When Delta merged with Northwest Airlines, it seemed just to make a wider venue for the endless lack of customer service and concern. Delta received the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation for the first nine months of last year, and they were only one step above dead last for on time arrivals and baggage handling through November. If that wasn’t enough to make Delta Executive Vice President, Glen Hauenstein sad, Delta also had the shameful distinction of rating the highest for canceled flights for 2010.
Delta blames the high rate of canceled flights on repairs, lack of parts, and understaffed airport workers. They are now reportedly hiring 1000 new workers and increasing their inventory of spare parts and spare planes.
The most impressive part of the new Delta image, centers around two-billion dollars worth of customer service instruction for the 11,000 ticket counter agents, gate attendants, baggage personnel, and supervisors. The one-day course will concentrate on finding ways to assist travelers rather than just blowing them off with a sigh of indifference. Training facilitators will help agents show their appreciation of customers and the money travelers spend. Dealing with the most common complaint from customers, “no one cared or apologized” customer service training will now emphasize the “high value customers,” all of whom these frequent fliers make up 26 percent of the total revenue for the airlines.
Customer service training will center around the universal principals, however it won’t be about offering waivers or bending the rules. Passengers may get bad news with a smile now, and agents will no longer feel they have to apologize for extra charge add-on baggage fees. Instead agents will explain that customers pay for what they use; “a la carte” fee. It’s not meant to make the passenger feel any better; just a polite way to say “it’s another way for the airlines to make more profit.”
What is bound to improve however is the emphasis on the customer service training. Here is a peek as to what will be emphasized in customer service charm school:
- Make it personal. Agents will be concentrating on one passenger at a time instead of looking down the line at the ten people waiting for service.
- Be empathetic. Agents should try to place themselves in the shoes of the traveler. Missing a flight and missing a job interview, or not making a connecting flight are routine complaints for agents, but not for travelers.
- Listen, ask, listen. An example of dealing with a customer’s lost luggage which contains necessary medications may first have been viewed by an agent as a stupid mistake the passenger made for checking a bag with medicine. Through listening the customer service agent discovers it is the fault of the airlines because there was no more space in the overheads, and the carry-on baggage had to be checked.
- Solve together. Offer solutions and choices.
- Be there. Don’t just physically be there because it is your job, and you only have 26 months, two-days and four hours left until you are eligible for retirement benefits. Do more than just process orders. Care about your job.
We’ll check back this year, and figure out if classes will benefit this organization. For sure – it can’t hurt!
photo credit: grogri87