With 3 Sentences Delta Air Lines Revealed an Important Truth About What Customers Really Want


If you run a business and then a pandemic hits, that certainly makes things more difficult. That’s true for every business, but it’s a particularly challenging problem if that business is an airline. About the worst thing that can happen if your business is about loading people on airplanes and flying them around the world is that everyone stays home for the better part of 18 months. 

At the same time, it’s an opportunity. If you’ve been trying to upgrade your facilities and the experience you provide, the fact that there are fewer people on your planes and in the airports you serves certainly makes that easier. 

As an example, Delta Air Lines made major investments in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle–$12 billion worth, to be exact. The pandemic actually allowed the company to accelerate those plans and open its new LAX head house 18 month earlier than previously expected. At New York’s LaGuardia airport, the airline opened a brand new terminal with its largest SkyClub lounge anywhere.

In Atlanta and Detroit, Delta rolled out technology features like Digital ID and Parallel Reality. Digital ID allows travelers to go from the curb to their seat using only their face as an ID and boarding pass. Parallel Reality, which Delta launched at its Detroit hub, provides a personalized experience for travelers, showing their flight information and directions to their gate. It’s hard to explain, but it’s definitely something worth experiencing for yourself.

In a recent blog post, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, Allison Ausband, explained the reason for the changes this way:

As humans, we all want to feel valued. That’s why personalizing the customer experience is a priority for us. It’s one more way for us to say you matter and thank you for flying with Delta.

The most interesting thing about those three sentences is that they reveal an important truth about serving your customers, but they have almost nothing to do with air travel. They aren’t about flying on planes or walking through airports. It’s about understanding that what customers need is different based on their individual circumstances. Delta’s job, then, is to provide ways to meet each of those needs–that’s how it can make them feel valued.

For Delta, that means creating what it calls “walking speed” airports, allowing customers to “journey through the airport at their own pace, hands-and touch-free.” When you think about it, that’s a pretty big challenge.

“Delta carries nearly 200 million customers each year,” Ausband says. “Each person who sits in our seats is important to us, and we demonstrate that by personalizing the travel experience in as many ways as we can, with the help of our people.”

Even if the company you run isn’t as large or complex as an international airline, this is such a great lesson. What your customers really want is to feel as though they matter. They want to feel valued.

Your customers have a lot of choices in terms of how they spend their time and money. When they choose to spend it with you, they want to know that you care. That might seem trite, but it’s true.

Sure, your customers care about a lot of things. Obviously, they care about things like price and convenience. But, more than anything else, they wanted to be treated with respect and as though they matter.
Technology, it turns out, is a great way to do this. It allows you to personalize the experience your customers have in a way you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise–especially at the scale of 200 million customers a year. 

Your job is to consider every touchpoint and design them in ways that leave your customers feeling appreciated and valued. Every person in your company has the ability to impact the experience your customer has. In every interaction, you have a chance to leave your customer feeling as though they are important to your business–as though they matter.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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