The day started out so much better than two days ago when I attempted to fly with another (not-to-be-named) airline. There were unpredictable mechanical problems that day. And I must confess, the pilot and flight attendant appropriately handled apologies, even though we had to deplane to exit and rebook our flights.
But the handoff after leaving the plane was lousy.
On that unforgettable occasion, it resulted in a 16-hour long day of being in airports and planes. My experience was the gate attendants and ticketing staff all dropped the ball multiple times.
I did not feel like a valued customer. It was easy not to feel loyal to that airline that day. And naturally, I told my sob story as often as I could find a listening ear.
A Different, Unfolding Story
Today, proved to be different. My return flight became a special day.
First, it was smooth sailing through security because I had pre-check status.
Second, I felt valued by Daniel S., my gate attendant, from Delta Airlines at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Not only was I valued as a person but also for my airline loyalty.
I am an avid people watcher. I loved watching all that Daniel did in a seamless fashion as he scanned bar codes on boarding passes and smartphones.
Daniel gave a personal comment or question, and sometimes a follow up response to passenger comments made back to him. He did this to almost everyone in line no matter what their tiered status or which zone they were in.
For one casually dressed, middle-aged couple he asked if they were in Arizona for personal reasons. Scan husband’s boarding pass. The response from the couple was that they had been visiting family. Scan wife’s boarding pass. “Well we hope we’ll see you visiting your family many more times,” said Daniel. “We hope so too,” replied the husband.
Daniel calmly told an older man, who had not sought out preboarding assistance when announced, that if he needed any help to just ask any of the flight attendants on board and they would be more than pleased to assist him.
These were just a couple of examples I clearly heard, and he repeated this time and again for many of the passengers on Flight 715 to Detroit.
Now it was my turn.
I handed him my boarding pass and Daniel looked it over quickly matching the details with the scanned results on the monitor. From his keen observations skills of my boarding pass, Daniel looked me in the eyes and thanked me for being a Delta SkyMiles® loyalty member.
No one has ever personally thanked me before for my loyalty membership to an airline.
You and I know that it is one thing to be rewarded by points you accumulate each time you fly. That you expect. It is one of the reasons you keep flying with a specific airline. You want more points so you can redeem them and upgrade your status level.
But to be verbally appreciated by the gate attendant is a whole new level of customer loyalty.
Consistency Inside and Outside the Plane
Fortunately, I am pleased to say the same polite and positive treatment continued inside the airplane cabin too.
Repeatedly, I heard positive pleasantries and exchanges between attendant and passengers. I heard one attendant sharing a story of a previous customer experience after one passenger had a small drink spill and needed napkins to mop things up. No matter what was needed it was done in a caring manner.
Onboard, there was no identifier as to who was a loyalty member and who was not. Which is another great way to inspire more loyalty with passengers.
It would be wonderful to clone the Daniel’s of the world to spread positive service but it is not so easy.
But I can tell you that I looked up Delta Airlines’ values. One of their values is, “Care for our customers, our community and each other.” – Servant Leadership.
I am glad to say that Daniel is a great example of caring for customers even before you get on board a Delta flight.
And it looks like Delta’s culture really is a way of life for the people I saw this week and not just a page of words on their corporate website.
For those involved in any loyalty initiatives, make sure you thank your customers for being loyal members.
Question: How do you thank your clients and customers for their loyalty?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.