Delta Vacations: What’s New & The Customer Experience

delta vacations
Delta Vacations management from left to right: Eric Fandek, Patricia Christensen, Jennie Ho, Kristen Molloy, and Elizabeth Moriarty. (Photo courtesy of Delta Vacations.)

This weekend we attended Delta Vacations’ Delta Vacations University in Detroit. The conference offered about 2,000 travel advisors in attendance the opportunity to participate in classes with Delta Vacations partners including Delta Air Lines and partner arlines, destinations from Paris to Turks and Caicos to Guatemala, and much more. About 43 percent of this year’s attendees were first-time attendees of the event. But, for those of you who didn’t make it, don’t worry. Here’s what you need to know about what’s new for Delta Vacations, and how they keep their customers at the center of their business.

What’s New for Delta Vacations University
Jennie Ho, Delta Vacations University president says for starters, “We are in Detroit.” This is the first time in the 26 years Delta Vacations has held its Delta Vacations University event in Detroit. “It’s our first time here and we have been thrilled by the reception. The city has rolled out the red carpet and put together a city tour for travel advisors yesterday,” she added. “Wherever we go we focus on a local partner to make sure we leave a place better than we found it. This year we partnered with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.” Advisors brought in donations and toys for the kids at the hospital during the conference.

New  Destinations for Delta Vacations
“We are excited to continue to add to the Delta Vacations portfolio. We offer over 300 destinations globally but, for this year we will be launching India,” says Elizabeth Moriarty, v.p. of product for Delta Vacations. “Delta will be servicing India starting in December from New York to Mumbai, and we will be offering vacation packages in Mumbai, as we in New Delhi. We’ve also been adding more domestic destinations, we have Hilton Head, as well as Santa Barbara,” she added. “In addition we’ve been offering more service apartments within Europe, as well as domestically. We find that’s something that’s very useful for our customers who want to have multi generational families travel, said Moriarty. “A lot of people want to stay in condominiums and service apartments with multiple room accommodations and they like the idea of staying in an accommodation where they feel more local and are closer to the culture of a destination.”

Moriarty noted that they’ve also been focused on experiential offerings.

“There are some unique things we are doing to bring out the essence of a destination,” says Eric Fandek, senior director of product for Delta Vacations. “One of my most favorites was in Nassau where we got together with a small group of people at Great Cliff and created our own wine. It was almost like an adult chemistry class where you had a lot of beakers, and different things in front of you and you got to blend different wines.” He added that guests were able to choose their favorite wine conception, and then pick out their own label and bottle as well. The winery then saved the wine you created on record to that guests could continue to purchase their creation. “It’s nice to be in that environment and have the feel of creating something and bring it home to share,” he added.

Patricia Christensen, senior director of product for Delta Vacations adds, “In Europe we are offering more culinary activity. A couple of examples,” she adds. “is in London there’s craft beer tour, an Irish whiskey tour option in Dublin and the Shannon region, an Italian cooking lesson where you go on a guided market tour to pick out your ingredients and then go prepare everything in Florence, and in Paris there’s a gourmet walking tour where you get to sample different local bakeries and chocolatiers. There are a lot of private walking tours in Rome and Florence, and a private Vatican museum tour in Rome…there’s lots of focus in Europe building up our experiential offerings.”

Fandek adds that a lot of what they’re offering in both Mexico and the Caribbean is also private with a lot of private elements to cut through lines or make things a little faster and easier for travelers.

The Delta Vacations Difference
Ho immediately chimes in when asked what sets them apart from the competition saying “Our level of customer service is our pride and joy and we believe it’s what differentiates us in the marketplace. Especially in the B2B environment where our travel advisor partners work with multiple tour operators and vacation package providers in the marketplace.”

“For our call center and our sales team the spirit of customer service and that customer experience is at the forefront of every decision we make, it’s in our DNA,” she adds.

Then she continues to share a story regarding Punta Cana. Ho says, “Punta Cana has had a tough run recently. And when news first started to come out, every day we heard something in the media. And one night early in that experience our call center director in North Dakota called me at home that night and said ‘Jennie I’m sorry to tell you things aren’t looking great at the call center because our call time was about three hours wait today.’ Our corporate goal for our call center is to answer 80 percent of calls within 90 seconds,” she adds.

In order to figure it out and make a difference, they shared with Shelly Knight, the call center v.p., and she thought of talking to Delta Air Lines to put together a special waiver for customers because she said people are calling and the immediate need at the moment is to allow them to cancel. Knight told her, “If we can address the customers’ need,” she says, “they just want to make a different decision. But they can come back and perhaps rebook their vacation later.”

That same night they contacted Delta management and worked through a Delta Vacations waiver policy that evening and put it into effect right away. “The next day that call time went from three hours to 30 minutes. For that entire month we were hearing that our competitions’ wait time was in the eight hours range. Our average wait time for the month of June was 2 mins and 32 seconds.” Adding that, “We didn’t get lucky. It was about the close communication that we have. The close relationship with Delta Air Lines. And how quickly our call center team was able to staff up, all hands on deck…it’s about what the customer needs. They still want to go on vacation, but they want a little time to think about it a bit.” The waiver allowed customers to postpone the trip and hold the value of what was paid and apply it to the next vacation.

“With the waiver we were able to tell customers we understand, you can get your full value on hold and when you’re ready come back,” said Ho.

Kristine Molloy, v.p. of sales adds, “It was such an amazing experience to go into agencies and talk to our partners as this was going on and hear them say, ‘You guys say you always have our back and we feel it, but we really feel it now.'”

For more information, visit deltavacations.com.