Just shy of four months as a Delta employee, I’m not accustomed to being asked for advice. As a newbie in the Corporate Communications department, it’s usually me who’s asking the questions.
So when I volunteered for Atlanta’s Peach Corps program recently, the tables were turned. My mission was to help Delta airport customer service (ACS) agents get holiday travelers where they needed to be – something that would not have been possible without a positive attitude and a whole lot of teamwork.
Through the Peach Corps, Atlanta corporate employees volunteer at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, directing customers and answering questions during heavy travel periods.
At the same time, employees like me who don’t work directly with Delta passengers are able to get a glimpse of the difficult jobs frontline employees, such as customer service agents, do each day.
The program is particularly active during the holiday season, a time when the world’s busiest airport is filled with infrequent travelers, many of whom need extra assistance between check-in and getting to their gates.
Peach Corps volunteers are assigned a role, ranging from kiosk assist to “way finder.” The idea is to lessen the burden on customer service employees and ensure Delta’s customers have a positive travel experience.
I was assigned to the airport’s first line of defense - as a front door greeter - and as soon as I took my post, the questions began to roll in. As a lifelong Atlantan, I tapped into my knowledge of the ATL airport to answer some typical questions: “How do I get to my gate?” “Where do you go for arrivals?” “Where is the nearest bathroom?”
Or, my personal favorite: “OK, I’m here. What do I do?”
Some questions were a little more complicated, involving unaccompanied minors, pets or firearms. Others were just, well, out of the ordinary. One customer picking up his fiancée wanted to know where he might find a dozen fresh roses. Another wanted to buy a one-way ticket to Brazil – in cash. When one of these questions came along, I’d flag down one of my fellow Peach Corps members for help, and vice versa. Among the group, usually the question could be solved.
Greg Kennedy, Delta’s Senior Vice President - ACS-Atlanta Hub, said Peach Corps has benefited both employees and customers.
“This program has been a fantastic win for our customers and the Delta brand and embodies the team spirit Delta people are known for,” he said. “Delta’s customers who travel through Atlanta are already supported by some of the best agents in the industry and Peach Corps volunteers only add to their positive experience.”
Later in the day, two elderly women approached me. “My sister is heading to New York today,” one of the women said, indicating that the sister would need help boarding. “Is there any way I can accompany her to the gate?”
Before I could even think through how to respond, Kelly, an ACS customer service agent, swooped in to help.
“Absolutely, ma’am,” he said to the customer. “Just head over to special services, and they’ll get you a gate pass. After that, we’ll make sure she’s comfortable. Your sister will be in good hands.”
After the two women went off on their way, I thanked Kelly for his expertise. In a situation that required poise and professionalism, he ensured a positive customer experience. “We’re just glad to see you all out here,” he told me.
About the Peach Corps
The Peach Corps began 14 years ago to help provide additional customer service help during not only the holidays, but other busy times such as the summer travel season.
This year, nearly 700 Delta employees enrolled in the Peach Corps program, and 253 of those participated in at least one of the 45 Peach Corps volunteer days this year, said David Groth, one of the Peach Corps organizers and a senior technical writer for ACS. The volunteers have devoted more than 2,000 total hours in 2015.
“Supporting others has always been part of the Delta culture, regardless of role,” Groth said. “Peach Corp was started to do exactly that, and it’s the best way for corporate and frontline employees to work together and engage with customers.”