Delta Airlines is driving customers away in droves with its new customer service feature. The "new phone platform" was meant to "automatically equip our agents with even more details about your travel, so they can address your questions efficiently and get you on your way," the company announced back in July. A few months later, the results have not been well received.
The new customer service features Delta announced so proudly essentially boil down to an automated phone line, according to a report by ZDNet. Callers are redirected between various pre-recorded menus and given no option to speak with a real-live person for at least a few passes. The outlet wrote that the service can quickly "discourage [you] from believing you'll ever get to talk to a human being," while the automated messages themselves rarely give adequate answers to specific problems.
The customers raising the most complaints about this system are Delta's SkyMiles Medallion Members — frequent flyers who are already invested in Delta's customer loyalty programs. They reportedly say that the system's reluctance to hand them over to a customer service agent can be costly when they have timely issues with an impending flight.
One of the main reasons Delta has employed this new system is undoubtedly because it is cheaper than hiring real phone operators, but the company has the money to do more. According to a report by CNBC, Delta Airlines actually reported a profit in the third quarter of 2021 — a stunning turnaround with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on. Meanwhile, the company has had minimal staffing issues over its coronavirus vaccine mandate, and it told shareholders it believes operations will return to pre-pandemic levels sometime in 2022.
Will any of them have anything to do with bringing the telephone wait times down from six hours or whatever the current average is?— Ron Lieber (@ronlieber) October 13, 2021
Delta told ZDNet that the complaints about its new phone system are the outliers, and they appear louder than the satisfied customers on review boards and social media. The company announced that it has hired 8,000 new employees recently, and according to travel reporter Kyle Potter, at least 1,500 of those are "reservation agents." The company also admitted it may need to hire more such agents.
Industry insiders and economists are considering several other factors in this equation as well — from the surge of labor strikes and other actions around the country to the restrictions on international travel, and so on. At the time of this writing, the wait time to speak to a Delta customer service representative on the phone is reportedly about 6 hours.