Stuck In The Middle…Delta Makes It A Remarkable Journey

Last week I started my trip to Boston on a packed flight in a middle seat. If you travel as often as I do and have been stuck in the middle, you know how unpleasant it can be. 

So, you can imagine my surprise when Delta turned my stuck-in-the-middle experience to a remarkable one of customer delight.   

Delta exceeded my expectations by delivering on the promise of what Forrester calls a TRUE brand — trusted, remarkable, unmistakable and essential. In our 21st Century Brand Marketing Playbook, we discuss how these four traits will strengthen the brand pillars that support consumers' new expectations of brands. And how brands that can forge an emotional connection with their customers will enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage. By delivering a remarkable brand experience, Delta strengthened its brand promise, created a strong emotional connection with me, and more.

Here’s how Delta changed my unpleasant travel experience to a remarkable one:

  • I was sitting in a middle seat on a flight from Atlanta to Boston on Monday afternoon
  • First thing Tuesday morning, I received the email below from Delta apologizing that my travel experience was not as comfortable as they would have liked.
  • And, they didn’t stop there. They deposited 500 miles into my SkyMiles account for the inconvenience.

WOW! 

With that simple email, I went from being an unhappy traveler to being a delighted and more loyal customer. Delta diffused an unpleasant experience that could have negatively impacted their carefully built brand reputation into a positive one that will stay with me for a long time. 

I reached out to Delta to learn more about what happened and spoke with Buffi Planas, General Manager Marketing Communications. 

Delta creates remarkable brand experiences by surprising and delighting their higher tier Medallion customers when something doesn’t work the way they’d like it to. Middle Seat Monday is a Delta program that proactively addresses any potential customer experience issues resulting from sitting in a middle seat on the flight. According to Buffi, it’s a small token of appreciation to let customers know that Delta cares about their flying experience. 

Interesting, but why am I writing about Delta’s Middle Seat Monday program?   

Successful brands in the 21st century must remain TRUE.  Delta has been delivering remarkable experiences in spades since 2007 with programs like Middle Seat Mondays. And, if you’ve been on a Delta flight lately, the engaging personality of their new safety videos demonstrates that we can expect more differentiating brand experiences from Delta in the future.

Over the past few years, customer experience initiatives have risen dramatically, and rightly so. In what Forrester calls the “Age of the Customer,” putting the customer at the center of your marketing and business strategy is now an imperative.

However, not all customer experience initiatives need to be complex or comprehensive. As Delta demonstrates with Middle Seat Mondays, creating a remarkable brand experience that results in customer delight can be delivered simply and still be extremely effective. 

Are you taking your brand into the 21st century? Are you creating remarkable brand experiences similar to Delta’s? If not, what can you do in your organization to deliver delight in a surprising way to your customers? 

I’m interested in your comments and perspectives on this topic. Please reach out to me via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts. 

The next time I travel on Delta on a Monday, I just may select a middle seat to see what else Delta has up their sleeve to delight and surprise me.

Comments

The most impressive element

The most impressive element of this story for me is that Delta obviously rewarded you with something that was of value to you as an individual. I don't collect Delta air miles so this would not of been as enamoured as yourself, but a free drink or a seat with extra leg room on my next flight may of had me writing a similar blog.

Too often I see brands trying to engage their customers with freebies etc but are doing it on their terms and aren't tailoring it to what that individuals value. This then becomes noise.

When a brand really knows their customers and has ways of rewarding and creating experiences relevant to the individuals that is how you get the most bang for your marketing spend buck.

Customer understanding combines with surprise and delight

Hi Ben,

I appreciate your comments and agree with your point. Brands should focus on rewarding their customers with things that they value.

By adding in the surprise and delight element Delta made a much larger positive brand impression that just the miles alone.

Do you see other brands adding in the surprise and delight element to their customer understanding when rewarding their customers?