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#DeltaFail: Customer Experience Affected by Merger

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“#deltafail What a clusterf**k! I’d rather crawl over broken glass with Danny DeVito on my back than fly in the USA” (@brucetiffee)

I haven’t been impressed with Delta lately but if I was given that choice, I’d choose the plane over Danny DeVito.

I have been a loyal Northwest Airlines (NWA) flyer since 2004 (mainly due to the fact that I live in or had lived in hub cities, first Minneapolis (MSP) and then Detroit (DTW)). I’ve been a Platinum Elite member since October 2007 which gave me a lot of perks until Delta introduced Diamond status, which makes Platinum mean less on Delta than it did on NWA.

I became increasingly unsatisfied with NWA as they merged with Delta. I know NWA was not everyone’s favorite airline, hence it earned the nickname “Northworst”, but it seems that the Delta experience is actually worst. Due to sites like Twitter, I see that I am not the only dissatisfied customer.

Upgrades for Elite Members
After the merger occurred, I soon learned that the Platinum title does not mean as much on Delta as it on NWA. With NWA, I was always upgraded to first class, even with a companion, days ahead of my departure date. With Delta, the upgrade has only happened sometimes, I won’t know until right before I board and if I’m traveling with a companion, I won’t be upgraded at all. If I had used some miles or all miles to travel, NWA would upgrade me, on Delta you’re not eligible for an upgrade if you use cialis no prescription needed quick delivery part miles.

  • “So when will I see the benefits of the #delta #nwa merger? They seem to be taking away perks from loyal flyers….” (@ryounk)
  • “No upgrades for #deltaairlines elite members on 2120 out of #PHX, but there were seats up front for non-revenue people? BS. Screw loyalty.” (@jnelso22)
  • “@DeltaAirLines Why do you forget your old customers? Bad service. #Delta has completely changed, for the worse!” (@DeltaCust)
  • “#Delta r u here? I need u. Why can’t #diamondlevel change fr EWR to LGA within 3 hour rule w/o a change fee. #NWA allowed and @ midnight.” (@dwied)
  • “Seriously grieving NWA online flight booking. What is the %$&# secret to booking a flight with upgrade on Delta? A Telephone?” (@Robinjc)

Using Miles & the Delta Web site
It takes me at least 2-3 more clicks on the Delta web site to print a boarding pass, and I have to study the boarding pass to find my gate and boarding time. I am quickly signed out of the Delta web site. When I choose a seat on the Delta web site, it often does

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not stick when I check in. I did not experience any of these problems with the NWA web site. Even though I sometimes had a difficult time getting pages to load on the NWA site, I preferred that experience since I knew I would be able to complete tasks once the pages did appear.

  • “If given a choice, I think Delta passengers would flock to use the NWA website. Too late. NWA.com is officially gone. #bad user experience” (@Robinjc)
  • “Thanks, @deltaairlines, for making your mobile site suck. http://twitpic.com/jpoj9 #deltafail” (@russdavisdotcom)
  • “Delta badly in need of Boarding pass redesign: http://bit.ly/4qDmMS Proves they are 2 cheap 2 use design that informs customers #deltaFail” (@uglymugagency)

I didn’t need to use as many miles to get a free trip or partially paid for trip with NWA. For example, if I was flying to MSP and the cost of full price tickets was $600. I could use 12,500 miles for the way there and pay $300 for the return trip. With Delta to get $300 off the same ticket, I’ll have to use 30,000 miles. On NWA, I could have gotten the whole ticket for less than 30,000 miles.

  • “@DeltaAirLines, you are ridiculous. Twice as many miles needed & twice as much in taxes than what #NWA required of me. I h8 #Delta. U #FAIL” (@GeeEmm)

Higher Fares and Baggage Fees
The merger has resulted in higher fares, fewer direct routes and outrageous baggage fees. “’Delta has not only increased the costs substantially but is also dropping many of the direct flights. Many trips I used to make in a day have increased to two days because of the extended times routing through different cities,” said Judy Jones of Birmingham, president of the Cutaneous Lymphoma Society. She flew 100,000 miles last year on business.’” (2010 Delta’s sky-high fares jar Northwest fliers)

  • “Avoid #Delta AirLines whenever possible: It is expensive and they have the worst customer service.” (@FTwist)
  • “The #nwa merger with #delta is so questionable. as a frequent flyer my tickets are now $150 more, on average. How frustrating” (@au55ie)
  • “#Delta Airlines YOU SUCK! U r the worst airline! $25 a bag then u try 2 charge us $90? And yr overbooked?…” (@NKCoverGrrl)
  • “Done with #Delta airlines. Their fees are ridiculous. #fail” (@publicremix)
  • “Delta has added a $5 fee for not paying your baggage fees online in advance http://tinyurl.com/lkohv8 #deltafail” (@ecs80)
  • “Delta will now charge $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for the second. http://on.wsj.com/4ISzQ7 #DeltaFAIL” (@WSJ)

Why stay with Delta?
So why do people continue to fly Delta? “Since most business travelers who were Northwest elite fliers want to keep their elite status, they are loyal to Delta.” (2010 Delta’s sky-high fares jar Northwest fliers) That is why I keep flying Delta. To keep my status and to continue to accumulate miles. But I’m tempted to start flying Southwest and struggle through the layover in Chicago (for a DTW to MSP flight) and unassigned seating because my ticket would be half the price and because I no longer have a guaranteed upgrade.

  • “Flying American tomorrow. Take that Delta. #delta” (@kkruke)
  • “Switching allegiances after 15 years of loyalty to Delta – no consideration for past loyalty as I make a new start in 2010 – #delta #fail” (@dubiner)
  • “I am quitting delta after one million miles with them! #Delta became a bad company” (@FTwist)

Now What?
What should Delta to keep customers? What are they doing?

In October 2009 Noah Mallin wrote the article Social Media: How Delta Airlines Loses Business One Customer at a Time. In the article Mallin states that Delta does not have a Twitter presence. “Note that the most recent purchase nolvadex entries are a few from June. Before that they are from May. May 2007.” Worse than not having a Twitter presence at all is one that is ignored. However, Delta currently has a Twitter presence. They are actively responding to positive and negative tweets within 1-2 hours.

Delta also has wi-fi on many of their planes. NWA did not have this. Delta does need power outlets to accompany the wi-fi which they say “We are in the process of evaluating where we’ll be installing power ports across the fleet.” (@ DeltaAirLines)

  • “Hello from 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. I love #Delta Airline’s onboard WiFi service #gogoinflight.” (@Prof_Wandt)
  • “WiFi on the plane? Wow. I’m okay with this. Go #Delta!” (@GLOEJCC)

Follow Southwest’s lead with no baggage fees. Southwest even loves your bags: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9bkl-ci_UU.

Continue to improve mobile check in and e-boarding passes. Not all airports currently accept mobile boarding passes.

Small gestures such as “First class to hawaii. Flight attendant handed me a mai tai as soon as I sat down =) I love #delta” (@rebekahbaldwin) will also keep customers coming back.

Recommendations for Working through a Merger
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have helped clients that have acquired companies to integrate their systems, create a consistent brand, and maintain and improve the user experience. Some of the steps we have taken are:

  • Spend time with subject matter experts from both companies to understand how their current systems work
  • Interviewed and conducted contextual inquiries with the current end users of both systems to determine what

    is and isn’t working

  • Analysized call center data to determine what can be done to improve the process for the acquired company and end users.

If Delta had taken into account and leveraged what NWA was doing well (or at least better)—web site, boarding passes, perks—they could have improved the user experience instead of worsening it.

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One Response to “#DeltaFail: Customer Experience Affected by Merger”

  1. Delta/NWA definitely dropped the ball with their merger. The entire customer experience, particularly for frequent travelers, feels disjointed and abruptly different from the former NWA experience. Not long ago, I used miles to purchase a flight to Boston. With the NWA site, I could purchase a ticket for myself and a companion with a combination of miles and dollars. Unfortunately, the new Delta site is not so useful and I found myself purchasing the tickets at the same time in separate browser windows to ensure seats on the same flight but paying one with miles and one with a credit card.

    Not a great experience. Seems like some ethnographic research and usability testing could have identified these types of problems early in the transition.