Why Delta’s current crisis is akin to serving passengers Dom Pérignon while trying to land on bicycle tires
When Delta canceled hundreds of flights due to a massive power outage, it quickly earned praise for its sincere, transparent apology from the very top:
An update from Delta CEO Ed Bastian: pic.twitter.com/udNN0kzbKs
— Delta (@Delta) August 8, 2016
I tell clients that in times of a reputation crisis, you need to remember 3 simple words: Sincerity, Transparency, and Consistency.
Delta has thus far nailed the first two. It has been transparent about what caused the outage and the CEO has apologized with a sincere mea culpa. It even went on to offer a $200 flight voucher for those that experienced the longest delays.
However, we’re now on day 3 of the Delta debacle and so far today 150 flights have been canceled. Simply trying to rebook your flight leads to a lengthy wait:
Experts suggest that the continued delays are a result of Delta’s lean schedules and fewer seats in the system. There are simply not enough planes to get flight crews to where they need to go. No flight crews equals no flights.
It is now crucial for Delta to follow through on the final word: Consistency. It’s great to make a sincere, transparent apology, but if the problem persists–or repeated in the future–you risk damaging your reputation. Delta has a pretty good reputation for on-time flights and customer service, but as each
day hour passes, a little piece of that reputation is chipped away.
The lesson here?
Delta should take a look back in history at the Dell Hell case study. Dell built a great reputation, then decided it could cut a few corners–and make more profit–by outsourcing its customer service. Things went well, until things didn’t go well. Delta–and you–should look at the margins you have in place for your reputation. Having great profit margins now doesn’t help if they come at the expense of reliability, back-ups, and disaster planning.
Delta’s current reputation is akin to serving passengers Dom Pérignon while trying to land on bicycle tires. Superficial reputation excellence doesn’t last long when built on a subpar foundation.