Wikipedia defines a Business Rule as “a set of parameters or constraints to the structure or behavior internal to a business operation.” Unfortunately so many companies, @Delta Air Lines yesterday morning for example, have stupid, outdated, or illogical ones with little attention to the bigger picture. I’m on the road an estimated 250 days each year for work or pleasure. Although I fly several airlines, I’m most loyal to @Delta – hence a charter member of their top tier “Diamond” status; Platinum or Gold before you could accumulate Skymiles for breathing and they came up with a new level. They’re based in my home town of #Atlanta, I like their direct flights to many destinations I need to travel to, and have generally positive experiences on board. It’s when I’m NOT flying that they tend to piss me off with moronic people, processes, or insanely frustrating pass the buck attitude or rules / policies. And I’m convinced more than ever that it’s a leadership – or lack there of issue. If you believe that culture is a vision delivered, what I’m baffled about is how does that vision of delivering a consistent customer experience, break down in cascading down the organization? Not just @Delta, but at any organization?

How does Ms. Camile Day, a supervisor in the Cincinnati office of the Diamond Medallion 877 help line that I called yesterday morning to simply give up one leg of my RT flight, become so desensitized to customer service and an exceptional level of loyalty, that all she is willing or is able to do is to quote me back “Delta Rules” for up charging me for a one-way fair?!? I’m giving up a first class seat on one-leg of my RT flight. How is @Delta harmed here to justify charging me more? How is that a “constraint” on their operation? To the contrary, I’m utilizing less of their service, giving them an opportunity to resell that perishable asset or enhance the experience for another loyal customer. They should refund me or credit me for the segment I’m not using.

This isn’t just a monetary issue; it’s the principle of loyalty and Segmenting your most valuable clients, modularizing your capabilities based on their needs, anticipating their needs, rewarding employees like Ms. Day for win/win not just we win, and transforming dumb touch points to smart ones that can help @Delta learn more about me as a valuable customer! As my friend and author of newly released book #StupidCompanies #SmartCustomers Bruce Kasanoff (@NowPossible) calls, acting SMART!

Instead of saying “Our Pleasure; Thank you for being such a loyal customer!” and actually meaning it through her actions, Ms. Day argues with me on the phone and reads me back @Delta rules & policies. Handful of questions from this really poor experience:

  1. Does her leadership and whomever is in charge of #CustomerExperience @Delta doesn’t get the value of advocacy or relationship marketing? The fact that beyond my own diminished value in @Delta, others around me who heard the exchange, people who read this blog post, or those who see my tweet, hear this example in my future keynote speeches or read my next book will be turned off with these examples and may make other purchase decisions? Wonder what the acquisition and retention cost of a new business customer is @Delta, sentiment tracking of their online mentions, or the power of the competitive landscape such as @JetBlue to transfer that loyalty with their #TrueBlue program?
  2. Is she so poorly trained as a “supervisor,” not to detect an upset LOYAL customer and based on his/her travel records see that they were not able to accomplish their business goals (in my case getting from A-B) and thus an exceptional level of service is required? Remember, your input (how and what @Delta does) matters considerably less than the output (the end result, outcome, objective of why anyone travels).
  3. How is she or the entire “Medallion Help Desk” measured or compensated, as those two components often drive behavior? Is it get people off the phone as quickly as possible, generate as much change fee revenue as possible, or make sure their off-board experiences match what great pilots and flight crew deliver on-board?

Few companies are perfect in their consistent delivery of exceptional #CustomerExperience. For the rest, it must become more than lip service, slogans, or wall art. For visionary leaders who understand the evolution of their organizations, I need you to let the actions of your front line employees, like Ms. Day, demonstrate that you understand the power and promise of loyalty, advocacy, and evangelism.

Only when you educate the market in your unique value-add, engage them to participate and experience value-perceived, received, and applied, as well as to empower them to share their experiences – good, bad or ugly – will you help transform their experiences with your products or services. When you do that – Educate, Engage, Empower – you build advocates on behalf of your organization who will educate, and yes, even market others on your behalf.

After all, it doesn’t get more of a commodity than an airline seat. And Mr. Anderson, Ms. Day and others @Delta, here is a newsflash for you: customers always have a choice and more often they’ll chose with their wallets, impact on your repute, and long-term viability.

By the way, I’m collecting recognizable brand experience horror stories for the next commercial book – not just complaints about problems, but what would you like to have seen them do about it, how did you / they eventually resolve it, and did it impact your loyalty or future purchase decisions with that brand. There is so much out there about customer service and so many people write about brand equity; I want to write about the other side of the equation. The #StupidCompanies and #PoorExperiences that go unmentioned, customer advocacy and strategic value of complainers, as well as the economic value add of relationship marketing. EM me yours (dnour at nourgroup dot com Subject: Name of Brand Experience Horror Story) and if appropriate / relevant, I’ll include it in the next book.



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