How Delta Airlines Missed the Most Obvious of Service Recovery Solutions
Airlines get a bad reputation. But for me, it’s not the absurd fees and inflexible policies that upset me the most, it’s the complete lack of compassion, personalization and acknowledgement and ownership of their mistakes that makes them, deservedly, one of the most loathed industries in the public’s eye. Here’s a perfect example from a recent Delta Airlines trip (and don’t forget to read about my American Airlines experience too).
I Choose You Because YOU Are Different
I had a choice when booking my return flight from Honolulu to Orlando. I chose Delta because they provide on-demand video entertainment at ever seat. United just plays videos on a loop (so if you miss the first 5 minutes, you have to wait until the movie is complete to actually restart your viewing experience). I chose Delta because of this feature, plain and simple.
You Failed, And You Did Nothing
Immediately after airborne the video systems broke. The crew tried a reboot to no avail. Thirty minutes in to the 8-hour flight and there was no longer a key feature that makes Delta stand out amongst the other carriers.
I waited for an apology from Delta via email or snail mail and received nothing, and it’s been 30 Days later.
Now there are a lot of reasons why your technology didn’t work. Maybe it just flaked out. Maybe it didn’t work on the previous leg and you didn’t have time to fix it. It’s pointless to guess why it failed. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It failed and you chose not to recover.
That’s right, you had a choice to do something here. We all understand that sometimes things break. But 200+ people were watching to see how you would respond to this breakage. Who you be proactive or reactive? Would you make any attempt to show empathy towards us?
You chose to do nothing, hoping we’d forget. Hoping we’d just shrug our shoulders and chalk it up to “this is how the airline industry is these days.”
Customer Service Reps = Canned Response
So I wrote you a very brief letter with two questions:
- How come you did not provide any service recovery to the passengers on this flight?
- Why does Delta think it is acceptable that when things don’t work, they don’t apologize or do anything about it?
Granted it was a bit snarky, but I deserved this one bit of snark.
Your customer service rep saw a brief mention that the inflight entertainment system didn’t work, and immediately pulled that email template from your hard drive and went on and on about how sorry they were and frustrating it must have been. They even forwarded my comments to routine maintenance, clearly demonstrating a complete lack of reading comprehension. My issue was not about the fact they broke (it happens), it was about the lack of response from Delta on fixing an obvious mistake.
You gave me 5,000 miles which I did not ask for. And never acknowledged my initial questions, the pure purpose of my email.
Alternatives You Could Have Taken
It irritates me to no end when people (and companies) don’t take responsibility for their mistakes. Imagine if…
- You emailed every passenger the following day and apologized that this key differentiator of their airline (on-demand video) didn’t work and provided a flight credit, partial refund or miles for the inconvenience without anyone asking for it?
- The gate agent at the destination airport provided complimentary vouchers for entry to the Sky Club or a bottle of chilled water to help relax after this really long flight that had no entertainment?
- You sent a funny apology letter in the mail 7-10 business days later and provided a $3.99 coupon for iTunes so I could catch up on the movie I really wanted to watch by downloading it to my ipad for a future flight?
You could have done a number of things to demonstrate that you cared about your customer. Instead, you did nothing. And I still would like to know why.
Was it because your flight crew never reported the problem? Is there no mechanism to report problems like this? Are they not trained to report these problems? Does this happen so often that you consider an ordinary course of business? Are you concerned that these recovery items cost money (if you worked harder to avoid these problems, you wouldn’t need to recover)? Do you genuinely not care about these issues?
What’s the answer? I would truly like to know. Sound off in the comments. And when you’re done, consider reading why Airline Customer Service is @SS Backwards.