Did THAT Just Happen? Delta Multichannel Misfires
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Did THAT Just Happen? Delta Multichannel Misfires

It’s clear from my posts recently that I’m spending a lot of time traveling.  While the endless airports and hotels can make one a little weary, the countless customer experiences have been both notable and enlightening.

Last week I talked about the memorable multichannel experience I had with the MGM Grand Detroit hotel and their exceptional (and consistent) usage of mobile and social to engage customers in real-time.

And while this week’s discussion is again focused on a travel provider, it ironically occurred while I was not in the air.

Say My Name; Change My Name

I got married earlier this year and have admittedly been a little slow in formally changing my name. If you’ve never done this before, just know it is one heck of a process.

As of last week I finally had a new driver’s license, military ID, social security card, and most importantly, a pending passport. It wasn’t until I got to the airport though, that I realized my frequent flyer accounts were still in my old moniker. That meant that any premier status was no longer associated with my newly-named ticket. No free baggage, no priority boarding, no extra legroom, and no PreTSA screening. That is a big problem for this road warrior.

My first attempt to make the name change and restore my connection was at the Delta counter with a live agent. That proved futile, so like any good connected consumer I pulled out my iPhone.

The Connected Consumer

It is frequently said that due to our instant access to information, today’s connected consumer is now more informed and less patient than our predecessors. We are also thought of as less accepting of impersonal service, particularly when we are utilizing emerging channels like social, mobile and advanced self-service options. Our expectations have been reshaped, in large part by instantaneous social media channels such as Twitter. While it can be said that it is harder than ever to satisfy customers, the demands are certainly not abnormal. Recent ICMI research shows that the connected consumer is looking for:

  • Faster response times
  • More customization
  • Personalized service
  • Immediacy of information
  • Instant connectivity to an agent when needed
  • Options for “Their Time, and Their Channel” mentality
  • Single Sign-in to all channels

And this is exactly what I was expecting.

Trying to Help Myself

My first self-service attempt from my iPhone was equally as frustrating as the experience at the Delta counter. I simply couldn’t locate the instructions I needed to make the name change. I expected it had something to do with the mobile app, so I migrated from my iPhone to my laptop.

Unfortunately I was again met with a roadblock. I searched and searched through pages of FAQ results, I dug under ‘Support’, ‘Delta.com Hints and Tips’ and scoured the entire SkyMiles section.  Still no success.

Out of curiosity I checked on the same process with one of Delta’s competitors. On united.com I intuitively went to MileagePlus → My Account → Profile → Edit Traveler Information → Submit Personal Identification Change Request, and voila! Within 4 minutes I was able to submit my new name and upload a copy of my scanned marriage certificate. The site said the changes would be in effect within 72 hours. In reality, it took them two.

So back out to delta.com I went. After about 20 minutes I finally gave up and threw in the self-service towel. It appeared I did truly need the assistance of a live agent.

Stranded in Self-Service

According to our Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center research report and best practices guide, dissatisfied self-service customers appear to be left stranded within the channel 30% of the time without any seamless way to transition to live help. 

Live assistance should be used as a mechanism for escalations and additional help for more complex issues. While self-service is often enough to resolve a customer’s support issue, supplying a real-time (or near real-time) channel – chat, phone, or even Twitter – is increasingly more important. It’s that whole connection back to the connected consumer.

Customers who cannot resolve their issue through a self-service option need to be able to reach a human; lest they feel helpless, like I did. That helplessness often translates to frustration which is then shared publicly across social networks. While I didn’t go social yet, I did end up calling a human.

The agent I spoke to, while extremely considerate and polite, was insistent upon keeping me in my original channel selection. Instead of owning the issue, she sent me back out to the website with clear directions on how to accomplish my task. Go to Comment/Complaint → Tell Us About Yourself → Tell Us About Your Experience → Select SkyMiles → Select Update SkyMiles Account

From here I should be able to upload my marriage certificate or fax it in and all would be good. Except it wasn’t. I made it to the end of this non-intuitive self-service journey only to discover that there was no place for an attachment, no fax number, and no way to effortlessly escalate back for better instructions.

I was stranded in self-service and I had a non-prioritized plane to catch.

Merge for Efficiency

As a best practice, it’s very important, no matter what the channel, for a customer to be able to seamlessly transition over to a live agent, when needed. Not only does it improve that immediate customer experience, but it also positively impacts the perceived significance of the agent. When agents are used less for the mundane and simple, and more for the complex and higher-value, they feel more utilized and valuable. That translates easily into agent happiness, which ultimately impacts customer engagement.

And while I actually appreciated the phone agent for wanting to leave me in my original channel choice of self-service, that was obviously not the appropriate place for me to be. Sometimes the customer’s choice is not the right one. Contact centers must be very clear on the guidelines and expectations to move a customer to another channel, when necessary.  

When Only an Agent Will Do

Upon my arrival in Detroit, I took 3 minutes and shot a quick email over to Delta and explained my predicament. Later that day I received a clear and concise explanation of my next steps. It was clear that my name change request was not a process that could be accomplished online; rather it was a matter that only a live agent was equipped to handle. By the next morning my reservations and my SkyMiles account were happily linked once again.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

To recap, my Delta multichannel experience looked a little like this → 1) live counter agent, 2) self-service FAQ, 3) live phone agent, 4) web self-service, and 5) finally email. After all of those channels and all of those interactions, you’d think I would have at least received one customer satisfaction survey.

In the emerging channels research ICMI conducted earlier this year, CSAT measurement methodology for self-service is vitally important. You can actually do more damage with bad self-service than with none at all. More than half of companies (52.0%) use end-of-interaction surveys, a quarter (25.3%) review customer forums or portal communities, and a large combined amount (55.4%) use analytics - search optimization reports (19.7%), search completion rate reports (18.2%), and online-to-live agent escalation reports (17.5%).

I can only hope that someone at Delta is looking at a backend report, because they sure as heck aren’t proactively soliciting feedback on their service.

So, what took me four minutes and one channel with United, took me 24 hours and five channels with Delta. You know, now that I’ve been talking about this, I think we need to make it six. Twitter…here I come.



Topics: Self-Service

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Rachel Ostafi — 12:15AM on Sep 20, 2013

I never thought about the multichannel process quite like this. Thanks for sharing this experience Sarah!

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