How to get your customers to hate you.

A couple weeks ago six of us were on our way to a long-awaited vacation in Hawaii. The first air leg was Bozeman to Salt Lake City. Due to fog in SLC, we were late getting off the ground in Bozeman. Nonetheless, we landed in SLC 10 minutes before the departure time of the SLC-Honolulu flight. We sprinted from the B concourse to the D concourse. I arrived 2 minutes before the flight time, only to see the jetway being pulled back from the plane. I banged on the door until I was yelled at by a Delta staffer "back away from the door!"

Now I don’t expect them to make a plane late because I didn’t get out of bed or through security on time. But in this case, there were six of us, and the plane would have been able to depart within the "on time" window if they had held the door open for another 90 seconds. Plus, their computer systems told them that our flight from Bozeman had landed 8 minutes earlier. Turns out that some gate agent was happy to have an "early pushback" for which they apparently receive kudos from Delta management.

Delta sucks.

On a positive note, other Delta Customer Service people in SLC and San Francisco were great, and managed to help things turn out OK.

Delta can get away with policies that make their customers hate them, because they have near monopolies in many areas. As small business people, you and I don’t have that luxury. In fact, we need to have policies and practices and people that make our customers love us, and tell their friends about us. And don’t even think about launching a startup unless you are committed to creating a great customer experience, not just internal operating efficiency.

The ultimate irony? It cost Delta several hundred dollars to put us up in a hotel for the night, thereby ruining any efficiency they sought to gain through their early pushback. And six frequent flyers will be less inclined to book Delta in the future. In fact, I’m thinking of driving on my next vacation.

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