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Delta’s next customer experience solution? It just might be a digital to-do list that prompts customers or employees with actions they should take when something doesn’t go as planned. The creators? Four Delta IT employees who met for the first time at the airline’s Innovative Flight Experience (IFX) employee problem-solving event last weekend.

More than 45 Delta IT employees volunteered their time and talent at the company’s first IFX weekend at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters to push the spirit of innovation and earn a chance to see their idea go to production. Nineteen teams were tasked with developing solutions in one of three areas:

  • How Delta can design frictionless travel for customers.
  • How Delta can “wow” customers when things don’t go as planned.
  • How Delta can improve its speed to market by delivering IT projects faster.

The ideas produced during IFX spanned the business: from onboard food delivery solutions and IT platform enhancements to Sky Club seat availability and Intranet search functionality.

The weekend’s winning concept would deliver a digital list of solutions to users in less-than-ideal situations, like a sudden thunderstorm at an airport. This digital problem-solver could be used by customers or employees, and would be tailored to the person’s needs.

The winning team — dubbed the Kickin’ Chickens — was Quazi Hossain, a 13-year IT project manager, Kerwin Barron, a six-year systems engineer, Caleb Wolfe, a five-year IT developer and Shanelle Green, a security engineer who joined Delta less than a month ago. The four gelled quickly at Friday night’s launch and took advantage of company-provided resources throughout the weekend to develop the tool.

“All of us walked into this experience as individuals but we all had the requirement that anyone we teamed up with had to be here all day, every day,” Wolfe said. “We wanted to collaborate and leverage all our skills.”

The Kickin’ Chickens credited their solution to talking to employees from across Delta who explained the challenges they face.

“The interactions we had with gate agents and flight attendants were really cool,” Barron said. “They helped us identify where some pain points are that we could address and we developed our solution from there.”

Sonia Walker, an associate system engineer, was part of the “Concept Divas” team that pitched an idea meant to ensure customers don’t miss their meal if they fall asleep.

“Initially I thought this program was just for highly technical people coming up with ideas — like coders and developers — and I didn’t think my ideas would be seen as a benefit,” she said.

With encouragement from colleagues, Walker signed up and learned how to model an idea and use software to turn that idea into a prototype. “I give the experience a 10 out of 10.  I learned a lot and will definitely do it again,” she said.

The employee teams presented their ideas in five-minute pitches to a panel of judges that included two Atlanta-area entrepreneurs from outside Delta, along with Rahul Samant, Delta’s CIO, David Watson, V.P. — Inflight Service Business Operations and Sangita Sharma — V.P., Delta GENGAGE — an employee group that fosters Delta’s reputation with the next generation.

Delta will now work with the Kickin’ Chickens to develop their concept into a prototype that the airline will ultimately put into use. 

“Everyone’s a winner because there’s real substance to all of the ideas we saw here today,” Samant said. “Whether your particular idea goes to production or not, everyone in this room is sending a clear signal that Delta is home to highly innovative thinkers and doers, and that we’re never letting up in our pursuit of delivering a great experience for our customers and employees.”

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