13 November 2010

Brand And Alliances - Game, Set - MISMATCH

I flew on Delta this week - the last leg of a long round the world trip which saw the Professor flight more than 23 different flights on a wide variety of airlines.

Onboard I was forced to watch a Delta commercial. With Donald Sutherland's soothing voice as the narrator the ad was very nice - part of the new campaign by NYC based Weiden + Kennedy. (Click on the link and then hit the PLAY button).

The ad extols Delta's people and how they make a difference. And almost uniformly I agree as a long time Delta flyer with getting on 1.7 million miles of actual Delta flown miles.

Small little problem - Delta's service is now often provided by so many different people. Specifically lets look at my flight.

A DL operated flight from LHR to MSP and then an Alaska Airlines codeshare from MSP-SEA.

At LHR I checked into the Skyteam desk - manned by Cobalt (KLM and AF owned ground handling company) personnel. Nary a DL person in sight. The local team at LHR T4 is but a handful of DL staff now. I used the Skyteam lounge - also manned by Cobalt personnel who could not help me with my flight information or fixing a seat problem. They referred me to a phone number.

At MSP I checked onto an Alaska Airlines flight - with DL personnel at the Gate. Who were the only DL people at any of the multiple touchpoints along the ground. At SEA - my bag complaint was handled by Alaska who outsourced the bag management to another company.

So you see the great idea of the product being backed by the good people of DL is not actually a truth. Because Delta's people dont actually service you. Someone else does. And don't get me started on certain of Delta's partner AF where shall we say Gallic humour and customer service are somewhat apart.

Years ago DL was involved in the Quality Alliance with SQ and SR. It was a super idea. They placed flight attendants on each other's aircraft. It really did do a lot for the customer and created a much better experience.

The alliance mania - merger in all but name - does little to support a brand value. And when the branding is focused on your direct employees - this is when it really comes apart. Delta is not the only one currently guilty of this sin. Cathay Pacific is also doing the same thing. And believe me the CX experience is nothing like that on some of the CX code share flights. Just because the chaps who experience it (Frequent travellers like myself) doesn't mean you can ignore the basic fact that your services are outsourced and the quality sucks.

1 comment:

Steve Collins said...

This is but another disconnect between slick self promotion and the underlying truth. The fact that you were subjected to it as a member of a captive audience, having already paid a hefty fee for the privilege does not help. Hello doublespeak. The corporate response seems to be, instead of changing the unpleasant reality to pour millions of dollars(some of which are taxpayer subdidised funds) to convince us that our perceptions at false not the incongruent reality. I wonder what Thoreau would make of all of this...