3 Customer Service Lessons From Delta

Earlier this month, Baby Girl and I flew from Florida to North Dakota to visit Daddy. He's working up there while there's boom money to be made, and has been gone for two months this time. The travel time was eight hours, a long day even without a six month-old, but we were optimistic. It was going to be an adventure. Baby's first flight! 

Searching for a sign 
Our first flight left Tampa at 5:00 am, so we arrived at the airport at 4:00. Checking our bags would only take a minute, I figured. Who else would fly so early? 
There were no employees at the counters. None. Nada. Zip. And no one in line knew why. People finally gave up and went to the curbside baggage check-in. 
I did get a response to that tweet. 
Awesome, Delta. Thanks for the info. This could have been easily avoided with a little planning and a few pieces of paper. Signs at the counters would have saved travelers precious time and help to avoid a negative brand experience. 
Tip: Communicate clearly and often to set customer expectations. 

Pilots over pizzas. 
Baby Girl was a rock star on our first two flights. When we landed in Minneapolis, I saw our flight was delayed. That was fine; I used the extra hour to grab a bagel and change a stinky diaper. But then, it was delayed again. And again. Our pilot declined the flight, a thing I didn't even know pilots could do. Then, another pilot declined. This went on for four hours. 
That tweet went unanswered. Which, to me, is pretty much inexcusable. 
Bonus tip: If you have a social media channel just for customer service, it's critical you respond when folks use it. 

Delta never offered vouchers or refunds or any compensation whatsoever. Not even after the fact. They did, however, bring us pizza. Great. 
Tip: Don't make a bad situation worse by doing the bare minimum. 

Your positivity sucks. 
My eight hour travel day had turned into a ten or possibly eleven hour day. I'd been up since 3:00 am, and had been nursing, holding, carrying, strolling or amusing my daughter since about then, too. I was tired. She was tired. I was frustrated. She was frustrated. I wanted to be with my husband, and now I had no idea when that would happen. I was near tears, and Baby Girl was already there. 

I approached the woman at the counter, who was handing out pizza slices. She looked at me, frazzled and weepy, then at my crying little one, and then she put on a hugely false, cheerful grin and said, "And what does baby want?" 

Her forced enthusiasm so surprised me it took me a moment to answer. "Uh, nothing. She can't eat pizza yet." I started to ask if she had any idea how much longer this would take, and also did the pilots know they were keeping a six month-old little girl hostage in this airport by refusing to fly? 

Before I could say any of that, the woman doubled down on the cheerful. "Yes, she can!" Her positivity was brittle and sickly sweet, like pulled sugar. 

"She doesn't have any teeth." My frustration bubbled up to the surface. I was going to cry if this woman didn't listen to me. 

"She can gum it!" 

I took a moment, and in that moment I resolved two things: 1) I would not punch this woman just to see if she continued smiling, and 2) I would write this blog so others might learn from Delta's mistakes. 

Being glib in the face of an overwrought mother, or any unhappy customer, is not good customer service. I didn't need pizza, I didn't need jokes. What I needed was a little empathy.  
Tip: Customer service is also called customer care for a reason. You should care about your customers. Sometimes that means dropping the cheerful facade and saying, "I know this sucks. I'm really sorry. What can I do to help?"

Because the answer would have been, "You just did it." 


  1. Great tips, Autumn. Sorry you had to go through that mess. That customer service representative deserves a good finger wagging for that cringeworthy conversation.

  2. These are excellent tips. It is inexcusable that you had to go through that and incomprehensible that the ticket counter wouldn't be open at 3:30 or 4am if they have a 5am flight... isn't it their advice to be at the airport at least an hour in advance?! Also, I'm not certain I would have had your composure in the face of someone ARGUING with me, because smile or not, that is what she was doing, that my 6 month old should eat pizza. Where is the sense in that?


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