Pat Egen’s Weblog

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A Delta travel day saga or how not to run a business

with 4 comments

I travel a lot and recently had a horrible travel adventure.  Weather can make life miserable and interesting but I totally understand that.  The adventure I had, though, wasn’t caused by weather but rather by a series of unfortunate events.  Or more bluntly, bad management.

On a trip back from South Dakota, I had three flights.  Flight to Minneapolis, no problem.  Flight to Atlanta, no problem.  In Atlanta, things fell apart.  First we were told nothing.  Then we were told the flight was delayed due to maintenance. Ok. They failed to mention it was the incoming flight.  Around this time, several people (like around 40 or so) showed up at our gate because their flight was now delayed many more hours than ours – again for maintenance issues.  We all sat and waited and waited and then a gate agent says “go to the customer service desk this flight has been cancelled due to lack of crew.” Now, there were 100 people or so shuffling off to a counter, at the end of a very long day (by this time we’d been waiting 6 hours).

The customer service desk was an exercise in futility and frustration.  It rapidly became apparent there were no more seats to be had.  After the first 30 people, The reps were basically saying “you are on your own.”  They all cornered themselves and slowly started disappearing.  The line wasn’t getting shorter but the number of reps was.  Dinnertime appeared to be the solution to the problem. It’s like the all said “We’ll just leave and someone else will figure it out.”

The rep I got told me to call the Super shuttle equivalent and then have them call to get a reimbursement. Ok.  No dinner voucher was offered and this was not a weather delay so they should have offered it. Ok, I can handle that. Off I went to call Groome Transport (the Shuttle) and was told by the very nice rep that they weren’t allowed to call Delta.  It was Delta’s responsibility to give me a travel voucher.

Grr. Ok. So, since the shuttle wasn’t coming for an hour, I got back and line, marched back up to the remaining rep who happened to be the one who gave me incorrect information which as it turns out was the easier one.  I didn’t even give her a chance to argue with me – I simply stated I wanted a travel voucher, thank you mam.  And I got one.  But why did I have to stand in line twice for over 30 minutes when it could have been handled correctly the first time?

Why did it take the gate agent so long to tell us what they knew 30 minutes before – that we were doomed to not get out of town that day.  And why did they let crew lapse?  Why, for the last three series of flights has there been maintenance issues?  Is this company in trouble?

And that made me think this would be a good blog article about how to kill customer allegiance with bad customer support.  I am not sure I trust Delta anymore.  This is happening so often that I question whether they are a safe airline to fly.  Writing letters doesn’t do anything. It used to help.  I’ve gotten free travel vouchers because of particularly bad flight situations.  Those days are gone.  It’s like Delta and it’s staff no longer care.  But they should. They are not the only game in town.  Are they getting complacent and believing they are?  Is this a mistake a company can make – thinking they  are the best or the only game in town therefore they don’t have to have the best support?

The business world is one of supply and demand.  I don’t want to switch to another carrier.  My airport is a limited market.  But nothing stops me from driving or taking a shuttle to Atlanta where there are numerous other choices.  Is that the move I make?  Do I say no thanks to Delta even though I’m close to a million miles of flight time?  Would they even miss me?

Even if you have the very best product if your customer support stinks, people will leave.  They won’t buy your product.  They want to know they are valuable to you as a customer even after they have spent their money.

The lesson here is don’t forget about the customer.  Companies need to ask “what is the price of bad customer support.” People expect their issues to be dealt with quickly – at least my customers do.  Our customers are more than willing to  take their business elsewhere if they are unhappy with the service being provided.

I read somewhere and darn if I can remember where, that the average cost of a lost business relationship is $289 per year.  If the 100 people on this plane are any indication, Delta lost $28,900 during that one day.  That’s hemorrhaging money.  Granted, $289 doesn’t sound like much, but that’s an average.  For some companies, it’s more.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like losing business. At all.
It’s sad what happened to me because I’ve had really good customer support from Delta in other locations. The Atlanta airport is just not one of those places.  And it’s been happening much more frequently.  It is very obvious the support personnel don’t care.  They have upset people’s days and possibly lives because of their lack of caring.  Delta needs to be careful or they can end up in the same situation they were in a few years ago – only this time it won’t be caused by the energy crisis – it will be public apathy.


Written by pregen

August 1, 2011 at 12:44 am

4 Responses

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  1. They also seem to have forgotten the old rule of customer relations: “A happy customer tells one person; an unhappy one tells ten people.” With blogs and social networking, the ratio is probably much worse than that.


    August 1, 2011 at 1:16 am

  2. I also find it disturbing that they told you “maintenance issues” one time and later it was “lack of crew”. It begins to sound like “we don’t have enough people on it to cover the cost of this flight, so we’re cancelling it, make up a bogus reason”

    Tim Hare

    August 1, 2011 at 2:12 am

  3. nice post


    August 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

  4. Agree Tim – except the plane was overfull – they were going to ask someone to fly the next day. And it was two planes that were full. Truly not a good Delta day.


    August 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

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