You've probably noticed that air travel has looked different over the past two years. That's not surprising--airlines have had to figure out the best way to keep people flying while also keeping them safe. Some of the changes have been obvious. Travelers are required to wear masks in airports and onboard airplanes. Airlines have taken additional steps to clean planes between flights.
Some of the changes have been welcome. Most major airlines, for example, stopped charging customers to make changes to their reservation--or to cancel their flight altogether. And most airlines took the step of blocking middle seats as an attempt at social distancing.
On the other hand, some of the changes have been less popular, like cutting back on food and beverage services. Airline food has never been anything to get excited about, but on a long flight, it's at least something to look forward to. The rationale, I suppose, was to minimize the amount of contact between passengers and crew whenever possible.
I've flown a dozen or so times since August of last year, almost entirely on Delta Air Lines, and I've seen firsthand how the airline has adapted and evolved over the past 18 months. One of the things that have gone away during the pandemic was something called "Job Well Done" certificates. These were certificates the airline sent to its higher-tier frequent fliers who could give them to an employee as recognition for their, well, job well done.
If, for example, a flight attendant or gate agent went out of their way to deliver exceptional service, you could give them one as a token of appreciation. The employee can then use them for different rewards.
Delta never formally said it was stopping the program. Instead, it seems like it paused the program last year and never sent out new certificates with the packets it sends Platinum and Diamond elite members of its frequent flier program. Whether it was to discourage contact between travelers and staff, or if it was a way to cut what would seem to be a rather minor expense, the certificates never showed up.
Now, however, they're back. I got a set just this week, and it's one of the best things to return.
The certificates arrived in the mail with a letter that said, in part:
The Job Well Done program allows customers to recognize Delta people who go above and beyond; we all truly appreciate it when you take the time to tell them. When you've engaged with an employee who provided exceptional service, please fill out a Job Well Done certificate and deliver it to them.
When I say that these certificates are one of the best things that had sadly disappeared from Delta during the pandemic, I know that might seem counterintuitive. Certainly, things that directly affect the level of service you receive on the plane would seem far more important than something you might give to someone else, but I think there's a really valuable lesson here.
What is so interesting about these pieces of paper is how much customers love them. I mean, obviously, employees like to be rewarded for doing a great job, so you'd expect they'd be big fans of customers handing them a JWD certificate.
The unexpected thing is how much customers love them too. Every frequent traveler I know looks forward to receiving a set, which seems strange since it's something meant to give away.
There's a reason for that, however. I think it's because people who travel frequently understand how hard flight attendants, reservation agents, gate agents, and everyone else involved work to get them where they're going. For Delta, its Platinum and Diamond members are arguably its most valuable customers. They also happen to be the ones that spend the most time with Delta's employees.
Plus, people love being able to show appreciation for employees who go above and beyond and do a great job. And, since each medallion member only receives four certificates, they are rare. That makes them even more valuable.
The lesson here is that the best thing you can do to take care of your customers is to take care of your people. You can't possibly know all of the things they do on a daily basis to take care of your customers. You can't possibly know all of the ways they go out of their way to deliver a great experience, but those customers know.
Actually, I take that back--one of the best things you can do is invite your customers to help you take care of your employees.