I'm confused! I thought taking care of the customer meant taking care of the customer. I thought the mission of every company in the people business is quality people doing a quality job of customer care. Shame on me for believing that people in the customer are business actually care about taking care of the customer’s needs.

You know my commitment to Delta Airlines. For over 20 years I have been a loyal customer. I am one who has gone out of his way to fly Delta. Recently, I have found myself questioning my loyalty. It seems Delta has become like the majority of airlines. Taking care of those who are loyal is a concept that is spoken, but not delivered.

What happens when any company or organization forgets about those who have been loyal? What do you think the loyal customer stars doing? They start looking at other companies with a like product and / or service. Here is what I am learning. Competition is not the result of those in second place getting better; it is actually the result of the leader getting worse!

That’s an interesting thought if you really think it through. In any industry there are competitors and then there is competition. Competitors are those who have a like product and / or service. They share the customer base of people who have a need for that product or service. All organizations have customers who are loyal to them. Their commitment is to do business with that company anytime a need for their product arises. These loyal customers are those the company can count on for business.

The tragedy is, these loyal customers are many times the people who are overlooked and taken for granted. It seems companies forget quality is always defined by the customer, not by the company. In any company, the top priority should be to take care of those who have a loyal commitment to you.

Let me go back to Delta. Over the past years I have spent almost $750,000 on airline tickets with them. I would say that is more than 90% of the people who fly in their planes. Some time ago the airlines started a program called the Frequent Flyer Program. This was designed to reward those who were consistent with their loyalty to the airline. When the program started, they delivered a quality response. Over the past few years the program has grown too the point where there is a constant demand for the free tickets. Recently, I called to request a reservation using a Frequent Flyer Award. I was told by the reservation agent I could not book the flights. I asked why and was informed that all the frequent flyer seats were gone. Now, I’m calling for flights that are three months in the future. I asked how many seats were blocked for frequent flyers. I was informed she didn’t know. So, I asked to talk to the manager. I got Pete. I explained the situation to Pete and asked him to check my flying status. I have never had restrictions on my booking flights. Pete informed me I could not book the flights I wanted. I asked if there were seats on the flight and was told “yes.” If I wanted to buy a seat, I could , but there was no way I could use my frequent flyer miles. I then asked to talk with someone with more authority than Pete. I was informed that “he was as high as I could go.”

Now, I understand the need to control seat inventory. The airline is in business to make money. What confuses me is why would you penalize a person who for over 20 years has been loyal with their business and their money? Here is what I think is happening at Delta and with most companies.

• Making money has become more important than taking care of the customer!

• Delta has added so many part time people and have contracted out so many services they have lost that inner family feeling of customer care!

• Leadership has turned to management and are spending more time looking at the bottom line, rather than their internal and external customers.

Do you understand the question that keeps racing through my mind? Why should I be loyal to a company who doesn't care about my loyalty? If my commitment to doing business with a company is not rewarded with quality people doing a quality job of taking care of my needs, why should I continue to give them my committed loyalty? Delta’s behavior has caused me to do something I never thought I would do. That behavior of not caring about my loyalty has caused me to look at the competition. Hey, the competition hasn’t gotten better! The company I thought was the industry leader in quality care has gotten worse!

Study this question carefully.

What causes loyal customers to look at the competition?

> Caring decreases. When I don’t feel I matter, I will search for someone who makes me feel important.

> Offers excuses, not solutions. I don’t want reasons. I want my loyalty to create results.

> Message contradicted by actions. Actions are the real message a company is delivering.

> People aren’t polite. There is no excuse for rudeness. People who represent the company are the business.

> Extra effort is not there. Going beyond the normal shows me my loyalty is appreciated.

> The spirit is not upbeat. A person’s smile is not as important as the way it is delivered.

> Inconsistencies prevail. Don’t treat me one way one time and another on a different occasion.

> The bottom line is the focus. When you are looking at only $’s, you will punish me with your presence.

> Internal customer isn’t happy. Those you put in front of me tell me what is happening above them.

> Opportunities to reward me are mismanaged. Moment of touch is where I form my perception.

> New policies punish loyal customers. When my loyalty makes me the enemy, I won’t be back.

I wonder if Delta will see this as Richard Flint being angry because he didn’t get what he wanted, or if they would see this as Richard Flint, a loyal customer for 20 years, deciding his years of loyalty really doesn’t matter to Delta? When any company isn’t willing to listen to those who have shared their loyalty, then that company doesn’t deserve the commitment of those who have ever been loyal.

Competition is not the result of those in second and third place getting better. It is the result of the industry leader getting worse!

Author's Bio: 

Richard Flint, CSP is one of those unique people who has been given the ability to see the clarity in the midst of what looks confusing.

Since 1980, he has been sharing his insights and philosophies with audiences all over North America. He is known as the person who knows you even though he has never met you.

He has written 13 books, recorded over 50 CDs, and filmed over 20 videos. Beyond being a nationally recognized speaker and author, he is a lifestyle coach to many who are seeking to stop repeating and start achieving, and a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows.

But more than all this, you will find him to be a friend whose understandings can calm your emotional confusion.