Here’s part two of my interview with Allison Ausband, Delta Air Lines’ vice president for reservations sales and customer care. You can read part one here.
Whatever happened to First Point of Contact? Does it still exist?
Absolutely. We’ve told our people either to fix it, or find someone who can, which is what First Point of Contact was all about. So, if you can’t solve a problem, raise your hand and talk to a leader.
We just started a program with our customer support supervisors in reservations. If they get to an impasse with a customer, they offer to end the call and then call or email the customer back after a short break. It gives the supervisor the chance to review the situation and consider some options that perhaps they hadn’t considered.
Since Nov. 1, we’ve had 131 callbacks, and a 70 percent success rate with the program.
We now have more situational flexibility. We know there are going to be times when our rules and our policies need to be waived based on circumstances they might not have considered.
What’s your customer-service goal? Are there any numbers you tend to fixate on?
I fixate on all of the numbers. For example, we’re number one in baggage, meaning we have the fewest DOT complaints. And we’ve been as high as number two on our disability numbers. We’re fixated on being number one for our customers.
There’s a perception among air travelers that things are being taken away from customers in the back of the plane and given to the folks up front and your elites. Is that a fair perception?
Well, we have elites in the back, too.
From a business perspective, clearly the people who are spending the most revenue with you — they deserve to have some perks. So yes. And you know what those perks are.
But as I look at it from a reservations perspective, yes, we answer their phones quicker, they have a dedicated group. But at the same time, we’ve done a lot to support our essential customers, too.
The situational flexibility you referred to, that applies to both elites and non-elites?
We don’t draw a distinction. There may be more things we can do for an elite, in terms of service recovery, but we treat them the same.
You’re referring to leisure travelers as “essential” customers? That’s interesting.
We are. Because they are. They are essential customers.
Essential, but infrequent.
We understand that. We have another service recovery program called Delta Choices. Let’s say we just canceled your flight, and you can’t get to your honeymoon, or wherever you need to go. If you only fly on Delta once a year, a voucher is not a valuable means of service recovery.
We now offer any number of gift certificates — from Amazon, Nike, Marriott, Home Depot — that you can choose from.
That’s been well-received. So far, 90 percent of our customers accept it. It’s right on the money.