You Can Now Video Chat With A Delta Reservations Agent

The ways in which we interact with airlines is changing drastically. A decade ago I certainly didn’t imagine we’d be able to get reservations help through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, even though that’s pretty common nowadays.

Now Delta is trialing a new way of communicating with passengers. Those flying through Washington National Airport can get help with their reservations using a new video chat feature. This is the first time a US airline is trying anything like this.

There are now five interactive digital screens with receivers at the Delta Sky Assist area, allowing customers to connect face-to-face with Delta reservations agents. Passengers can pick up the receiver and initiate the live video chat.

Per the press release:

“More and more people are choosing video chat to connect in their everyday lives, so we wanted to bring that channel to Delta customers,” said Charisse Evans, Vice President — Reservations Sales and Customer Care. “We have the best specialists in the business — and now, they’ll be able to deliver customer solutions in an even more personal, face-to-face way.”

Delta will review the video chat test to understand if it creates a better engagement opportunity for the customer, while capturing employee feedback to drive improvements. This feedback will drive additional innovative customer touch points.

While the implementation of this is extremely limited for the time being, I find this to be an interesting concept. After all, this is something that could eventually be spread beyond airports, given how many people have video capabilities on their laptops and smartphones. However, I’m conflicted about whether I love or hate the idea:

  • On one hand this brings a human touch to the interaction. For a lot of people it’s easy to feel like you’re not understood or like someone can’t empathize when you can’t actually see them. This could also be useful for those of us who feel like phone agents take bathroom breaks every time we happen to call.
  • On the other hand, the logistics seem a bit complicated here, especially given that reservations agents have to multi-task, often have to be put on hold for support desks, etc. It’s tough for them to be all that engaging while doing this. The pictures Delta uses in the press release are a bit confusing, since I don’t see a computer anywhere.

As of now this is just a small test, though I’m curious what you guys think about this. Would you like to video chat with airline reservations agents, or are you happy calling? 

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

Comments

  1. Microsoft offers video chat with customer support staff who communicate using American Sign Language for deaf customers. Surely airlines should offer the same service.

  2. Atlanta airport tried something similar if not exactly the same. They had big flat screens with a camera. You could see an agent on the screen all the time live, you could walk up to her and ask airport related questions. It was funny seeing on the screen a person sitting and looking around waiting for someone to walk up to him /her.

  3. This seems cumbersome for the agents and ultimately unfulfilling for passengers. Even the press release photos show agents holding an iPad *and* cradling a phone between their head and shoulder while they work with even *more* agents. How is this ultimately better than talking to a person at a counter in the same airport who has a computer terminal that actually enables them to solve problems, not just act as a parrot between passenger and a useful agent.

    This smacks of the “Let’s use technology like the Facespace and the Tweeter and the Instaphoto because that’s what Millenials want! Throw some tech gadgets at the problem!” line of thinking without working through the logistics or fully developing the problem they’re trying to solve. This is an LSS workout waiting to happen…

  4. @AdamR—it looks to me like the folks holding the tablets are test subjects on the consumer side of the tech. The shot over the lady’s shoulder shows a guy on screen wearing a headset, who I’d imagine in an agent.

  5. Make no mistake, this is entirely for improving customer serviceincreasing profits.

    This is the way to maximize the number of customers an agent handles in a day, by reducing downtime. No longer will they have agents standing around at counters waiting for someone to stop by. Now, they’ll be able to service multiple counters with one staffer.

    I’ll take this over picking up the phone at a kiosk, but I still prefer a human being, face-to-face.

    Interestingly, Canada’s going to something like this for their NEXUS trusted travelers in off-peak times. It allows them to provide NEXUS lane service when they’re normally shut down by having one agent “man” a few lanes at different border crossings simultaneously. In this case, I see it as a positive thing, as these lanes would be closed otherwise.

  6. The bank I work for offers this as well to costumers. Personally I’m not sure though if I’m a fan of the concept, if I need support I just want my issue to be resolved asap, and no video chat is going to make that process faster 😉

  7. We used this concept at OnlineTravel back in the very early days of the internet, when many of our customers were still accessing the web via dial up. All of our reservations staff of 12 as well as supervisors and managers were available via live web cam. We were selling exclusively international air transport, European auto rentals and rail products. Customers loved the opportunity to see their OnlineTravel res agent on their computer screen and I am absolutely certain that the feature helped assure customers of our ‘legitimacy’ and increased sales. Our res agents were apprehensive at first, but their concerns quickly dissipated when everyone in the office was available via our iOncam system.
    There is still no better, more effective way for humans to communicate than face to face, looking the other party in the eye. The Delta implementation seems a bit rough yet, but folks, this is the future being created as you watch.

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