August 08, 2016
Delta Digs Out
Amid the ongoing horror stories of delays and cancellations, one thing seems pretty clear. From a crisis management standpoint, Delta Air Lines has done an admirable job, accomplishing as much as possible for stranded passengers and, in the process, protecting its reputation for responsible customer service.
Todayâ€™s video apology from CEO Ed Bastian was at the heart of Deltaâ€™s response. It humanizes Deltaâ€™s concern. Coming right from the top executive, itâ€™s a decidedly credible flesh-and-blood affirmation of the message, â€œWe care.â€ At the same time, because it is a video, Delta ensured that the message would reach a critical audience size and dominate search engine results to an extent that written verbiage cannot.
The crisis has also proven to be a wonderful opportunity for spotlighting Delta employees, like the pilot who ordered pizza for passengers stranded in Hawaii. Because Delta is using its own people as brand ambassadors, that brand is all the more adequately safeguarded. The waivers on flight transfers obviously support the customer-friendly message to an appreciable extent as well.
Two quibbles. First, Delta didnâ€™t actually suffer a â€œpower outage.â€ It was a problem with Deltaâ€™s own equipment, as Georgia Power was quick to point out. Second, their app and airport messaging was inadequate; better preparation for this foreseeable breakdown would have spared folks much consternation.
But these are just quibbles in what is, finally, another instance of how strategic thinking in a crisis keeps a bad situation from getting much, much worse.