If you travel often, there's a good chance you have a love-hate relationship with your airline of choice. The usual suspects for hatred include increasing fees, decreasing leg room, and sketchy on-time performance. On the other hand, you might appreciate the convenience of living near a hub. Perhaps you have status and enjoy the occasional upgrade. 

On top of that, I've noticed that Delta has a secret weapon--and it makes all the difference to customers. Okay, it's not technically a secret weapon, but I bet a lot of you had no idea.

Here's how it works:

If you travel for work, you know the feeling. You're on board your flight, taxiing away from the terminal when you realize you've stopped. After a few minutes, it happens: The captain announces over the PA that there's a "maintenance issue," so you're heading back to the gate so the technicians can take a look.

For a split-second, you think to yourself, "How important is that part? I mean, can we fly without it?" Obviously, you realize that as frustrating as it is to inevitably miss your connection, it's probably better that all of the parts work on the metal tube you're about to ride as it hurtles through the sky.

This isn't hypothetical. I was on that flight about 12 weeks ago.

There I was, sitting on a flight out of LaGuardia Airport, knowing that the chance of making my connection and getting home was decreasing by the minute. There was almost no chance I was going to be able to make my connection if I stayed on this flight. 

I started to go through the options. Who do I call? If I call, will I get a customer service rep who can actually help me?

The gentleman next to me must have been pretty important, because he picked up his phone and called some number at Delta where people actually answer the phone. I think he said something about being a Delta 360, which is an invite-only group that seems to basically make you a super-traveler.

I fly a lot, but apparently not enough for such an honor--so I didn't have that special number. Instead, I sent a tweet to @Delta asking for help. Five messages and four minutes later, I was rebooked on another flight that would let me make my connection.

Via Twitter.

You know, Twitter: that wonderful place where the most engaged members of humanity spend most of their time arguing about the finer points of one political position or another. And by arguing, I really mean "setting things on fire." Like dumpster fire.

Yet, there on that mass of hysteria and vitriol, there is a beautiful little oasis for airline passengers. Delta and plenty of other airlines have figured out that it's best to solve a customer's problems wherever they are, and they've deployed some of their sharpest customer service pros to handle their social media.

That's a stark contrast to the way lots of other companies use social media: an endless source of  marketing messages. It's tempting. Twitter is like a megaphone that can be used to blast your message far and wide to your audience. But what about when your audience starts to send you a message?

What do you do then?

The airline approach is impressive because companies like Delta have clearly given their Twitter support people the ability to take care of their customers and solve problems. While I don't know for a fact that they have a separate set of policies, my experience has been that they simply get things done.

When customers engage with them over Twitter, the people who manage those interactions for Delta have been empowered to fix problems quickly--which, for an airline, is both impressive and necessary. Sure, it's an important brand-management tool. You don't want people simply venting their frustration online without an avenue to solve their problem. But Delta shows that it's more than that.

It seems obvious, and yet, so many brands miss the mark. That's exactly why Twitter can be your brand's secret weapon if you empower your social media team to engage with customers and add value to the customer relationship by solving their problems.

Published on: Jul 4, 2019
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