Frequent travelers have many choices when choosing airlines. Some choose an airline for their frequent flier benefits; some for their convenient routes or frequent itineraries and some have airlines chosen for them by their companies. For many years, Delta Airlines has been at or near the bottom of almost every survey conducted regarding airline customer service. In fact, they were named one of the worst 15 companies (out of all companies) for customer service by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Delta finally decided it wanted to change. How could they transform their reputation from that of an airline with horrible customer service to the opposite, however? They spent a long time living up to their bad reputation. How could they possibly change that image and regain the trust of travelers?
A recent article tells the story of a Delta employee going above and beyond for a traveler. A story so out of character from their reputation that you’re forced to consider the fact that maybe... just maybe… they’re sincere.
A traveler returning to the U.S. from Paris had accidentally dropped her passport into a mail bin. As she proceeded to freak out thinking she’d be stranded in Paris, while everyone explained that she’d have to wait for the postal officials to open the box, one person listened and assisted her in her time of need. That person just happened to be a Delta employee. The Delta employee personalized the problem and not only helped her get a boarding pass, then through security and safely onto the plane; he made sure that the next day her passport was retrieved and mailed back to her. This was done while also keeping her up to date numerous times throughout the day.
We don’t know whether this is a new strategy that Delta adopted which empowers employees to go above and beyond or not. However, if it’s not, the positive attention it got them should make them take notice.
Car dealerships typically start with a bad reputation in a shopper’s mind. If the customer is unfamiliar with your dealership, statistically they just assume the dealership can’t be trusted. In fact, a Gallup survey done at the end of 2012 placed consumer trust in car salespeople right below that of Congress. In fact, car salespeople have been at the bottom of the list every year except 2011, when they tied members of Congress with a 7% honesty rating. Car salespeople's perceived honesty has never climbed out of the single-digit range in the history of the list.
Reputation management is certainly something that’s top-of-mind for most dealerships today. Cultivating and nurturing existing relationships towards a public display of affection (positive review) is still challenging to manage but with consumers being more tech savvy all the time, it’s getting easier. Of course, the opposite is also true. Consumers will much more quickly take out their frustration online concerning a poor experience at a dealership than they used to.
So how can a business maintain customer satisfaction (if they have earned it already) or rebuild the customer’s trust (if they haven’t)?
It’s important to teach your employees that every action they take is one that is a reflection of your business and set forth expectations that you have for them as brand ambassadors. Empower your employees to make judgment calls and take action to avoid a negative customer experience and reward them when appropriate.
Car dealerships start at the bottom of the hill and must make huge efforts on a daily basis to climb towards a solid reputation. Every misstep is magnified tenfold as a customer is more inclined to believe something that reinforces the stereotype. So it’s even more important for car dealerships to go above and beyond for their customers and make every possible effort to insure a positive customer experience for every customer, every time.
Delta still has a long road ahead to transform from an airline that lives at the bottom of the customer satisfaction chart to the top. But by encouraging and allowing its employees to make decisions like this, they’re taking a step in the right direction.