Published in Aviation

Delta Keeps Climbing with Breast Cancer Awareness and Good CX

I wore something pink for the entire month of October.  Mostly it was pink shirts, but I mixed in pink socks, ties, and wristbands. This was part of a national campaign for the American Cancer Society called Real Men Wear Pink, aimed at raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research.  To entice potential donors to contribute to my personal campaign, I offered to wear a pink tutu to work the very last day of October if I met my goal.  You know, that frilly, lacy thing ballerinas wear around their waist?

A Day of Pink

It worked. I met my goal and on October 31st, I wore a pink tutu to work, along with an ensemble consisting of a dress shirt, a pink tie, black shorts, and pink socks.  The strange looks from passersby started in the parking lot at work.  As I walked in a people kept looking at me — some of them smiling or smirking, others with a perplexed look on their face.

My Flight on Delta

I ended up being scheduled to go out of town the afternoon of October 31st.  Some of the generous donors for the campaign gave me a little grief about wearing my getup for only a half a day, so I said I’d wear it on my flight.  To be fully transparent, I took the tutu off once I got on the shuttle bus so I didn’t have to wear it through security.  But I did have the rest of my outfit on, which made me look like a strange version of Angus Young from AC/DC and provided just as many odd looks and smirks as I experienced in the parking lot at work.

As soon as I boarded the flight and made my way to the back of the plane, the Delta airlines flight attendant’s face lit up, she started laughing, and she asked me if she could get a photo with me.  She was visibly excited.  Why?  Because all month long Delta was supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).  They served pink lemonade, they were mixing up pink martinis, flight attendants were wearing pink and proceeds from the pink beverages were going to the BCRF, along with any additional donations customers wanted to make.

I was pretty nervous about the whole experience of being dressed strangely on a flight, but in the end, it was one of the best flights I’ve ever taken and my personal impression of the Delta brand jumped by leaps and bounds.  This all happened because that one flight attendant got the ball rolling and their entire crew showed just how engaged they were in their job.


What Made This a Great Customer Experience

Even though this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill service interaction, it got me thinking, what made my customer experience great, and how can other companies learn from it?

They made a personal connection

Typically, personal connections on a flight with anyone, let alone flight attendants are minimal. I was able to experience Delta’s brand in a whole new way because the flight attendants reached out to me. They weren’t just doing their jobs, they were listening and paying attention, and recognizing not only my passion but also their company’s initiative of breast cancer awareness. The flight attendants even offered to help me raise money on the flight. These employees were fully engaged with their company and knew the importance of a great customer experience. They brought the experience to life and became the face of the brand.

In contrast, I think about another recent experience I had with an employee, whose name and company will rename unnamed.  This company was also involved in a charitable awareness and fundraising campaign and I asked her about it.  She made the following points in her response:

  • I think it’s terrible that we ask customers for donations
  • A lot of our employees are too excited about it and go way over the top
  • I think it’s stupid that some employees are changing their uniforms to support the theme of the campaign
  • I’m ready for this campaign to be done.

Wow.  Talk about a disengaged employee. 

Their CX program has bite

Once I was on a first name basis with the flight attendants, as a CX practitioner, I took the opportunity to ask two of them about their CX program. As many airlines do, Delta sends surveys to customers following flights and I’m sure this information is used to make improvements in their servicing. But I also wanted to know what the CX program meant to them. I learned that every time that employees receive a perfect rating, they are awarded points. These points can be used to buy merchandise and services. They went on to talk about some associates who had accumulated points for years and bought some really cool stuff or taken a fantastic trip. The rewards are meaningful to the employees. Delta has done a good job developing commitment and reinforcing the importance of CX.

They make it social

After we landed, I took my experience to Twitter. They replied quickly, acknowledging my message and thanking me for the feedback.  This told me they were listening.

On Delta’s BCRF campaign website, they share stories of breast cancer survivors. They talk about how there are 3 million survivors in the U.S. alone and that those survival rates are on the increase. They also highlight medical researchers and what they are working on to help in the fight against breast cancer.

Delta’s brand message relating to breast cancer awareness was universally reinforced. The sales from the pink lemonade and martinis went to the campaign and flight attendants wore pink. They even had the messaging on their seat back entertainment.

Delta breast cancer messaging

Delta’s Donations to Research

I was intrigued by Delta’s campaign so I did some research. Ever since Delta’s partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), they have donated 17 million dollars. That includes fully funding 43 major research projects. The BCRF then takes those donations and invests it across 14 countries and 250 researchers on six continents.

Recognize Passion and Connect

Delta provided me with a great flight experience.  The 3 traits discussed in this blog are all important aspects of a good CX approach that we recommend to our clients on a consistent basis.  In the end, I think the most important thing they did was to recognize something I had passion about, and they made a personal connection with me about that very thing. This is not always easy to do, and it’s hard to create a script for employees to behave this way.  But if you’re listening to your customers, observing what they do, and hiring and training employees to be passionate about your brand, they will make it look easy.