It’s hard to imagine that less than a decade ago Delta Air Lines was a company dealing with seemingly insurmountable economic challenges. In a turbulent post-9/11 economy, the airline was grappling with record-high fuel prices, a takeover attempt and nearly 18 months of bankruptcy. Delta management understood that incremental organizational improvements alone would not be enough to turn the business around. Instead, they opted for a partner in Lippincott that could guide them through the next chapter — moving and motivating 80,000 employees around a new shared vision and laying the foundation for a world-class airline.
Making the shift from product to experience
Just as Delta was facing economic challenges so, too, were its customers. The market downturn had left passengers searching for value and affordability. Yet the passenger experience had gone largely unchanged and new experiences that were redefining other industries weren’t flowing through into air travel. Delta was in need of a sweeping brand reinvention to win back the hearts of customers and communicate its vision for the future.
So we significantly upped the ante and established a new standard for the travel experience. We emboldened the new Delta in its visual expression, with a powerful red symbol and supergraphic. The new identity was translated onto aircraft and in major terminals virtually overnight — its boldness and simplicity only getting stronger with time.
We worked with leadership to craft an end-to-end customer experience vision. Our shared vision included curated terminal environments and a reimagined flight experience, complete with thoughtful amenities and emerging technologies such as in-flight Wi-Fi and the Fly Delta app. And to bring it all to life, we engaged employees throughout the organization, training them to deliver on the Delta brand through key service behaviors. Together, these programs maximized the investment in, and delivery of, the Delta experience.
Part of our research involved helping leadership prioritize investments in the customer journey. We learned that business travelers represent a large, and growing, share of Delta’s revenue. Enhancing the brand experience for this segment became a priority. We streamlined the check-in process for business travelers and modernized the Delta Sky Club. We also looked at touchpoints that all passengers could enjoy, including turning the gate into a destination of its own, offering premium in-flight entertainment and even occasionally surprising customers with a free snack cart for canceled flights.
In doing so, we established a new standard for the travel experience — driven by innovation and guided by Delta’s new brand vision. From the moment passengers buy a ticket, they know they’re getting more than just a seat on the plane. They get access to Delta’s seamless ecosystem of technology, modern amenities, meaningful partnerships and southern hospitality.
From Chapter 11 to America’s most awarded airline
Many of these customer engagements may seem routine today, perhaps even standard. But less than a decade ago they were innovations that forever changed the industry. Delta was the first to creatively market solutions to common traveler pain points. They shook up the industry. Spurred by innovations like these, Delta would bounce back from bankruptcy to become an undisputed leader in both profitability and customer satisfaction among US carriers.
Less than four years after it was left on life support, Delta is now the picture of health.
Bloomberg Businessweek, 2009
Delta has since become a leading force within the global industry. Ranked third among its airline peers on the Fortune 500 list in 2007, Delta claimed the top spot in 2010. In 2015, Delta posted nearly $41 billion in revenues, up 6 percent from the previous year. Serving more than 180 million passengers each and every year, Delta continues to build off the brand vision we created together to meet the changing needs of its passengers. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that, “Less than four years after it was left on life support, Delta is now the picture of health… It boasts the strongest balance sheet, the best route structure and the best prospects for future profitability.”
reported revenue in 2015, up 6% on the previous year
million passengers served annually
rated the Best Airport Lounge and Best Business & First Class In-Flight Experience in Forbes and Travel + Leisure’s Business Travel Survey