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Social Media Is No Substitute For Great Customer Service

11/14/2011

Nearly everyone who’s flown on a commercial airline has more than a fewer stories to tell. Most are not about service exceeding expectations either.

Stories such as having a fuel truck back into the plane’s fuselage while parked at the gate (happened to me in Detroit), or having a very ill passenger refusing to deplane in order to be attended by a physician – causing a 5 hour delay in departure (happened to me in Hong Kong) or the hapless JetBlue passengers stuck on the tarmac at Hartford, CT for 7 hours on Halloween. I understand the flight attendants were giving out candy for best irritated passenger costumes.

Delta, which ranks right about average in a customer satisfaction survey conducted by JD Power & Assoc. in June 2011 knows that in the world of travel – word travels fast. Much faster than travel carriers in fact.

To  get ahead of the word curve, Delta is pursuing its social media opportunities. Delta realized there “was already a huge social media footprint out there. We weren’t part of it.”, said Rachael Rensink, Delta’s manager of social media. What Delta found was the sentiment about Delta on social media networks was “overwhelmingly negative” Rensink observed. “There’s no one on our side”, plus “we have no credibility in the space if we’re not engaging our customers where they want to hear us.”

Delta may be one of the first major carrier to jump into social media with both feet. This could turn into a big advantage as Delta may set the benchmark for other carriers to be judged by in that regard.

Social media and customer engagement are no substitute for better customer service. If the service is great Delta won’t have to be nearly as concerned with their side of the story. Southwest, a perennial customer favorite has nearly 8 times the number of “likes” on Facebook. It would appear Delta has a way to go. Both in the air and in the ether.

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