Delta’s Twitter Customer Service is a Good Start, Needs to Grow

Another airline has given in to the powers of Twitter. This time, it’s Delta that has brought its customer service to Twitter in a big way, and that’s great news. It’s not quite where it needs to be, but hopefully they’ll realize that quickly and fix it.

When you have travel problems, you can now Tweet them to @DeltaAssist. The airline says this is a pilot program, but it’s pretty robust for being just that. There are five people monitoring the account and responding to all sorts of issues. Sounds great, right? One problem. It’s not Delta Assist (When They Want)manned 24/7.

For now, the account is active only Monday through Friday from 8a to 930p Eastern Time. That’s not good enough. This is the largest airline in the world, and it runs 24 hours a day. To not have anyone on the weekend is a tremendous issue. Not having someone in the overnight hours fails to recognize that there are a lot of flights operating around the world during that time. To ultimately be successful, they’re going to need to be on the ball all day, every day.

But how have they been doing so far when they are on the clock? Let’s take a look.

I looked at last Friday, June 25. There were a total of 90 tweets sent by the @DeltaAssist account between the time they signed on at 758a and the time they signed off at 953p. I tracked as many of the conversations as I could to see how the response time stacked up. Overall, it was pretty good (though there could have been some that they never responded to that I didn’t see).

I tracked 64 conversations based on the tweets that they sent out on the 25th and divided them into three categories: negative, positive, and questions.

Delta Assist Tweet Response Time

As you can see, Delta did a good job of responding to some tweets very quickly. There were some that didn’t receive a response for a very long time, but to be fair most of those were not urgent. On top of that, it appears that they’re still trying to find their footing. They were responding to questions and complaints written to all Delta Twitter accounts, so I have no doubt there was a large volume of stuff to get through.

Many of those long response times were responded to in the early afternoon, so it’s almost as if they just found a bunch of old tweets. My guess is that there are a bunch of different Delta teams responding to each account (that sounds like Delta to me), so someone probably forwarded a bunch over to the Assist team in the afternoon. They’ll need to get that squared away.

Most importantly, I hope you’ll notice, Delta, that a simple search brought up more than 20 tweets citing “DeltaAssist” between the time you signed off on Friday and Sunday afternoon when I’m writing this. And this is just a couple days after you officially launched it. It’s only going to grow.

The airline is off to a very good start here. Welcome to the world of Twitter customer service, Delta. Now get to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’ll be in serious business.

23 Responses to Delta’s Twitter Customer Service is a Good Start, Needs to Grow

  1. Scott says:

    I, for one, think the whole thing is ridiculous. While I applaud Delta for attempting to reach out to customers, I think this is one area where airlines need to hold their ground. Delta has a 24/7/265 reservations center and a self-service Web site that is a heck of a lot more efficient than attempting to make complex travel itinerary fixes in 140 characters or less in the public eye. Why can’t these “tweeting” customers just call Reservations or visit the Web site (especially the latter, if they are as savvy as most Twitter-types)? E-mail has been around for years, yet we never saw Delta bend over backwards to man an “instant response” e-email reservations assistance desk… and, in fact, I think such a thing would make more sense than assisting via Twitter.

    Twitter certainly has its place for providing feedback and participating in the “customer conversation” about a product or brand — but for a specific service request (such as airline reservation assistance), I think it’s a bad idea.

    • Artie says:

      Amen Scott! I was thinkin it, but not sure how to say it, so now I can just piggyback onto your comment with a 100% agreement. I suppose it all comes down to preference: some folks have figured out how to make Twitter really work for them. I tried it, found it ok, but not amazing and closed my account. If I need immediate help on a reservation, my “DeltaAssist” is the kind agent on the other end of the phone. I would imagine handling through Twitter gives Delta a bit more flexibility since they can respond to Tweets at their leisure. However, I type on a full keyboard a lot faster than on my Blackberry and I certainly can handle important issues much more efficiently and effectively through the phone.

    • james says:

      I agree 100%. Anyone capable of sending a Tweet from their phone probably has email on it, and to me a 24/7 email response would have a far greater impact than jumping on a web fad.

      The only benefit I could possibly think of is that Twitter, with its character limit, forces customers to get to the point and thereby they can help more customers -and avoid wading through emails with irrelevant details spurred by annoyance and anger. But then you could easily incorporate that into a website form.

      • I don’t use twitter and I really don’t understand why people do. I’m not interested in the random thoughts of 140 characters or less of people and don’t understand why I should tweet that I’m going to the toilet or making a sandwich. But I know there are people who think it’s the greatest thing ever made.

        But if DL is going to offer this service, they should be 24/7 to represent the business they are in and the size they are.

      • David M says:

        Actually, users can send and receive tweets via SMS, so any phone that can do text messaging can do Twitter, even if it doesn’t do email or mobile web (or does them badly enough to be nearly unusable).

    • CF says:

      Look, I personally hate Twitter, but it’s where people are and that means that airlines should be using it. You’re correct that it’s less efficient to use than the call center for complex reservation changes, but it’s far more efficient for so many other things. Look at some of the questions they’re getting. If you ask a question in less than 140 characters, it’s so easy to give a response, and that frees up the call center. Even questions about a lost bag or a canceled flight can be handled quickly. The answer might not be immediately available, but knowing that someone is there trying to help is a huge benefit of Twitter. This is a good thing.

      • Scott says:

        I just took a look at the latest messages sent by @DeltaAssist. It appears the majority of them are related to customer service issues, not reservations issues (yet that username is handled by Res agents–by Delta’s own description of the program). Plus, the majority of recent posts are basically appologies with the suggestion to call or email them with more info via one of their established communication channels.

        I’m not seeing where the added value for anyone is based upon what I’m seeing in their twitter feed… other than, perhaps, the temporary “good will” that Delta gets from showing that they are responsive to customers. That kind of good will isn’t insignificant, but with fads such as Twitter, it generally backfires because it creates a monster than is totally unsustainable in the long run (or investment in a service/product/feature that will prove to be of little value once everyone moves on to the next “big thing”).

        I go back to my original point — email has been around for decades now, and I’ve yet to see Delta designate a team to respond to customer email messages in “real time” on urgent issues requiring assistance. Why twitter? The only possible justification I can imagine is that Delta is trying to show that it is en vogue… which is not a good business reason to do anything.

        • I’d love to see Delta reply to emails within say one hour. They could especially set up some automated filtering if they asked for a reservation number and sorted the tickets by flight date.

          I think doing this via twitter doesn’t quite make sense. The twitter page looks like a bunch of links, half conversations and mistakes.

          What Delta should do (and may have already been doing) is respond privately to tweets that were already made about their service, but they shouldn’t solicit these via twitter.

          Oh, and also, people who are using twitter probably made their own reservation so having reservation agents staff this is a poor idea.

          • CF says:

            The problem is that you can’t respond to a tweet privately unless someone is following you. So you have to ask that person to follow you if you want to have a private conversation. JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America have been doing this successfully for quite some time. It’s a great way to reach a generation that’s hooked on Twitter, which is meant to be real time.

            Email is a less than real-time method of communication. When things work right, they go through immediately, but that’s not always the case. There are delays. People don’t expect an immediate response to email, but that’s the whole point of Twitter.

          • Twitter is nearly instant, just like email. Honestly, if people want instant they should use online chat or call.

            I’m quite surprised the airlines haven’t added online chat. Its a great efficiency gain as one person can handle 4-5 customers at the same time.

          • Okay, I’m splitting hairs, but twitter wasn’t ment to be immediate, it initially was built and billed as a micro-blogging platform, not a communications platform. The system was architected in a way that made sense for blog publishing, but not a communication platform. The users morphed it into the communications platform it is today.

          • Nicholas I agree with what you said about online chat. I’ve used it with Comcast my internet provide the (thankfully) few times I’ve had a problem and I’ve never waited more then a minute before someone was on and they’ve always quickly help solve my issue. And that’s with typing more then 140 characters since at times you do have to explain the issue.

  2. Agree totally and thanks for posting..I am 100% a Delta Platinum flyer , but they must go to 24/7 on @DLAssist. Can’t get away with Bankers hours on this one!

    • Axelsarkis says:

      Absolutely agree. Many people I know book and deal with the airlines on weekends, since they are not at work. Common Delta, go 7 days a week! 24/7 Is good too, and should be implemented sometime down the line.

  3. So they close at 9:30pm eastern time which is 6:30pm on the west coast, so people here can’t benefit from twitter for any issues that pop up on their evening flights or all the late night transcon flights.

    They must be seeing how it goes before they pay to have employees work it 24hrs a day.

  4. Oh I missed the part about it only be open Monday-Friday. What idiots, they are staffing it like some small airline instead of the large worldwide airline they are.

  5. scott says:

    Welcome to the latest fad. The problem is the twitter accounts are typically managed by the ‘social marketing’ group, and have little ability to actually solve the problem. As for turnaround, while you might get a tweet instantly, you typically can’t get a real response via email very quickly. I know it’s not Delta, but I had an issue with my AS FF plan, and their tweet response was within an hour and their web form (which promises next day turnaround) took 8 business days.

    • james says:

      I don’t know why you can’t respond to an email within an hour, barrring huge schedule interruptions like storms and such.

      Start it up, figure out your average of inbound email and staff accordingly. Email comes in to a group box, and whoever answers it opens a “trouble ticket.” A link is sent back to user, and now the assignment exists on the site. If a CSR is heading out for the day and has “open tickets” another takes them over and sees their notes and details.

      Leaders and staffers can easily sort by how long a ticket has been out, (wait time,) priority level, etc. Plenty of companies do this, (large and small,) and it’s far more efficient than simply emailing back and forth. An example is the web hosting company I use. If I haven’t heard back I can just click my link and see the CSRs notes and what’s going on.

      If implented with a reasonable response time I would prefer this over phone based CSRs, since my entire conversation – (reschedules, refunds, whatever,) is completely documented, and any CSR can see what the other did and promised.

  6. In January this year I had to fly from Holland to the USA on Delta to attend my step dads funeral, prior to my flight my husband calls them and tells them I need assistance from my connection flight because I am deaf and I was not in a “good place” at the time, Delta on the phone was assuring my husband that I would be taken care of.. going over I was to connect in Detroit, no one was there to meet me, I had to write notes asking for help,all I got was a giggly person on a cell phone and her scarlet index finger telling me to WAIT ..obviously the phone call was personal, cos I could see in her face that it was something that made her blush and giggle over and over again, so I had to find another desk that might help me, fin ally some one with some maturity and cared about her job guided me in the right direction…Return trip… OMG.. I left from St Louis to JFK. prior to that my sister also called them within 24 hours of my flight that I needed assistance .. they also assured my sister that I would be met at JFK .. oh sure they met me alright they took me directly to the domestic luggage carousel..my luggage was already sent on to my next flight( i did not need to pick it up) turned around to find the lady ,, she was gone,, i was totally lost and had no idea where the INTERNATIONAL flights were going, so a young man wearing an airport staff uniform took pity on me, and took me to the lost luggage, sure enough I was correct, my luggage was already on its way to the connection flight and I was 5 miles away from the International terminal, the lady and the young man put me in a cab, 10 dollars for a 5 mile ride, I get in check in get my boarding pass, have to go thru security , run to the gate ( I am 60 years old not a perky athletic ) they got me on the plane, and when I sent a complaint to Delta, they never sent me an apology, so is this the type of customer service I want to deal with ????????//
    Thanks for letting me unload

  7. Mike C. says:

    Tweety Dee, Twitter DUMB.

    This has to be the most useless technology to date. For anyone to have the time to keep up with someone elses daily tweets, I say…get a life.

    As for airlines using this, passenges can just email or call. Have Delta employees monitor emails more closely. use Delta employees to monitor tweets is a waste of time. This is opening a can of worms. Can you imagine all the pax tweeting and expecting an immediate response?

  8. Pingback: Delta Reservations and the Twitter Movement - >> The Cranky Flier

  9. Brad says:

    DeltaAssist has saved my bacon more times than I am willing to admit, and much faster than calling in. Just this morning, they had my backup plan for a potential missed flight waiting. To those who say they aren’t perfect, in my experience, they are 10X less flawed than those joining me on my 110+ flights every year!

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