Yesterday I had a pleasant customer service experience with Delta in Seattle, which impressed me so much. But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that it was just a sad reflection of how low my expectations of service at the “big three” US airlines have become. For the most part I find flight attendants to be friendly and airline phone agents to be well intentioned, if a bit incompetent.
However, the level of service from airport customer service agents at the major US carriers has been on a downward spiral for years. There are some good employees out there, no doubt, but on average I’m happy if the service I receive is somewhere between what I’d expect at a DMV and a Ross.
That’s why I self service my reservations as much as possible, and try to limit my contact with customer service agents to when I’m boarding the plane. Just to give a couple of examples of service experiences that I’ve written about:
- A few weeks ago I was flying United in first class out of Houston, and missed my flight. When I asked for help rebooking (and was happy to pay) the agent let out an audible sigh, walked ever-so-slowly to the desk, and had an attitude, on top of having no clue what she was doing.
- American wants their customers to use self service options as much as possible, to the point that customer service agents who are standing around and doing nothing aren’t allowed to help you.
This brings me to yesterday. I was flying Delta out of Seattle, and noticed my Known Traveler Number wasn’t on my reservation. I tried to use a kiosk in the non-elite section to add it, but didn’t see the option to do so.
There were two customer service agents standing around in this area chatting, and as I approached to ask for help, they stopped their conversation, looked at me, and said “hi, can we help you?”
I was so caught off guard by an airline agent trying to help that I assumed they weren’t talking to me. Usually the response is more along the lines of this:
“I’m trying to add my Known Traveler Number to the reservation, but the kiosk isn’t letting me.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I can help you with that. Just give me your number and I’ll add it.”
She wrote down my Known Traveler Number, ran to a desk (like, actually ran), and a few moments later returned with a new boarding pass.
“Thank you for waiting, Mr. Schlappig. I’ve added your number and you now have Pre-Check. Have a nice flight.”
Now, in fairness, let me say that every single Delta employee I interacted with in Seattle was incredibly professional. I’m not sure if this is a Delta thing or a Seattle thing, or a combination of both, but they were just fantastic across the board.
However, it makes me sort of sad how the above interaction left me stunned in a positive way.
What does it say about the big three US airlines when simply offering to help a customer feels like going above and beyond?