Delta Skelter — Delta Airlines shows us how to NOT join the conversation.

Ok…Let me start by saying that I am currently 120 pages into Joseph Jaffe’s book Join the Conversation. I am trying frantically to finish it tonight (I’m a horribly slow reader) for my paper that is due on Monday morning. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to help their organization remain relevant in a networked world.

With that being said, I have spent the last day wondering what exactly Joseph Jaffe’s Twitter avatar meant.
delta airlines, bad customer service
From the start, though, I knew it wasn’t good news for Delta. This intrigued me as I have already booked a flight on Delta for next Thursday. I am flying to Seattle with my wife to look for a house there. I am excited about the trip, but pretty skittish about the flight, now. When I finally got a chance to check out Jaffe’s blog, I found out what the avatar was about. I suggest giving it a read.

As illuminating as the post is about the failures of Delta’s customer service, the mistake that jumped out at me the most was the way Delta chose to respond to the blog post. Here is Delta’s comment:

Hi Joseph,

It’s Katie from the Delta Blog. My apologies for your experience.

You may have noticed when checking out our site that our Customer Care department has recently attempted to outline the most efficient processes to help resolve our customers travel complaints.

Nancy wrote one post on this topic a few weeks ago that comes to mind (it responds from a Delta perspective to an article by Joe Brancatelli at Portfolio):
http://blog.delta.com/2008/05/19/ten-tips-for-resolving-a-travel-complaint/

As she outlined, the first step is to email our Customer Care department so that they can address your situation and make it right:
http://www.delta.com/emailus/servlet/EmailUs?cmd=go

I hope this information is helpful. Let us know if you have any suggestions for future posts on this topic or others?
http://blog.delta.com/contact-us/

Best, 
Katie

That, in my mind, is the perfect example of how to NOT join the conversation.  To scold a customer for not following Delta’s preferred channels, no matter how cordially, is one thing, but did she not realize she was scolding Jaffe in front of the world?  What would have been wrong with engaging the conversation in a real way?  How about addressing the issue right there on the blog for all of the readers to see?  Is transparency too much to ask for from corporations?  

Someone might say that too much transparency would lead to people trying to “game” the system to get free flights.  In that case, I would say the real problem is Delta’s service.  Fix service issues and you will have no reason to give away flights.  Be honest and transparent when things do go wrong, and you will get PR and marketing that you just can’t buy.

*****************************************

UPDATE

Here is another example of how command and control in communications is viewed by customers in a networked world (example via Twitter):

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3 comments so far

  1. Janetta Cravens on

    yeah, she could have said, like a real human: “Wow are we sorry we messed up. You know, we handle a lot of customers every day and we’re bound to get one wrong some time. I’m really sorry it was you. I can think of 2 things that we could do to help fix this situation — (name them) is there a 3rd item that we could do to help turn this around? Thanks for bringing this to our attention and we hope that you have a better experience next time. (I can almost guarantee you will!)” — A little self-deprecating humor never hurts either.

  2. Will Boyd on

    You make a really good suggestion about offering up a couple of proactive steps Delta could take and then asking for another. That would have been great service providing that Delta would do what they say and then listen to what is said. You hit the nail on the head when you said “like a real human”. And, yes, humor never hurts when it is self-deprecating. It sure beats the ivory tower response.

  3. Joseph Jaffe on

    As I said, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt (as she called me yesterday), but I’m not holding my breath….


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