What Delta (and All of Us) Can Learn From Dell

The Web Is a Platform for Consumer Grievances, but Marketers Should Use It to Engage and Respond

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Craig Daitch Craig Daitch also writes the blog Thought Industry.
Though I was unable to attend last month's OMMA Social, I was following the attendee chatter via Twitter. A recurring lament? That there were no "new" case studies in social media outside of Dell's Ideastorm. It's a great example but, to be perfectly honest, it isn't very new. Wasn't there anything to talk about?

Enter Joseph Jaffe. Yes that Joseph Jaffe. The same one who sand-blasted quite a few iconic brands in this video.

Taking a cue from Jeff Jarvis, Jaffe has made Delta Air Lines his target for failing to provide him with the level of customer service he expected from a business-class ticket to Brazil. Here's a quick passage:

"The one agent shoves a piece of paper with a telephone number instructing me that I can complain by calling the number. Meanwhile I'm in a cramped seat, without food (I have not eaten the entire day), without power, etc."

Since his first post, he has continued to document his experiences with Delta's customer-service department. And his decision to air his Delta grievances via the social web are already causing headaches for the airline. Need proof?

Delta Skelter (his nom de guerre) rose as high as the No. 4 most popular search result for the query "Delta Business Class Premium." He received countless comments and responses via his blog, his Twitter feed and the Facebook group he's organized dedicated to Delta.

His price to end his campaign against the airline? A written apology from the CMO or CEO and two tickets to anywhere in the world.

But what if you're not Jaffe? What if you've never raised your online profile past Facebook? Do you think the CMO of Delta would be compelled to write you a personal apology as well?

Perhaps not. But there is power in numbers and social media has democratized opinions. Someone like a Joseph Jaffe may have the initial inside edge on gaining the attention of brands via these new channels, but everybody's opinion matters in social media.

Social media has forced brands to look into sentiment on an aggregate level as well as the individual post. In other words, when multiple posts of the same subject make their way to the web, or when enough people track back to a specific topic on the web, brands should be aware of it.

Delta has recently gone through a massive rebranding, using wonderful imagery of calm passengers listening to thousands of MP3s and playing online games through touch screen interfaces. It has set up its own blog. Given the substantial investment Delta has made in the online/offline media space, I imagine the last thing the airline is going to want to do is ignore the very people who fly it.

Dell has learned from the criticism leveled at it via a variety of Web 2.0 tools and used those same tactics to improve and address customer service issues. Sure, it would be nice for a fresh example of a brand using social media to connect with customers and critics, but I don't think there's a more relevant case for brands to emulate than Dell.
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