Unexpectedly, I received an email from Delta “Re: Recognition of your recent travel on Delta”.

The letter said: “On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I would like to offer my sincere apology for the multiple flight disruptions you experienced”.  The entire letter was incredibly well done.  I was happy just to get the letter, but the letter ended with “In recognition of your value as a Platinum Medallion member and as a gesture of goodwill, I have sent you a gift containing perishables, which will be mailed to the address in your SkyMiles account.”

Yes, I had a bad experience (some of my face book friends might remember my 10 hour stint in MSP ending with a bird hitting the plane).  Yes, I did share that with Delta and I thought they had handled it fine. After all, I have been on different planes over 100 times this year so I expect a few bad experiences.  So when I received the letter, I was pleasantly surprised rather than feeling “it’s about time”.

When I received the package, I was even more surprised and my loyalty to Delta increased because they made me feel special. The contents are easily worth over $150 and consisted mostly of food gifts including some very fine cheeses, crackers, nuts, and some really amazing Creme Brulee Almonds.  It also included imprinted promotional items including:

 

delta_loyalty_Denham_5 delta_loyalty_Denham_4delta_loyalty_Denham_1

 

 

Despite still being an avid myfitnesspal user, I ate the Creme Brulee Almonds in about 1 day (my wife helped and no, I didn’t log them…)

I have told the story about a dozen times since receiving the original letter and now I’m blogging about it.  But I don’t think Delta did this because they wanted me to blog about it.  I can’t say for sure I know why they took the time to do this, but here is my best guess:

  1. At Platinum, I am the “2nd most valuable tier” of customer to them.  They understand their customers and segment them as well as anyone.
  2. I have the Delta reserve credit card which carries a high annual fee but provides me the benefits that outweigh it.
  3. I am reasonable when things don’t go as planned.

Perhaps there is more to it than the above and maybe the fact that I fill out my surveys (honestly) almost every time they send them to me gives me a few extra points in their customer grading system.

But for me, this is not a story about how to treat your customers better (although hopefully you’ll get some ideas from the story), this is a story about being loyal.  I will talk about how to reward loyalty in a future post.

If you want your vendors (of any type) to treat you well, you must first begin by treating them well.  Give them all of your business, or nearly all of your business as long as they are reasonable compared to the competition.  Centralize your buying with them whenever possible.  And when things go wrong, don’t be a jerk.  Explain what went wrong and see how they handle it.  If they don’t handle it well, it’s time to consider a new vendor.

I want to conclude by stating how much I love Delta.  When I lived in Philadelphia, I flew USAIR mostly and while I didn’t hate it, I never enjoyed the experience.  Even before I achieved status with Delta, I found the Delta employees to be happier and committed to customer satisfaction.  Once I achieved silver, things were even better and Gold began a really great experience since Gold members get the opportunity to sit in “Economy Comfort” which gives me more leg room.  The upgrades to first class are limited because even as Platinum, I’m on very popular routes with many Diamond flyers getting the upgrades.  When I get the upgrades, I love them.  But I’m very happy in my economy comfort seats and dealing with the nicest flight attendants and gate agents in the business.

What can you do to get your customers to love you so much, they write an entire blog about you and take a picture wearing a Snuggie with your logo on it?

Me taking a nap at work in my Delta Snuggie  Not included in the gift basket, I bought on my own. I don't expect to wear this on a flight...

Me taking a nap at work in my Delta Snuggie
Not included in the gift basket, I bought on my own. I don’t expect to wear this on a flight…

 

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