Delta’s Response

As part of my report of my close encounter with terrorism as Brussels Airport I detailed the way in which Delta handled the situation and a number of mistakes they made. Since then Delta have responded to the complaints that we (the 4 members of Red Pill Now that travelled to Brussels on DL80) made.

First…. Let me repeat the frustration involved in trying to get hold of somebody inside Delta that is actually prepared to address the concerns raised. I failed to get anybody to talk to me directly, but my colleague Bob Kadrie was able to find one person willing to listen and acknowledge that Delta could have done a lot more. I am still not happy that the company’s culture seems to be focused on placing a barrier between itself and its customers. But getting one person to listen made a big difference.

What Delta have acknowledged is that on the day of the bombing they lost track of the fact they were dealing with issues from two separate flights. The outgoing flight from Brussels was their primary concern. As it turned out people on this flight were in the process of checking in for the flight at the time of the explosions. A number of passengers were injured and at least on passenger killed. It appears some of the confusion and conflicting information we were later to receive was the result of Delta confusing us with passengers on the outbound flight. The denials that we were not on the flight most likely were the result of attempts to cross-reference us only against the outbound flight without considering the passengers on the inbound flight. Confusion about the status of our bags was, in part, the result of not understanding the flight we were stating we were on. The one Delta representative who did speak to us listened to our concerns and indicated that a full review of what happened at Brussels was underway and that our concerns would be considered as part of that. This was perhaps the action I wanted most of all… If nobody at Delta was going to truly listen and respond to our complaint then there was every chance that the next time a situation like this arise we would most likely end up being treated the same. Treat me badly once, shame on you. Treat me badly twice, shame on me.

The initial response I received from Delta when I filed my complaint online at Delta.com was an offer of 10,000 miles and an indication my complaint was being forwarded to several other people inside of Delta. I never heard any more. I was able to file a claim for out-of-pocket expenses and I have already received a check for $220. That was all I was able to accomplish myself.

Bob was able to get a much more serious offer from Delta in response to our complaints. Delta have refunded in full the four airfares ($6,100) and have provided $300 travel vouchers for to each of us ($1,200). This equates to $7,300, a lot for a small company like Red Pill Now. The vouchers have not yet arrived and we are being frustrated in our attempts to follow up on this, but the credit to our credit card has been processed. I consider Delta have made a genuine attempt to compensate us for the inconvenience and stress caused by the way we were dealt with after the bombing took place. For that reason I have reversed my earlier decision to place Delta at the bottom of my travel list. They could have done better, but on the balance they probably did more than a lot of other airlines are likely to have done in a similar situation. And that deserves recognition.

Lessons Learned

I very much doubt other passengers on our flight received the same compensation. What we received was more than likely the direct result of the way we had used both social media and mass media to shed some light on our situation. And that is a shame. It seems that to maximize the chance of getting fair treatment in customer service situations it is increasingly necessary to use social media as a weapon.

The next time I am involved in any event even close to this I now know the importance to keep a social diary of what has happened. I know to share those experiences quickly to get noticed by others, including mass media. My ability to get resolution or compensation is probably going to be more related to my Klout score which in turn will rely on the extent to which people who follow me on social media are prepared to chip in and like, retweet, favorite etc. what is happening. This means I also need to pay closer attention to my friends and family on social media so I can respond to their situations to increase the chances they will get the necessary attention.

It seems that in 2016 Customer Service is being tied more and more to Public Relations. If a customer complaint is unlikely to get any attention in social or mass media, then it is less likely to be treated with the seriousness it deserves. I have long understood the power of mass media. I am still trying to learn about the true power of Social Media and how to use it effectively. As a society we perhaps need to find ways to do more in response to companies trying to drive down costs by pushing themselves further and further behind automated phone systems and online communication. At some point I am sure more and more companies will rediscover the value of building strong relationships with their customers through a direct and personal touch.

Getting Social When Disaster Strikes

Last week’s bombing at Brussels airport provided me the opportunity to experience first hand what it is like to be part of the scene when an emergency situation occurs. In my last blog article I vented a lot about my experiences and how badly it seemed that Delta, in particular, had seemed prepared for what happened. Since then I have heard that Delta have admitted they were not prepared and to their credit they are taking it upon themselves to review what happened and what needs to change. In the days since I too have reflected on my experience and the things that might have been done different.

While on the plane I felt reasonably safe. There is little doubt that the combination of my phones and social media was allowing me to feel both informed and connected. After leaving the plane my world changed in many ways. I had important decisions to make in conjunction with those with whom I was traveling. I no longer felt either informed or connected. These feelings remained for the best part of six days as I tried to understand the ever changing environment in Brussels as well as my need to understand what was happening with my luggage. I did not feel in control of my situation and it was having an impact on the business purposes of my travel.

A lot has changed in recent years in the world of technology. Almost everyone around me at Brussels airport had cellphones. Many had tablets and other mobile devices at their disposal. Most had a capacity to tap into the Internet using wifi or cellular networks and yet it remained so difficult to find useful information about our situation.  As a former IBM Champion for IBM Collaboration Solutions I have advocated to my customers the way collaboration software can solve business problems. It is part of my job to stay abreast of changes in technology and identify opportunities. It should therefore come as no surprise I see social software as a solution for situations like this.

Imagine a scenario in which on arrival at the first hanger I could have pulled out a mobile device and instantly connected to a local wifi network brought up in response to the disaster. Imagine if instead of being asked to log in to the wifi service I instead received a home page for a persistent chat application and/or social community dedicated to the needs of those involved in the emergency. By identifying who I was and how I came to be there it would have been so much faster for Delta to identify my location and communicate important information to me. If I had medical issues I could make my needs known to emergency responders. Using the GPS in my device my exact location could be known. Using the camera on my device I could provide an updated photo to aid others to identify me, My camera could also allow me to share details of the scene around me. Information could be made available to me in real time and instantly translated into any language. I could watch media reports of the event to better understand my situation. Family could have an easier way to contact me and get updates on my status and location. I could scan boarding passes or baggage tags to help airlines to connect me to my belongings. I could connect with those around me to work together to resolve common needs such as food, accommodation, travel needs etc. Emergency responders would be better placed to identify those in need. Volunteers could match what they had to offer with those in need. And later when people started to move on, it would be possible to keep track of where they were heading and how many remained in the area to be helped. Public transport and accommodation details could be shared. Information that would be vital for people like myself to get back to a normal life as quickly as possible.

The technology to do all these things is available today. All that is needed is for somebody with deep enough pockets to fund its development.  Companies such as IBM and Microsoft all have the social platforms to facilitate this. Organizations such as Red Cross and The Salvation Army are also well placed to facilitate the establishment of the needed infrastructure including mobile wifi services and mobile device charging needed to ensure people could remain connected.

While solutions like this could help people to cope with all manner of emergencies they can particularly play an important role to reduce the impact of terrorists activities. This is a way we can fight back against those that want to disrupt our lives in any way possible. By allowing us to stay calm and collected in a crisis we take an important step in not letting them win.