I love Delta Airlines! But have you ever been in a relationship where you get the feeling the other person really doesn’t care about you as much as they say they do? That’s how I think Delta feels about me. Contrary to the preamble by former Delta CEO Richard Anderson to the inflight safety video, I have been questioning how much Delta really does care about its customers – especially a long time, loyal flyer like me.
A recent Google search found estimates of the number of Delta Diamond Medallion members make up anywhere from 5% to less than 1% of the total Medallion level (Silver –Diamond) qualified flyers. I have been a Platinum level or higher ten of the last twelve years. I have had years that would have qualified for Diamond if it had existed at the time. I have been a Diamond member for the past 2 years and I am close to becoming a Delta Million Miler. Which brings me to the point of all of this: It’s not a complaint, although at times it may sound like one, but more of an observation and lesson about the real reason most people take their business to a different vendor.
Between January and June 2015, I did not board a single Delta aircraft. Prior to that, I averaged 7,500 flown miles a month for 10 years. Now let that sink in for a minute. That is an average of 90,000 miles a year for 10 years.
What would you do if one of your top customers, someone you did business with once a week or so, one of your most loyal patrons, suddenly disappeared? My guess is you would first check the obituaries to see if I died. When that turns up a negative, you would check other resources, and such as in the case of Delta, one of those resources is my activity on the Delta American Express Card.
Anytime we connect through Hartsfield, we are practically mugged by the hyper-aggressive Card salespeople stationed on each concourse. For those of us who wish to continue to enjoy any benefits that may have been taken away with the latest and greatest loyalty program revision, we have little choice but to get the Card. For me, the value of the Card has dropped significantly due to the pending divorce of American Express and Costco. But if Delta simply checked the Card activity, they would know I was not dead; in fact I am very much live and spend up a storm on their co-branded Card.
Maybe they could simply pick up the phone and call to see if everything is ok. This is exactly what American Express did when the account activity on my Business Platinum Card, which I have had since 1994, became almost nonexistent (due to the Delta Sky Miles Gold Card). American Express showed me the love. They cared.
To this day, I have not heard from any of the fine people (I mean this sincerely and I agree with Mr. Anderson on this – their service people are the best) of Delta regarding my sudden disappearance. Did I hit the lottery and buy a NetJets card, or did I make a career change that allows me to pick and choose when I travel?
If one of your top tier level customers simply vanished – I bet that you would want to find out why. If nothing else, it simply shows concern and your appreciation of their business. I guess they Delta will never know because they are too indifferent to ask. There you have it, the real reason most people choose to leave a business to which they have been loyal – indifference.
I grew up in Georgia, not far from Atlanta. Many of my classmates became Delta flight attendants and pilots, some are still flying. Georgia was a Delta state. I was based in Minneapolis for 4 years. Of those, in addition to my work travel, I commuted to Seattle weekly for almost 2 years. I have been in Seattle, birthplace of Boeing, full time since 2007. To the lay person this doesn’t mean anything, but to Delta aficionados, I can see the smile is slowly creeping across your face. You get it. Most of my life has been lived in or near three of the largest Delta hubs in the world.
In my adopted hometown, Delta is, for all intents and purposes, in a hostile take-over battle for Alaska Airlines’ home turf. Many of their flights are now departing from terminals with no Delta amenities (i.e. SkyClub). So maybe I decided to switch my allegiance to the underdog – who by the way, is putting up a hell of a fight. But, they haven’t asked.
When I received my 2016 Delta Medallion status, I had dropped from Diamond to Platinum – still an enviable place in the eyes of most flyers. Upgrades will be few and far between, but I can still board early and not pay for checked bags. How I achieved it is interesting. I had about 45,000 rollover miles from 2014. I actually ended up flying about 35,000 miles in the second half of 2015 – most from a trip to Europe, and I maxed the spending requirement on the Delta American Express Card – you are welcome, Costco.
Seattle is rich in aerospace history and there is an old saying here, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going!” That’s how I have always felt about Delta. The familiar Southern charm and Minnesota accents from most of the flight attendants is quite comforting. I feel at home. I can’t remember my wife’s cell phone number for the life of me, but I could recite my Delta Sky Miles number in a coma if asked. I earned my nickname, “Delta Dan” at my last employer because I was usually willing to pay the cost difference to keep from flying rival carriers. Now you might naively think this blind loyalty was misguided. Just the opposite is true, I don’t like turning into a pumpkin. Once you reach the exalted status of Diamond or Platinum, the travel experience on any other carrier is simply intolerable. I imagine AA and United elite feel the same way when forced on a different airline.
I guess it goes back to what I often tell people who are enviable of my air travels. They still picture the romance from the golden age of air travel. These days’ air travel – especially domestically, “It’s really just a bus with wings”. In the end, what does it mean to be a loyal Delta customer? For me, as much as I love her (Delta), it’s time to face reality and start playing the field.
The lesson is one of simple fundamental customer service. Follow up, let your customer know you care – don’t just say it, show them the love. If they go away for a while, reach out and ask why. You might just learn something.
Dan Chappelle is President of WealthyTravelAgent.com where he develops sales leaders for the travel & tourism industry. He assists sales professionals achieve their full potential by expanding their vision, shifting their mindset, and transforming their businesses to produce tangible results. An internationally known travel industry expert, sales executive, and speaker, Dan has earned an enthusiastic following among travel agents and industry leaders worldwide. He has been featured in numerous trade and consumer publications and is an instructor for the Travel Institutes’ Professional Educators Program, providing insight for travel professionals. You can contact Dan by email at Dan@WealthyTravelAgent.com.