Patches vs. Cures: Delta Airlines Charm School Initiative

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Interior of a Delta Airlines Boeing 737 via Wikipedia

Delta Airlines is sending its 11,000 customer service and gate agents to charm school.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the airline is attempting to improve their bottom rung ranking amongst major carriers in customer service.

On its face, the training sounds good. According to the Journal it includes the following:

“In its training program, Delta emphasizes these five ways to ‘wow’ fliers with customer service:

  • Make it personal. Focus on the person in front of you, not the long line of people. Greet each one memorably.
  • Be empathetic. Put yourself on the other side of the counter.
  • Listen, ask, listen again. Customers tune out routine announcements. Agents tune out customers.
  • Solve together. Involve customers in solutions by offering choices.
  • Be there. It’s a lot easier to check out than check in. ‘If you don’t remember your last three customers, you are just processing,’ said Delta facilitator Michael Hazelton.

What’s the rub?

Poor customer service is frequently a symptom. Curing it alone won’t get at root causes – so in effect you’re patching a symptom when you could be addressing the cure.

A Walker Solutions research from 2007 that updated a study from 2001 determined that there is a positive correlation between the care shown employees by their employer and the care given to customers by employees. In brief, according to Walker and other research, improving employee satisfaction improves customer satisfaction. Satisfaction in the workplace begins with items such as effective communications, fairness, management that listens and engages employees, etc.

As anyone who has compared the service from Virgin America or Southwest to most of the major carriers such as United and Delta, care of employees shows in the way customers are treated.

So while it’s great Delta is investing in some added training, the real solution is to take better care of your employees; try a cure, not just a patch.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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