My Multichannel Customer Experience Experiment – Part 3

So here are the results of the last part of my experiment, which in case you missed the overview, is set up in my blog post from last week, My Multichannel Customer Experience Experiment. Essentially, my experiment was designed to see how Delta Airlines would respond to a service compliment and a service complaint delivered over several channels. Here are the results of my “complaint” interaction:

Phone: Let’s start with the phone, since it proved to be the most interesting. I called the phone number listed below the comment/complaint tag on the Delta website. The speech-driven interactive voice response (IVR) prompted me with, “Why are you calling?” I replied with the word, “complaint,” which the system recognized and let me know that I would be routed to a customer service representative. The next prompt I heard was an invitation to receive a call back instead of sitting on hold. I wouldn’t lose my place in line and I could expect a call back in 11 to 17 minutes. I opted in. I was prompted to record my name and enter my call back number. Pretty straightforward.

Sixteen minutes later the phone rang with a Delta agent on the line. Slick. I explained that I wanted to complain about a service experience. “Oh, you’ll need to call the customer care line.”

“What?,” I asked.

“The customer care line is who handles complaints,” was the clarification I received.

I wondered silently why the system didn’t reroute me 16 minutes ago, when I first spoke the word “complaint” to the IVR system, but okay.

So I hung up (no the agent couldn’t transfer me, let alone transfer me with the context of my reason for calling). Ring, ring… 17 minutes and 14 seconds later I had a customer care agent on the phone. I explained the situation. She asked for my name and flight details and found the record. Unfortunately, this is where one of the variables of my experience changed. When the agent looked me up, she saw my Diamond status (which I had purposely not disclosed before). She apologized for the problem no less than five times. She added miles to my SkyMiles account, and she thanked me several times for my loyalty. The complaint would go to the station manager and would be looked into. I asked if I would hear back on the resolution and she said that isn’t possible.

So yes, Delta does prioritize callers based on status (I actually called back, entered my Diamond number and what was a 17 minute and 14 second wait time, was cut to 37 seconds). However, how about the rest of the Delta customers who paid just as much for their ticket as I did for mine?

Twitter: I tweeted the following:  “@DeltaAssist @Delta I suggest you teach the soft skills of courtesy and politeness to the gate agent in Atlanta working FLT 1507 on 1/11/14”

Twenty four hours later, not a tweet to be heard from Delta.

Online web form: I filled it out as instructed on the website and clicked submit. I found it interesting that the note next to the form on the Delta website reads:

“Thank you for your questions and comments. As a valued customer, your input is most appreciated and we will make every effort to ensure a quick response.”

Quick response? 24 hours later and still nothing back from Delta.

Email: Not offered on the website

Webchat: Not offered on the website

So what can we glean from all this? How did Delta do?

The “good part” of the Delta experience: To be fair, Delta did a number of things well during this service experience.

  • The actual face-to-face interactions during my weather-plagued trip were good overall (with the exception of the Atlanta gate agent). The Delta staff was helpful and polite (especially Cleveland gate-agent Jon Amato, who even sent me an email confirming what he did to improve my seat assignment on my flight out of Atlanta).
  • Delta offers a call-back option, instead of requiring a caller to remain on hold. It was a good option that worked, as advertised.
  • Delta has a straightforward, one question survey, that asked a relevant summary question at the end of my call.
  • Delta provides priority phone service for its most loyal customers.

The “ugly part” of the Delta experience (and my no-charge recommendations on how to improve): There are definitely things Delta can do to improve the service experience.

  • Offer additional channels of communications including email and web chat to let the customer choose how to communicate.
  • If you promote Twitter as a way to communicate with you, you have to respond to tweets. Otherwise, you’re doing more harm than good.
  • Hold times are far too long to be acceptable. Consider a remote/work-at-home agent strategy that would allow additional agents to login and take calls when wait times exceed a certain limit.
  • Delta needs to reply to compliments and complaints submitted via their web form. Start with an autoresponder “thanks for you submission,” but then follow up with an agent delivering a personal response via email.
  • Bridge between the general toll-free phone number and the customer care phone number, so agents can transfer callers and brief the new agent on why the customer is calling.
  • Improve the routing of the speech-driven IVR, so that if a caller says “complaint” the call is correctly routed the first time.
  • Prioritize complaints over compliments in the routing and queuing of an interaction.

There you have it. A fun experiment that I hope you found useful. Now the final chapter to my multichannel customer experience experiment is to print out all three blog posts, put them in an overnight envelope, and send them off to Delta CEO, Richard Anderson. Will I get any response?

Joe Staples – chief CX experiment officer