A Customer Experience Surprise from Delta


Share on LinkedIn

As CEO of Beyond Philosophy, I routinely help companies analyze and improve their Customer Experiences. I’ve studied, analyzed and improved so many CE processes that I don’t often find myself surprised by my own Customer Experiences. That said, Delta Airlines recently did something impressive that I feel compelled to share. This anecdote is all the more surprising considering the abysmal customer satisfaction ratings for which most airlines are known.

I was assigned a middle seat on a recent flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis. I booked my flight late and there were no other seating options. I figured, “such is life. I shouldn’t have waited so long to book.”

Because I frequently travel between our London and Atlanta offices, and around the U.S. to visit clients, I’m a Platinum member of the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program. The folks at Delta know this and sent me this email:

Colin Shaw's reward from Delta Air Lines.

Wow! This is impressive on several fronts. First, Delta understands who its high-value customers are, and specifically targets them. This is possible because Delta is likely using CRM technology. For my inconvenience, the airline rewarded me with 500 SkyMiles – in spite of the fact that this issue was my own fault. It’s important to recognize, however, that the award doesn’t matter. The fact that the airline showed they care for me – a basic human emotion – is what resonates.

This episode also proves that Delta understands what is happening to its customers and how its customers respond. It goes without saying that everyone hates sitting in a middle seat, but Delta tried to make it right, and now I feel valued as a customer. While I wouldn’t have thought to ask for compensation in this situation, I didn’t have to because Delta proactively granted me the SkyMiles.

The resulting emotion is one of loyalty – exactly what every business wants from its customers!

This reinforces our philosophy that emotions play a significant role in Customer Experiences. In fact, our research shows more than half the typical Customer Experience comprises subconscious emotional response.

Are you aware of the kinds of emotions your business evokes in your customers? Are your customers loyal? Our recent webinar, “Emotional Profile Self-Assessment for Business,” which can be found here, helps answer these questions.

The only downside of my unsolicited reward from Delta is that the bar is now set extremely high. I now have an expectation that the next time I get stuck in a middle seat I will receive SkyMiles as compensation. But this is a worthwhile price to pay to gain my emotional allegiance.

Overall, however, this was a great example of a company recognizing how inherent shortcomings in its product can have a negative effect on the emotional state of its customers, and responding to create a net positive Customer Experience.

Well done, Delta!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


  1. Colin, thanks for sharing this story. Great example of how CRM technology can actually be deployed to improve the customer experience for a valuable customer.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here