Flying — It’s all about customer service

Posted by guest blogger Kevin Slimp, a columnist, speaker and director of the Institute of Newspaper Technology.

Jim Evans is the Vice President of Marketing for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. I’ve never met him, but I hope to. He seems like a very nice guy.

Jim has written to me several times about my recent problems getting to Knoxville on Delta airlines. He even went so far as to contact someone with authority at Delta to have them look into these difficulties. Jim is very good at his job. Delta could learn a lot from him.

And it makes sense for Jim to be concerned about my dilemma. I can’t tell you the number of flyers who have written to me over the past few weeks and told me they’re finding alternate methods to get where they’re going. In addition to taking cars, trains or whatever, several have told me they drive to other cities, mainly Nashville, because they have a much better chance of getting to their destination.

If I owned an airport and needed a marketing director, you can bet I’d call Jim. He knows that disgruntled customers add up. They tell their friends and those friends tell their friends. I speak on the subject of customer service at conferences around the country and there’s a statistic that relates to the number of people who hear about a negative experience with a company. According to one study, for every complaint that customers make to a company, twenty other customers never contact the vendor when they’re angry, but tell their friends instead. And friends love to share these stories.

How does a city like Knoxville get better airline service? I think Jim is thinking in the right direction. Someone has to contact the airlines and get them to take a serious look at this problem.

Shortly after Jim called Delta, I received an email from a Delta customer care coordinator that included, “I have asked our Operations Control Center to look closely at the

Atlanta/Knoxville market and take any necessary action to ensure that reliability improves.”

I don’t know if she was serious. But at least one person has heard our plight.

Maybe they will look into the problems and maybe they’ll notice that every flight I’m on that ends up making it to Knoxville seems to be completely full. Maybe they’ll notice that I’m getting phone calls from Delta asking if I’d be interested in giving up my seat because a flight out of Knoxville is overbooked.

Perhaps they’ll notice that when I take a flight to Canada, I’m generally on a big plane that’s less than a third full. And maybe they’ll notice that most of the flights to Knoxville are on those really small planes.

Hey, here’s an idea. Since Knoxville flights seem to be overbooked with such regularity, what if they sent those little planes to Canada and flew the larger ones into McGhee Tyson Airport.

And maybe if Southwest Airlines really knew how much dissatisfaction there was in the Knoxville flying public, they’d take a serious look at making flights to Knoxville.

From what I’ve read, McGhee Tyson has been courting Southwest for some time. Maybe, instead of going after them with statistics about the number of flyers going in and out of Knoxville, they convinced them of how many flyers would switch from Delta and other airlines, Southwest would take a more serious look.

But what do I know? I’m just a writer. And a speaker. I guess I’ll just keep writing and speaking about my experiences on Delta and see if things get better.