Delta’s Ausband: “Customer service is the core of what we do”

By | September 22nd, 2010

I met Allison Ausband, Delta Air Lines’ vice president for reservations sales and customer care, earlier this year in Atlanta after she’d taken over for Perry Cantarutti. I followed up with her earlier this week to see how her new job was going. Here’s our interview.

The Transportation Department is considering an ambitious set of new rules that would, among other things, require airlines to disclose fees and strengthen consumer protections. Do you think new rules or legislation is necessary to ensure good customer service, or is this something that airlines can provide without prompting from the government?

Delta’s fees are clearly outlined on If you simply type fees into the search function you pull up a page that summarizes our fees. That’s pretty transparent, and we opted to make that information easily accessible because we knew it would be beneficial to our customers.

How do you think Delta is doing, when it comes to customer service?

Customer service is the core of what we do. We’re proud of the Delta culture of customer service and are always working to improve it every single day.

Since you’ve started in your position, how has the customer service experienced changed for the average passenger?

Probably one of the most positive steps we have taken over the last few months is the creation of two new options for our customers to get their feedback to us in a faster, easier way. We’ve launched @DeltaAssist, a customer service focused Twitter handle, and recently revamped the homepage to allow customers to address travel issues and offer suggestions with a link directly from the landing page.

Related story:   A quiet moment gets out of hand

How about your elite-level customers?

We’ve introduced a “one call concept” for our elite customers. This direct line will connect our Sky Priority customers to Reservation Agents that can provide assistance before, during and after travel. This concept launched in the spring of this year and we are continuing to introduce new options and tools to support our elite customers.

Last year, when I interviewed your predecessor, he mentioned several customer-service programs that were being phased in. They included the reintroduction of “First Point of Contact” which allows flight crews, airport staff and reservations agents to compensate passengers on the spot. How is that going, and how to you measure the effectiveness of such a program?

As customer service professionals, Delta fight crews, airport staff and Reservation Agents want to be able to resolve issues for our customers as quickly as possible. The “First Point of Contact” program is working well, although we aren’t perfect. As a result, we are fine tuning the program and will continue to gauge success through customer feedback.

Ultimately, our belief is that addressing issues on the spot, and understanding that there are circumstances that call for flexibility and unique solutions will put Delta and its employees at the head of the pack when it comes to customer service.

One of the other things Perry told me about was the introduction of Delta’s “Red Coats” who can offer assistance in airports. How is the deployment of the Red Coats going, and again, how can you measure the effectiveness of this initiative?