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#CXandLOVE at 34,000 feet

If you’ve been hanging out with us here at Chief Customer, you know our belief structure around #EXdrivesCX

We’ve been talking about the importance of — and the impact that — the employee experience has on the customer experience for years. It is so far beyond “treat your employees well and they’ll treat your customers well” — and we’re seeing more and more companies start to try to work on the experience they offer to both their employees and their customers. 

And it isn’t just our belief. More and more organizations that analyze and track this are coming out with reports that show the correlation between EX and CX. We’ve already proven that higher #CX scores impact company performance, so we’re delighted that #CXpeeps are figuring out ways to prove our equation: EX + CX = Crazy good performance.

One of the companies that I’ve studied for years is Delta Airlines. Delta came into my life in a real way when they bought Northwest Airlines in 2008. I was living in Connecticut at the time, but my years of living in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, and only flying Northwest Airlines, meant I’d accumulated an incredible number of miles. And Delta flew in and out of Bradley International Airport. Miles + access + status = Delta became my airline.

When the acquisition first happened, I remember flight attendants identifying themselves as “Northwest” or “Delta.” And passengers did this, too. There were conversations about how you could tell that a crew was a Northwest crew, because the Northwest customer experience was so much better than the Delta one. Over the years, Delta has really doubled down on the customer experience they offer. And the results are outstanding.

  • They’ve paid out over $5 billion in profit sharing bonuses to their non-executive teams (including $1.6 billion this year). 
  • They’ve been consistently rated the best airline in the U.S. each year since 2017, edging out longtime leaders JetBlue and Southwest. 
  • And, their CEO publicly states that he believes the reason they are so successful is their people. 

All of this makes a great case study — and a great story. But what, might you ask, does this have to do with #CXandLOVE?

Let me tell you a few stories … 

I travel a lot. I mean really. A lot.

And I’ve had three interactions in my last three trips that really bring home the extent that Delta has embraced the belief that #EXdrivesCX.

Jeanne, MSP 

I had been re-routed, and it was my last flight before the Christmas holiday. I was headed from celebrating an early Christmas with my niece and nephew to my last gig of the year. There were aircraft issues, so my re-routed flight to Chicago went through Minneapolis. 

Delta has this super fancy app that allows me to track my bag. As I was taking off from Raleigh, on my new flight to Chicago via MSP, I noticed that my bag hadn’t been loaded onto the plane I was sitting in. I knew sometimes that bags got missed in the scanning process, so I didn’t fret until I received a notification (halfway to Minneapolis) that said bag was loaded onto an RDU-ATL flight. I wasn’t going to be in ATL. And my gig certainly wasn’t in ATL. And that suitcase had my stage clothes in it. 

But more importantly, it had my Christmas presents from my niece and nephew in it. I had art from them. And that is irreplaceable. 

I had a two-hour layover in Minneapolis, and when I got there I went to the Delta club to see if someone could help me figure out where my bag was. And I met Jeanne. 

Jeanne told me she isn’t often up in the club — she’s usually in the bowels of the airport making sure that things are running smoothly. But someone had called out sick and she was on club duty that day. She made some phone calls. We talked about life. It turns out that Jeanne had run a not-for-profit for years and she had helped her “kids” record a CD of Christmas carols. And then she went to her office and got me a copy of it. 

My bag made it to Chicago — it actually ended up beating me there. And I took that CD home and listened to these kids sing their voices out as they turned traditional Christmas carols into music that was way more modern. I’ll listen to that CD every Christmas from here on out. And I’ll remember Jeanne’s kindness to a road-weary traveler who just wanted to give her last speech and get home. 

The crew of flight 830 MSP-TPA

I take this flight a lot. It is one of the three directs a day between the place I live and the place my business partner lives. But on this flight, the unthinkable happened. We were about 45 minutes away from landing and the woman seated across the aisle on the row behind me started having a medical emergency. She was experiencing cardiac distress.

The crew called for help within the cabin. We thankfully had both an ER nurse and a doctor on board. The entire crew helped to save this woman’s life. Everyone was calm and collected. The AED was charged. The ER nurse kept this woman as calm as she could. The crew kept the cabin calm and comforted the woman’s elderly husband. The pilots landed us faster than I’ve ever been landed. The entire ground crew at TPA was ready and waiting. Paramedics were on the plane even as we were seemingly still rolling to a stop. 

The passenger was whisked away, the crew kept us seated and informed. And when the nurse and doctor who had attended to the passenger came back on board, the entire plane broke out into applause. Not just for them. Not just for the crew. But for the amazing actions of a bunch of people who all happened to be at the right place at the right time and saved a woman’s life. 

The pilots both came out of the cockpit as we deplaned. People thanked every member of the crew that we saw. It was an incredible moment to experience — seeing so many people do amazing things, together, perfectly orchestrated. This is what people who give a sh*t look like.


This past week, I was on a flight from Tampa to Minneapolis for a board meeting I was facilitating. As we were getting ready to board the flight in TPA, I saw the alert that I’d be upgraded to first class. That’s always a lovely touch as a frequent flier, and one of the reasons that so many business travelers are so loyal to a specific airline. Loyalty = upgrades. Upgrades = a much nicer flying experience. 

So I board and tuck myself into seat 1B (the aisle seat in the front row/bulkhead of the plane we were on).

I watched the majority of the rest of my fellow passengers board, without anyone claiming the window seat next to me. As were nearing the end of the boarding process, a man walked onto the plane. I watched one of the flight attendants have a conversation with him — I couldn’t see him yet. I heard her asking him if he could read lips. The answer was no. She then grabbed a piece of paper and wrote him a note. He was deaf. And he had a service dog with him. One of the passengers exclaimed: “Look! It’s a puffy polar bear!”

The dog was adorable. White. Puffy. Furry. Pink tongue hanging out. A service dog vest. And he was huge. His head was at least the size of my head. 

And these two were my seatmates. I jumped up out of my seat so that 1A could get settled with his pup. 

But Houston, we have a little problem. I have severe asthma and am horribly allergic to dogs. Like, throat closes, eyes water, hives immediately pop out allergic. Allergy trigger + asthma attack = no breathing. 

As I was standing in the aisle, one of the flight attendants caught my eye (and saw the look of fear on my face) and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I was severely allergic to dogs. 

Now, 2C was open. The flight attendant, Spencer, told me to sit down there and to just chill for a second. I popped an Allegra, put on one of the surgical masks I travel with, grabbed my inhaler, and turned the air vent directly onto my face. 

Spencer found the passenger who was in 2C as he was boarding, stopped him and asked him if he would switch seats with me because I was so allergic. The guy was so gracious. He said he loved dogs and that it would be fine. 

This poor passenger spent the entire flight with a bear sitting on his feet. 3 hours. In pretty nasty turbulence. Because the dog was way too big to fit in the space in front of his owner. 

Spencer spent the entire flight checking on the guy who took my seat and me. He gave us both incredible service, and SkyMiles for the inconvenience. I asked him if he could give my miles to the guy who took my seat for me. We all agreed that the dog shouldn’t have been allowed on the flight due to its size without having purchased an additional seat. 

This is a perfect example of a rule that, although intended to do the right thing, made it really uncomfortable for two other passengers. And Spencer did everything in his power to make it better for both of us. His care, his concern, his immediate “I’m going to jump in and solve this” attitude was incredible. 

Before I put my mask on, he offered me one from his private stash. He apologized profusely. He ensured I was OK. And it was 100 percent real. He clearly loves his job and that love of his job translated to an incredible amount of care poured out onto me and my fellow passengers.

The thing that put Spencer over the top for me though … as we were all boarded and settled into our seats, before the safety video started, Spencer came onto the PA system and said: “Hey guys. Good morning. We live in a really crazy world right now. So, do me a favor, take off your headphones for a second and just say good morning to your seatmate.”

And I think every single person on that plane did it. And then we gave him a round of applause. It was a simple moment of humanity. It set the entire flight up for success. And I’ll tell you, it lightened my heart a little in the midst of what could have turned into a really poopy situation for me. 

All three of these experiences are examples of #CXandLOVE. It isn’t hard to give a little more. 

So, create a little bit of a connection. Spread a little more love around. We all need it.