On October 4-5, I was scheduled to work with the leadership team at Zoo Miami. Unfortunately, this was also the time frame that Hurricane Matthew was ripping it’s way through the tropics with an eye on the eastern Florida coast.
Because hurricanes are hard to predict further that 12 hours out (despite being talked about around-the-clock), we weren’t sure when, or how significantly, the Miami area would be affected. We got through our Tuesday and Wednesday morning programs with no issues, but it was decided that we would postpone our Wednesday afternoon sessions so that employees could prepare the zoo, their homes, and their families, and I could try to get a flight out before the airlines felt the need to suspend operation.
This is where the story gets shout-worthy.
My flight was on Delta, and so I did the responsible thing of calling the reservation number while also checking flights online that I might be able to change to. Given the call volume, my wait was listed as over 2 hours. Crazy, but expected given the circumstances.
As I refreshed my searches, I saw flights disappearing. I clearly wasn’t the only one who wanted to get out of Dodge (or Miami) earlier than planned.
I didn’t want to wait for 2 more hours and risk losing any of these flights, so I went ahead and changed my reservation online. There was a fare difference that I would have to pay for and a reservation change fee. Okay, them’s the breaks of travel – it is what it is.
BUT – I got a flight that would get me out of the way of the storm, so I was happy.
The next day, as I was waiting in the Miami airport, I got an email from my wife that included an article about airlines waiving the reservation change fees because of the hurricane.
Hmmm… wonder if they would waive mine, even after the fact. So I called.
Still a one to two hour wait on the phone. By then I would be on the plane.
That’s when it hit me. In the contact section of the Fly Delta app, it also included their Twitter handle.
So I sent this tweet.
Hey @Delta, I had to change a flight last night to avoid hurricane Matthew. Did I switch too early to waive the change fee? Thanks!!
— Matt Heller (@PrfrmnceOptmst) October 5, 2016
A few clarifying tweets later and I was asked for my reservation number in a Direct Message.
By the next morning, I had a Twitter message stating that they were refunding my reservation change fee. No other questions asked.
Sweet! That takes a little of the sting out of the extra expense.
Moreover, it provides us some lessons about service recovery.
- Have multiple ways for your guests to contact you. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that the wait to speak to an agent was as long as it was. These weren’t exactly normal travel conditions. Lucky for me they also had people monitoring Twitter (and I’m guessing other social channels). Oddly enough, it never even dawned on me to approach one of the Delta employees working the multiple gates in the H concourse of Miami International. Don’t know if they could have helped, but they were there. That’s at least three different ways to contact someone for resolution.
- React quickly. Again, I don’t really blame Delta for the long phone waits. I do COMMEND them for the quick response via Twitter – not only to correspond with me, but also to actually issue the refund. All they asked for was my reservation code, and the next thing I know they are refunding my fee. I didn’t have to fill anything out, go through an inquisition or prove my case. I would imagine the agent did their research without needing me… they looked up my reservation, saw that I was originally scheduled to leave at 9 am Thursday morning and did in fact change it the night before to leave 16 hours earlier. From my original tweet to the message coming through stating my refund was being processed, it was less than 10 hours. I had the refund for this BEFORE my original flight was supposed to take off. DANG!
- Make it easy for your employees. I don’t know what the process was behind the scenes, but for my tweet to be received, researched and processed within such a short period of time, the process has to have some efficiency to it. Make it easy for your employees to take care of your guests, and they will. Make it complicated or convoluted and they will find every excuse to circumvent your service initiatives.
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So, the outcome could be seen as me getting a refund and us learning some things about service recovery. But the story doesn’t end there.
When I got on the plane, I was sitting in seat 1C. I got to talking with the guy in 1D, and told him that I had just booked the flight the night before. He said, “that’s strange, that seat has been booked for weeks.”
How and why he knew that was puzzling, until he said…
“I’ve been in seat 1C on my last 83 flights in a row. I tried to get it on this one but it was taken when I booked the flight.”
Needless to say, we switched seats so he could make it 84 flights in a row.
He then said that he ALWAYS flies Delta. He said, “I know it’s a big company, but they always take care of me.”
So it’s a story about a refund, lessons on service recovery and LOYALTY. Taking care of people leads to loyalty. I know I felt taken care of by the agents monitoring Twitter that night.
And THAT is worth shouting from the rooftops!
Distinguished author, speaker, and industry veteran Matt Heller can sum up what he does in three simple words: Helping Leaders Lead. Matt’s firm, Performance Optimist Consulting, has worked with some of the largest attraction operators in the United States, including Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Universal Studios, Apex Parks Group, and Herschend Family Entertainment, along with countless other parks, zoos, museums, and aquariums. Matt focuses on leadership development, guest service training, eliminating employee burnout, and reducing turnover.