Social Media Case Studies, Social Image of the Week

A Social Media Customer Service Win From @DeltaAssist

badge-image-of-the-weekMoments of greatness often come when we least expect it. Especially when travel and flight delays are involved.

I recently found myself in a situation where an international flight delay meant that I would miss my connection. While normally not a big deal, my “bright idea” of maximizing my holiday in London meant that my connection was the last of the evening between New York and Boston on Delta. Suffice to say, this was not how I wanted my amazing trip to end.

Notified via an e-mail alert from Delta mid-morning, I immediately scrambled to call the 1-800 customer service number, to which I learned that a 15 minute or longer wait was in store. About five minutes in on hold, I had a bright idea. Why don’t I tweet Delta’s customer service team, @DeltaAssist?

So, I tweeted:


One minute later, I had a tweet back from @DeltaAssist. Keep in mind that I’ve been on hold for over six minutes now.


Alright, now we’re making progress. It’s worth noting that I had done my homework during those five minutes on hold. I had followed e-mail prompts to automatically re-book on Delta, there just weren’t any options available. Knowing that Delta now co-shares with Virgin Atlantic, I went on TripAdvisor and found an open Virgin Atlantic flight flying directly into Boston from London with seats leaving at 3:05 p.m. that afternoon. Perhaps we could work out a deal.

Eleven minutes later, I had an email and Twitter confirmation from @DeltaAssist and the fabulous *EP that I had been re-booked on the flight of my choice.

Words cannot even express how wowed I was. I’m still amazed when I go back and read our simple 140-character (or less) Twitter exchange. I couldn’t believe my luck that this had really just happened. I immediately proceeded to gush out gracious tweets of thanks to anyone who would listen.


It’s worth noting that throughout this exchange, I was still on hold with customer service and had not gotten a person live on the phone yet. I never did get to speak to someone directly. But, it didn’t matter. I got what I needed quickly, efficiently, and was able to move on with my day as planned. I also gained a new-found respect for flying to London and back on Delta.

As a result of this experience, my last two hours in London were spent stress-free. I did not have to worry about a grueling day/night ahead of me, or how I was going to try and conquer all odds to make my connection, or whether I’d make it to work on time on Monday. Instead, I went shopping and enjoyed the sunshine in London.

So, what can we as marketers learn from this experience? Quick response times and best serving your customers works. It’s the simplest, oldest trick in the marketing playbook, and for good reason. Treat your customers well, provide a good level of service, respond swiftly when something doesn’t go right, and they’ll respect you for it. You might even wow them and inspire a new level of loyalty. 

While I imagine one minute response times may not be business as usual for @DeltaAssist, the feeling of being heard quickly when you have a legitimate issue is incredible from a customer perspective.

You can push out the best content in the world and respond in a funny, witty manner, but if you’re not there on social media when your customers need you the most, you may lose those customers. On the flip side, by handling a customer service issue well via social media, you have the opportunity to build brand evangelists and generate positive word-of-mouth feedback, like this blog post.

Think about how strong your customer service resources are – both traditional and social media – the next time you’re contemplating investing in a splashy marketing campaign.

As Jay Baer wisely states, “If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.”

Thank you *EP & the team @DeltaAssist. I hope that your social media customer service efforts will inspire others.

Facebook Comments


  1. Chris Syme says

    It’s a great story, Jessica–and it gives me hope. I fly Delta 90% of the time and have my ups and downs with them. It’s good to know there are some great success stories out there. Helps me give them the benefit of the doubt.

  2. says

    Jessica, such a great story. I had a similar experience with @DeltaAssist last year. While heading to the UK, my LAX to ATL flight was delayed 2 hours, effectively rendering my 90 minute layover obsolete. To make matters worse, one of those hours being stuck on the runway with no way to call customer service.

    As soon as we were airborne, I powered up my Mac, hopped on the wifi, and sent them a tweet. They were able to contact the gate and request for the flight to hold if possible. Low and behold, I ran up to the gate and the agent remarked, “We were waiting for you.” I also got upgraded to BizElite, so that helped too. 😉

    • Jessica Gioglio says

      Wow, Michael. What an amazing story!! I thought mine was cool, but getting the flight to hold for you is unheard of.

  3. says

    Thanks for this information. As a cancer patient who needed assistance in Atlanta for a flight to Europe I asked real, live human beings for assistance and got rude treatment and indifference, which sent me to Paris while my travel companion went to Frankfurt on another flight. Our final destination was Prague. This occurred while the Delta PR folks were staging a loud parade through the terminal to proclaim they “cared” about cancer patients as part of a partnership with the American Cancer Society. Had I known I could get support through Twitter I would have done so.

    • Jessica Gioglio says

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Pat. That sounds terrible. I didn’t think I’d get anywhere with Twitter, but it worked, so lesson learned. Doesn’t hurt to try while you’re sitting on hold.

      • says

        Thanks Jessica! When we called in advance of the trip Delta said disabled passengers needed to ask the gate staff for support. I sought help from the same Delta customer service employee, face to face, multiple times over a two hour period. The Delta employees who helped me during the flight, and on the ground in Paris where a wheelchair strike was taking place, were truly gracious. A special help line for people with disabilities and cancer patients in treatment would have been helpful.

  4. Kevin Alansky says

    Nice post Jess, I had a very similar experience with Delta Assist. I had a bad fall from a ski accident last winter on the first day of my vacation. When I called the 800 number to try and switch my flight, they asked for $1000 switching costs (difference in fare plus change fee). Now I realize this is not their problem so the change fee was acceptable to me (event at $150 a pop). They could have been more accommodating over the phone especially for someone who later found out that I tore my ACL and broke my leg. After no luck on the phone, I tweeted my frustration and they responded immediately. I explained willing to pay the change fee, just not the difference in fare, they said no problem and actually called me to arrange the final details. When I got there – they had wheelchair access, a person to get me through security, an entire row to myself on the plane, wheelchair access on the arrival. I couldn’t understand why it needed to go through social to make all of this possible but was happy nonetheless for the extreme social surprise.

    • says

      Yikes, I hope you’re all recovered now!

      But you bring up a good point on needing to go through social means to get the attention. The CS reps on social media know to respond quickly, otherwise, it can lead to more public frustrations, which is what they don’t want.

      However, with the way (in general) companies are somewhat favoring social media response times vs calls, it could be that people would be better off tweeting directly instead of traditionally calling. Which leaves people that who aren’t savvy with social media, the less than stellar customer service time?

      Also, if the CS Call Team is saying one thing, and the CS Social Media Team is saying much more accommodating things, then in a way it’s undermining the Call Team.

      I’m just rambling now, but it’s an interesting thing to think about on how companies treat their CS policies for the different communication streams. :)

      • Kevin Alansky says

        I agree, what doesn’t to me is that it appears that the social team is not trained in the same manner as the call center. Why would Delta be only halfway in to Deliver Happiness, to borrow Tony Hsieh’s book title. It is hard to know the internal politics without being a part of the team and maybe the social team is a pilot for a broader rollout but I would hope that long-term the two teams are consistent.

        I am a big fan of the support team of FitBit too, they are trying to grow marketshare and mindfulness of wereable health products. They have sent my wife and I new one’s no questions asked after the device failed. Didn’t have to even return it. They were quick to trust the customer and now look, telling everyone how great their products are 😉

        As far as the knee, thanks for asking but still not quite recovered. If only I could get RG3’s trainers and I will be all set!

        • says

          Exactly, it’s just not consistent. “New school” vs “old school” mentality.

          I actually have the Zappos culture book (free for anyone that requests it) and it’s a great look into their company.

          Wishing you a faster recovery time!

          • Kevin Alansky says

            Hi Alice, Would love the culture book. Can you email me kevin at alansky dot com

        • Jessica Gioglio says

          Thanks Kevin and Alice. I hear you – it does bring up a good debate about training. I think in a perfect world you would train your entire team to toggle between social and calls, but the reality is that dividing and conquering is probably more efficient than multitasking. I also think that when you speak to someone on the phone, the process is just longer – it takes time to explain, answer questions, etc. Tweeting and DMing in 140 characters makes you be painstakingly (sp) to the point. It’s also worth noting that I called in knowing exactly what I wanted – to be re-booked on a specific flight. I had the times, #s all handy to go. I did the heavy lifting and made it easy to help me. Guessing the vast majority of people calling in aren’t as prepared.

    • Jessica Gioglio says

      That sounds like a terrible experience. Tough to hear A) that you had to travel in such a condition and B) that the experience was so different. The reps on the phone vs. social should be trained in the same way. It’s hard to say if you just got a bad apple the first time, or if it’s different teams & training. Regardless, the end experience sounds amazing. Hopefully made up for the poor experience the first time.

  5. says

    Great post, thanks for sharing your story. Delta is not one of my go-to airlines but it looks like it should be. Nice work Delta and smart work by you Jessica contacted them through Twitter and researching while you waited to find another option that worked best for you. Kudos all around!

    • Jessica Gioglio says

      Thanks, Sue! You would be surprised how helpful social media can be. I was traveling with my parents to CA two years ago and half jokingly tweeted Hertz to ask if they had any promo deals going on. I didn’t expect it to work, but my Dad had asked me to poke around online for any deals. Hertz tweeted me back a promo they were running and we saved over $100 on the rental car. Not bad! :)

  6. Diane Garey says

    Jessica, it’s so interesting, but maybe not that surprising that yours and Kevin’s stories (in the comments) are about how great the service is via Twitter but how terrible it is via the way most people likely interact with customer service. It would be interesting to know why … do the two groups have different policies, different training, are “superstar” customer service agents put online in the more public forum, etc. That said, it is great to see an airline story that involves great service!

    • Jessica Gioglio says

      Agreed, Diane. In this case, I didn’t get a chance to experience phone customer service, but Delta via the phone has been helpful in the past. To your question about customer service via phone vs. social – I would guess that it’s probably two different teams within customer service. You would imagine though that the training would be the same. I think these social media customer service wins just bring to light what consumers hope for with any customer service interaction. Let that be another powerful lesson to companies because phone/email customer service isn’t going away!

  7. says

    What’s fascinating to me – and I’ve written about it before – is whether companies are now training their customers to interact with them via social. If the experience can be so much better there, why doesn’t everyone go that route? But if they do, social will be swamped, and we’ll back right where we started. #AndTheCircleContinues

  8. hostile_17 says

    So many Twitter teams are just mindless bots… with no power other than to placate people. “We’re very sorry” etc. with no help. It’s good to see a Twitter as an extension of the customer service team, not the PR team.

  9. Dave Link says

    When it comes to the airline industry I resort to Twitter first in an attempt to solve problems. As a few others have stated in this thread, the social teams for these companies seem FAR more willing and able to correct problems than those customer service reps that I can see face-to-face – which I find amazing as I go out of my way to speak with an actual person to get things resolved when dealing with utilities, cable companies and retail stores. Kudos to @DeltaAssist!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *