Delta Sharpens 'Edge' With Personalized, Self-Service Programs For Corporate Clients

Delta Air Lines is introducing to corporate clients a suite of new services and tools, including a new web portal through which travel managers can access on-demand reporting and manage aspects of their relationship with the airline. As part of the new Delta Edge program, the carrier also launched a new points-based system clients can use to manage soft-dollar benefits and waivers. It also is enhancing corporate traveler recognition programs to include priority service during delays and cancellations.

Delta Edge comprises core features of corporate relationships, such as discount programs and other established attributes, and brings in new elements that emphasize personalization and client control.

A key component is the new "Delta Professional" corporate portal that has gone live with roughly half of Delta's corporate accounts and will be expanded to the rest by year-end. A similar site in the works for Delta's agency partners is expected to launch later this year.

Delta vice president of sales operations Kristen Shovlin said the first iteration of Delta Professional gives individual corporate clients "their own secure portal" with on-demand access to Sky Partner reports. Introduced a few years ago, the reports detail aspects of the client relationship and offer up client-specific metrics on checked bags, upgrades and the passenger experience, including the rate of delays and cancellations that impact the organization's travelers.

"We took the Sky Partner report and we've created it all on demand, so they can go in and analyze their own performance and create their own presentations," said Shovlin. "They have access to all that information now at their fingertips."

Delta began piloting the portal at the beginning of this year with some clients "to gather feedback," and this summer began rolling it out on a wider scale.

Shovlin said the secure portal presents further opportunities for Delta to interact with clients in new ways.

Another recently introduced feature of Delta Edge is a unique points-based system through which corporate clients can manage what Shovlin called "business exceptions," such as name changes and fee waivers, as well as soft-dollar benefits such as preferred seats and status allocations.

"They can leverage the points best for their travel policy," she said. "It just allows a bit of flexibility and empowerment for the corporate travel manager and their agency partner to better manage the relationship."

How corporate clients fill their bank with "Edge Points" is subject to their relationship with the carrier and, of course, negotiations. For now, though the point system is live and available, service largely "is done through their relationship with the agency and directly through our 24/7 support center."

The next phase of the Delta Professional site will include "self-service tools" that enable clients to manage points and other aspects of their Delta relationship.

Similar to the corporate client site, the forthcoming Delta Professional site for agencies will provide access to agency Sky Partner reports and provide capabilities for agencies to manage aspects of their Delta relationships.

The agency web portal should launch in the fourth quarter after further piloting with select agencies. "They'll have their on-demand reports and we developed a few new reports within that suite for them," said Shovlin.

Recognizing The Corporate Traveler

Delta last year launched with select corporate accounts a "check-in recognition program" that greets travelers and makes note of their company affiliation when they check in for flights. That program has since expanded to other clients.

As part of Delta Edge, the carrier has furthered efforts to recognize client travelers throughout the trip. Through a program called Corporate Priority, Delta is providing corporate clients with priority rebooking and service recovery when delays or cancellations impact their travelers.

That program is enabled by a broader Delta initiative that assigns a "customer value" to passengers. It is calculated based on a number of inputs, including frequent flyer status, passenger type and even trip-specific attributes, such as upcoming connections or passenger needs. For example, an unaccompanied minor may be assigned a higher score to ease disruptions.

Delta aggregates those customer values to assign each flight a score to help the operations department make on-the-fly scheduling decisions and undertake re-accommodation actions when irregular operations happen.

Shovlin said the next phase of recognition programs will focus on the passenger experience; the airline is working with clients to determine worthy components around priority boarding, complaint resolution and customer care, among others.

As with the kiosk check-in program, more traveler recognition touch points increasingly are available to the airline, with Shovlin highlighting opportunities at Delta lounges and even inflight, as Delta arms flight attendants with handheld devices.

Such recognition programs may not fit the needs of all clients, so Shovlin stressed that they can use the new web portal to opt in or opt out of various aspects of Delta Edge. "There will be what we call the benefits application where they can select the suite of services," said Shovlin, noting that clients would be able to "choose which of these components are valuable to them."