (some of it is still below) where I talked about how Delta is my BFA—best-friend airline, and it felt corny. But this month kind of sealed the deal.

My family is in Texas, and for this trip, I flew out, and then later my husband flew with the kids, and then we all flew home together. On my flight into Dallas, the flight attendants acted like they were so happy to bring me a cookie at 9:30 p.m. I know every Delta flight has people handing out cookies. But I don’t care what your hours are or what your job is, no one is happy pushing that drink cart around at 9:30 at night.

Delta still gives out wings to kids.

I have spoken to several customer service reps in the past three or four weeks. They all solved my problems. I never have to hold very long unless the entire east coast is paralyzed by weather. Maybe not even then. These last weeks though? Unbelievably awesome help on the phone.

A few years ago, when we were grounded in Cincinnati, the agent who set up our new flights gave us overnight kits and asked if she could give me some extra diapers for our baby.

Only a BFA would think of diapers, right?

Over the past six years, its customer service, flight crews, ground crews, baggage claim personnel, and gate agents have been so awesome that Delta has become my BFA. I almost feel like if I were to call Delta and ask for a favor, they would grant it.

I’m all in: SkyMiles, Delta credit card, and my son owns the Delta toy plane, of course.

During the leg of this trip where my husband flew solo with the kids, we pretty much figured out as he took off from home that they were going to get stuck at LaGuardia. The kids were ecstatic about this prospect. They fly through LGA a lot, and know that the terminals have been remodeled and include: access to iPads; Lego candy; and really awesome hamburgers. The frantic texts from my husband as plane rolled up to the gate worried me. He was stressed. But I knew the first Delta agent he saw would make the night manageable. And Delta made it easy. The two littles called me from the hotel to tell me Delta gave them “free stuff” (kits with the sleep shirts and toothbrushes) and they “don’t even have to give it back!” They also reported the hotel was totally cool.

I love this recent post by Josh Misner, Ph.D., who apologized to a Delta rep because he lashed out in frustration after his flight was cancelled (he was frustrated at people other than Delta). The Delta representative later discovered he wasn’t seated with his children and reseated everyone. Misner thinks Ron, the Delta representative, did this because he apologized. And maybe he did. He certainly knew Misner's name because of the apology, which had floored the representative. It's probably one of the very few ever given to an airline representative. But, part of me thinks the gate agent reseated Misner and his family because that's just what Delta does.

On one of my recent flights, I asked a flight attendant if she liked working at Delta. I explained that customer service had been so good that I wanted to know if its employees are happy. It turns out I was on a Delta Connection partner flight, but the flight attendant said she believed Delta tried to take care of its employees and that they were happy. She told me that when a snowstorm hit Georgia (I think), a lot of personnel were at the airport with nowhere to go. Hotels were full. Delta flew a bunch of employees to another state so they could have hotel accommodations. She thought this was very nice of Delta, and I agreed. The flight attendant reported that she had been working for the Delta partner airline for 18 years. Longevity says a lot about the corporate culture. She said she loved her job and had no plans to ever switch airlines. I think that's the take-away here. Employees who are happy and empowered provide good customer experiences.

On our final flight home, we were all tired and stressed. My son fell asleep on take-off. My daughter, however, was ready to melt. It was nearly 10 o’clock at night, and she wanted her own house and her own bed. When the flight attendant asked her what she wanted for a snack, she didn’t want anything. She wanted everything. She wanted an orange. Or a blanket. "Do they have ice cream with sparkles?" She really wanted to land. So the flight attendant, who had been standing by and somehow was still smiling and looking patient, did something outrageous. She made a little pile of peanuts and pretzels and cookies on my daughter's tray table. My daughter was astonished at the heap in front of her. Her frustration melted away. Having won the snack lottery, she kicked off her shoes and discussed how she would take leftover snacks to kindergarten.

This flight attendant was able to keep a lot of people happy (a whining five-year-old is the worst) with a pile of peanuts--literally.

Thanks, Delta. We know you have had a rough winter, too.

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