New tool gives Delta F/As ability to provide more personalized service

When I saw the headline on the Delta Air Lines news release that read in part, “Bringing humanity … back to the skies,” I was, to say the least, dubious. As I read on, I grew more encouraged about the positive benefits Delta’s newly deployed technology will eventually be able to provide.

The Aug. 25 news release announced that Delta Air Lines’ (NYSE: DAL) flight attendants “[W]ill be empowered with an innovative new tool on their handheld phablet* devices … in an effort to bring a deeper level of personalization and improve the travel experience for the airline's 170 million global customers.”

Delta flight attendant with phablet device
The tool the release was referring to is the Guest Service Tool, the newest piece of technology that gives Delta's more than 22,000 flight attendants key information so they can better engage with customers while in flight.

“Our flight attendants, as with all Delta employees, are committed to making the flying experience better for our customers while endeavoring to bring more humanity to the skies," Allison Ausband, Delta's SVP of In-Flight Service, said in the statement. "Having technology at their fingertips to identify and greet customers by name, highlight customers' Medallion status, address disruptions in their travel in real-time as well as a host of other opportunities means the world's finest flight attendants can provide an even more exceptional customer experience."

Agreed; more information is usually better than less information. However, the phrase “highlight customers’ Medallion status” leapt out at me, as did another passage about how the tool will enable F/As “to recognize high-value customers.” I don’t know why that bothers me, but the notion of treating some passengers better than others rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, what business doesn’t give at least a little preferential treatment to those customers who are regulars and/or who spend more money? Simply put, it’s smart business to ensure that your best customers are your happiest customers.

On a more egalitarian level, the tool will give flight attendants a better sense of the customers traveling on board and enable them to better serve those who may need extra assistance or attention. Eventually, the device will enable F/As to take advantage of customer-provided data to further personalize the on board experience, including the ability to deliver food and beverages that align with the passengers’ preferences, the airline said.

As the tool evolves, the tool will enable F/As to better identify those customers who may have had a previous disruption in their travel, and will also provide the status of down-line flights and connecting gate information.

When Delta provided its flight attendants with the devices last year, it was with the intention of reducing Delta's environmental impact and reliance on paper materials.

Beginning Sept. 1, the On Board Manual containing safety and service materials – which is 500 pages and weighs in at five pounds -- will be loaded on to the phablet devices saving 55 tons of paper annually. As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

A video of the Guest Service Tool in action is available here.

* Editor’s note: “Phablet” is a blend of the words “phone” and “tablet” and refers to a smartphone-tablet with a screen size between 5.3 inches and 6.99 inches.

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Photo provided by Delta Air Lines
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