My trip back to Columbia, South Carolina on Tuesday was an aeronautical marathon. Using the ACUHO-I travel service, I had booked my flight with Delta. Flying out of Columbia is super convenient. The trip to New Orleans via Columbia to Atlanta went smoothly. However, the return was another story. I fly quite a bit and this was the first time that I had the pleasure of experiencing significant travel delays.
The flight from New Orleans to Atlanta was going well until we actually got near ATL. According to the flight crew, bad weather in the form of a thunderstorm was keeping flights from landing or taking off. We were in a holding pattern over Atlanta for more than an hour. Things would have been remarkably unremarkable had it not been for the extremely negative attitudes of our flight attendants. Their negativity and overall lack of service made what would have been a tolerable situation and made it a less than desirable plane to be on. Running out of fuel, we ended up being re-routed to Savannah to refuel. It took about another hour and a half for our plane to land, refuel, and take off from Savannah. The flight attendants were quite rude when they talked to us. We were all ready to get off of the plane.
When we landed at Atlanta, most of the passengers with connecting flights had missed their next flight. I’ve never actually missed a connecting flight before. I know, I guess I’ve been lucky. When we asked the gate agent about our options, we were met with more negativity and a serious lack of positive customer service. According to the departure screen, my revised connecting flight was at 6:18PM in terminal D…I looked at my watch, it was 6:15PM and I was in B terminal. I asked the gate agent what I was supposed to do if I missed the connecting flight (knowing full well that I would miss it given that a shuttle is required to get between B and D). He told me to run. Hungry, tired, and disappointed in the service that I had received, I proceeded to the D terminal as quickly as I could.
I missed the connecting flight…I know, what a shock! Anyways, it was about this time that I sent out this tweet. I was getting frustrated. Bad weather happens, but bad customer service is inexcusable.
Less than 10 minutes after my tweet, I received this mention from Delta Assist (Delta’s social media customer service channel):
“^WG” from Delta Assist and I sent each other direct messages on Twitter. It was nice to at least feel like someone from Delta cared about my experience. Customer service isn’t that difficult. It takes a sense of care about someone’s experience. Delta Assist on Twitter made me feel like someone cared.
It was at about this time that I found the Delta Customer Service counter. Exasperated after my sprint to D terminal, I asked if they could help me out. The ladies at the counter had been dealing with a variety of customer issues due to the weather in Atlanta. I watched them keep their cool with one guy who was a complete jerk. Needless to say, I was impressed with their calm in the face of a “storm.” They found me a flight to Charlotte and I eventually made it home.
What struck me the most about this experience was that while the first half of my day with Delta went quite poorly, the second part of the day (while quite a long journey) went rather well thanks to the work of the Atlanta customer service team at Delta and with the social media connection that Delta Assist provided. Customer service is about relationships. It’s also about the process.
More info about Delta Air Lines and their social media customer service efforts.