Last week I wrote about Delta Air Lines and a new policy that has upset many customers. Although the number of people affected by this policy as a percentage of total travelers was not particularly large, they are more likely to be some of Delta’s best and most loyal customers.
This policy adds restrictions on how customers may use Delta’s members-only SkyClub. By default, members can only visit the Sky Club up to 3 hours before flight departure and can no longer visit once they arrive at their destination.
You might be thinking, ‘I don’t care, this has nothing to do with me’, and if you’ve never been to SkyClub, you’re at least partially right. But I think there are valuable lessons in this story. Let me explain:
The changes and the way Delta deployed them didn’t go well. That’s not surprising. When people pay for something and a company makes a change that makes them feel like what they paid for is less valuable, it usually doesn’t make them happy.
In most cases, the two main ways to access Delta Skyclub are by paying an annual membership fee or by using a high annual fee credit card with access benefits. There are several other options. For example, Delta’s highest tier Frequent Flyer tier gives you the option to choose membership as a benefit.
This means that those most likely to be affected by the change are most likely to be Delta’s best customers. Even if you make a change with best intentions, it’s generally not a good business move to upset your most valuable customers.
In this case, many customers contacted Delta to complain. Delta declined to disclose how many customers had provided feedback on the changes, but it was enough to get the company’s attention.
As a result, Delta seems to have changed its mind. Well, sort of. We discarded half of the changes that were the use of SkyClub when we got to our destination, but left the part that restricts access to 3 hours before flight.
The following is what Claude Roussel, Managing Director, Delta SkyClubs, explained in an email to a customer:
Last week we released an update to the Delta Sky Club Access Policy to improve your experience during our busy summer months. In response to the update, we’ve heard your feedback, such as that some of our customers want to recharge after their visit to the club or before a meeting.
We value your comments and have taken action accordingly. As today, Delta Sky Club customers can continue to use the club upon arrival.
In this case, it’s actually a significant change. If you’re used to taking red-eye flights to the east coast on meeting days, you may have paid for a SkyClub membership to provide a place for a quick wash before the meeting begins. After all, if your plane lands at 6:30 a.m., you won’t be able to check-in and unwind at your hotel.
By the way, you know how to know whether a company really “values your opinion”. Four words: “We acted.”
It’s Delta’s credit that airlines are listening to feedback. The shiny part of that response is that they are willing to make a difference. That’s the lesson here. Sometimes you have to be willing to listen to your customers, swallow your pride, admit your mistakes, and do the right thing.
“Your feedback is essential to our continued success in providing an improved experience,” wrote Roussel. “As our club’s volume continues to grow, we are working hard to support our service team and adding more ambassadors to ensure the best Delta Sky Club experience you’ve come to expect and deserve.”
You can see why Delta made the change. The reality was that SkyClubs was pretty crowded. In some cases, the company turned people away because the lounge was already overcrowded. It’s not a good experience and Delta has made a good effort to fix it.
But my point is that making it very easy for people to access exclusive clubs creates a lot of demand and starts to feel less exclusive. The solution should not be to make the product you sell for the best customer less valuable.
This doesn’t just apply to airlines. Applies to all businesses. Focus on doing the right thing for your customers. When receiving pushbacks, ask yourself if the problem you are creating is bigger than the problem you are trying to solve. If so, the best thing you can do is step back and do the right thing for your customers.