So, because I work directly with customers all day long, I’m probably more interested than most about how other businesses try to make their customers happy.
After my experience this morning, I’m forced to conclude that Delta Airlines doesn’t try.
Mackenzie, my four month old baby girl, and I woke up at 4:30 am to get all loaded into the car and drive to the airport in time for our 6 am flight. Our local airport, CMH, is fairly small and never all that busy, and I didn’t want to be waiting for an hour juggling a sleepy, hungry, Mackenzie with all our stuff. So I planned to arrive about 40 minutes prior to departure. Well, we ended up getting dropped off at the wrong end of the ticketing area, and after getting me all loaded up with Mackenzie, diaper bag, suitcase, etc. and making our way to the farthest counter… it was getting closer to 5:30. I pulled up to a kiosk, put everything but my baby down, swiped my credit card, and started punching in flight information. Four or five punches later, I was informed that I was 30 seconds too late to check a bag on my flight.
Apparently Delta has a hard-and-fast rule about checking bags 30 minutes prior to departure that I was unaware of. I had booked through Expedia and later looked everywhere I could think to look on their site and saw no mention of this rule.
I’m not a rebel. I’m not a rule-breaker. I’m just a young mom trying to get everything together to take her first cross-country trip with a baby. Also, I’m a bit sleep-deprived, but I don’t think that should count against me.
Ok, so Delta has a hard-and-fast rule. Bummer, right? Sorta, but here’s the biggest bummer of all:
They were downright rude to me. They treated me like I was an idiot for punching in the buttons at the kiosk 30 seconds too slowly, or taking an extra 30 seconds to extricate my sleepy baby from her car seat at the airport. As I stood there, nearly in tears, holding my baby at 5:31 am, not one person said they were sorry or even gave me a friendly glance.
I exaggerate. The other customers standing nearby gave me very sympathetic glances and a few (bless them) even shot the Delta agents dirty looks.
However, nobody from Delta appeared to be the least bit sorry for my trouble. In fact, after I waited in a line to see a rebooking agent, she smiled when she told me it was going to cost me $50 to get on another flight. No, I could not get on the plane and send my one suitcase with a later flight (security reasons, duh). No, I could not just hurry to the gate (there was no line at security) and promise never to be 30 seconds later again. No I could not get to CA that day without a 3 hour layover in Atlanta. No they couldn’t get me out of Columbus any sooner than 7 hours later. No they couldn’t treat me with respect. I was late! Yeesh, didn’t I know that being late came with a get-out-of-being-decent card?
So Mackenzie and I left. Me, holding back tears and $50 poorer for the experience, Mackenzie just beginning to realize she had been pulled out of bed much too early.
When I got home, I called Delta. I wanted to speak with someone who could restore my faith in humanity, or at least confirm to me that I had just encountered a few bad nuts and that the company as a whole wasn’t rude and uncaring. I got through to a supervisor in Atlanta named Hilda who informed me in no uncertain terms that this whole thing was my fault because I had been late. No joke. Here is almost word-for-word a particularly unbelievable part of our lengthy conversation:
Hilda: Ma’am, if this were our fault, maybe there would be something I could do. But it’s your fault because you were late.
Me: It’s my fault that your agents were downright rude to me?
Hilda: Ma’am, you were late for your flight. You can’t check bags 30 minutes prior to departure.
Me: I’m not asking you to refund my flight, I just want to let Delta know I was ill-treated by their employees.
Hilda: Ma’am, you really need to arrive for your flight at least an hour to an hour and a half prior to departure.
She may as well have said “You were late, Lady. All bets are off.” I asked her if she cared that I had been treated poorly by Delta employees, and she said if I wanted someone to care, I should write to “corporate” and they were required by law to respond to me in 30 days or less.
Thank you, Hilda, for making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks, Delta, for taking my $300 for flights, $50 for a change fee, and leaving me with a conviction to never ever use your “service” again. I’ll write to “corporate” and I’ll be sure to update you in 29 days or so on whether anyone there seems to care.
My experience this morning helped me realize just how much I value good customer service. Scott and I determined that it’s more important to us to use an airline that is always friendly and polite, even when situations aren’t going to work out the way that we would’ve liked, than it is to get the absolute cheapest price. I don’t think that we’re unique in this regard, and the customer responses that I get at work support this idea. I’m grateful to work for a company that has a habit of bending over backwards to make customers happy, and to know that my interactions with customers will never result in them shedding tears of frustration. In my book, that’s a very good thing.
P.S. Anyone had consistently great service from an airline? As it turns out, we’re looking for a new carrier.