Delta Air Lines sends frontline staff back to charm school

We’ve all been there – standing face to face with an airline employee that has the customer service skills of a can of beans, completely unwilling to provide any form of assistance in a time of need.

According to the Vice President of Delta, his airline completely fit that description when they so badly failed at customer support last summer.

To fix things, he’s sending 11,000 of his staff to be retrained. Everyone that is directly involved with customers, from gate and baggage agents, to ticket agents and supervisors will be sent to charm school.

One of the driving forces behind this speedy retraining project is the number of complaints about Delta Air Lines sent to the Department of Transportation. Delta beat every other airline in the nation – a first place hardly worth bragging about. Add to that scoring second to last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling, and you see why they are spending $2 billion on improving things.

With role-play games and other hands-on lessons, the staff will be retrained on how to deal with complaints, how to explain baggage fees to customers and tips on how to put the focus back on the customer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these are the core elements of the retraining plan:

  • Make it personal. Focus on the person in front of you, not the long line of people. Greet each one memorably.
  • Be empathetic. Put yourself on the other side of the counter.
  • Listen, ask, listen again. Customers tune out routine announcements. Agents tune out customers.
  • Solve together. Involve customers in solutions by offering choices.
  • Be there. It’s a lot easier to check out than check in. ‘If you don’t remember your last three customers, you are just processing,’ said Delta facilitator Michael Hazelton.

To me, these are all things staff should have been doing all along, and retraining them in such basic things seems rather odd. Also, retraining staff to greet customers won’t help if the policies at the airline are the bigger issue – and without providing staff available options to be empowered and override rules, customers will still be aggravated when things go sour.

Question is – is this all too little too late? Have you switched carriers because of lousy service from Delta Air Lines?


[Photo: AP]