Success and failure: CX at ATL

Customer experience isn’t just online—it’s everywhere, and it’s influencing my purchases.  

Since late last year, I’ve been entrenched in a multi-year project that is all about improving online customer experience (CX) for one of my clients. Before then, I associated most all things “X” (CX, UX) with technology, but that’s really only one form of experience delivery.

I just made a trip to Atlanta to visit this particular client and found myself immersed in customer experiences along my journey. Each of these touchpoints influences my feelings about the airport, the airline and the car rental company, and whether I’ll do business with them again.

Your customers are evaluating their experience with you in much the same way, so it’s worth paying attention—and making changes as needed.

  • Navigating the airport (SUCCESS). It’s pretty amazing to me that at (almost) every step of the way, someone had considered what I might want or need at a particular moment and place, and provided the information required for me to satisfy that need. I was able to navigate inside, outside and in-between unfamiliar buildings at Atlanta Hartsfield on foot and by train with almost zero assistance.

  • Passing security (SUCCESS AND FAILURE). There was a teensy fail with ATL’s signage at security. In the proliferation of expedited designations (priority, TSA pre-check and now Clear) the general boarding designation was lost in the shuffle (I mean literally pointed off in a direction with no end in sight, nor any security checkpoint in view). The win, however, is the digital reader board that posts the estimated wait time required to pass through the checkpoint. This significantly reduced my anxiety when I saw the long line ahead, and I’m guessing results in fewer passengers getting snippy with TSA agents. ATL is also the first airport I’ve seen to use a conveyer system to deliver empty bins to passengers underneath the loading table, and batch a group of 4-5 passengers’ belongings through in one fell swoop. Brilliant!

  • Schlepping bags (SUCCESS). As I was waiting on the jetway to board the plane from Portland to Atlanta, I received a notification from the Delta app that my bag has just been loaded on (wait for it…) the SAME plane! My anxiety plummeted with the knowledge I would have clean underwear for the next three days. And at baggage claim, the Delta app alerted me that my bag was ready to be picked up JUST as it emerged on the belt. Well played, Delta. Well played.

  • Getting some wheels (FAILURE). I rented a car from Payless, one of the lower-end companies. The desk staff was great, and the onsite staff was friendly enough, but the shack in the parking garage was kind of shabby (I felt like I was on the set of Barney Miller, circa 1979). No one inspected the car with me for existing damage, and I had to use the key fob to find the car in the lot because the markings on the spaces were worn to the point of illegibility. And when I returned the car, there was no sign to tell me what aisle to go down or where to leave the car. I parked in the middle of an aisle behind some other lost soul’s vehicle that was obscuring the one itty bitty sign that read “Payless Return.” No one met me at the return to check anything or collect anything, so I went back to the shack to return the keys and received an “estimated charge” document, which also makes me a little nervous. Can’t wait to see what the going rate is for a few scrapes on the ol’ bumper (they were there when I picked up the car, I swear)!

  • Expensing it all (FAILURE). Rather than saving receipts for everything, I use the AMEX website to produce proof of purchase for most of my expenses. This works alright until the charges from your flight home (namely seat upgrades and baggage fees) don’t post to your account for a few days. I thought to myself, “Surely the Delta app will have a record of those fees so I could submit my expenses and be done with it,” but alas, that capability either doesn’t exist or I couldn’t find it. Either way, that’s a miss in my book.  

The upshot

I feel pretty good about flying in and out of ATL (and unless my client leaves the area, I don’t really have a choice on that one). I feel pretty good about Delta, too. They have some room to improve but judging by the profane password I selected when I first signed up for Skymiles a few years back, they’ve come a long way. As for the car rental company—I may or may not be back. It all depends on how close the final charge comes to the estimate they provided when I returned the car (and whether or not they attribute that awesome paint damage on the bumper to yours truly).   

The takeaway

Little of this travel experience has anything to do with technology, and EVERYTHING to do with someone having the foresight to consider what I wanted or needed at a particular moment in my journey. THAT’S customer experience. And THAT’S something every business needs to consider.

Want to know if the experience you’re delivering meets the wants and needs of your customers? Through research, one-on-one interviews and an objective third-party perspective, I can help you identify the hits and misses, close the gaps between expectation and delivery, and keep your customers coming back for more—online or off. 

Let’s talk.

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