Delta Air Lines, Inc: An Entrepreneurial Innovator

Yes, Delta Air Lines’ primary business objective is to safely get passengers to their destinations, but the story behind how they do it is a masterful entrepreneurial case study.

From the tens-of-millions of pictures that ScanMyPhotos.com digitizes, every order has something in common with airlines; travel pictures are regularly included within each order and create much of the treasured memories that become lifelong photo keepsakes. [Separately, Dan Carp, Delta’s board chairman is an old time friend and the inspiration behind our success and reason we too constantly innovate our business model. Based also on Mr. Carp’s prior leadership as the Eastman Kodak Company’s CEO, it is no surprise that the airline is also so resourceful and steadfast in its resolve to always be creating new ways to be more efficient.]

Earlier this week, I attended the Kioskcom Self Service Expo in Las Vegas and experienced one of those educational lessons where you do not want it to end and take voluminous notes and garner inspiring ideas from. The visionary keynote speaker with sprightly ideas was Josh Weiss, Managing Director of Delta.com.

Just as how my company advanced from its early days – back in 1990 when we just developed film and printed pictures – into today’s international photo imaging ecommerce business and retail presence, Delta Air Lines, the world’s largest airline, also is an entirely new company today. As ScanMyPhotos.com is in the picture business, Delta Air Lines is all about airplanes, but it is what is behind how they do their magic that sparks real innovations.

From Mr. Weiss’ presentation, it is clear that the airline is much more about convenience than just flying passengers to destinations. Delta Air Lines has designed the world’s most appealing and friendly interactive kiosk service and Ecommerce online solutions to speed up passenger experiences. They are constantly innovating. Just thirteen years ago, there were no kiosks in use by the airline, today, nearly 80% of all passenger transactions are placed from the electronic terminals rather than at the ticket counter.

Just as how we use our banks of Kodak photo kiosks at our Irvine-based retail photo center to compliment every customer experience, Delta Air Lines also is simplifying and improving their passenger’s encounters.

Their objective is to keep customers happy.

An example is a new iPhone application that displays an electronic barcode boarding pass which is scanned at the gate – no more wasteful paper tickets. Today, customers at Delta gates experience literally no waiting due to the new Delta kiosks which interact with passengers and cause the airline’s employees to step out from behind the counter to personalize the ticketing experience and interact more as friends than robots.

Mr. Weiss explained that to further simplify the kiosk experience, even though there are multiple language selections, they made it super-easy. The proof is that rather than an “Order Now” prompt, the call to action has been minimized to just one word: “Start.” They made things really simple. At ScanMyPhotos.com we will follow that lesson by also simplifying our order prompts to just: “Start.”

These are shrewd lessons for all entrepreneurs to question how you too can constantly enhance your customer experience, while always be thinking and changing the way your company does business. At Delta Air Lines, nothing is stagnant and they are always inventing the next new service feature. Their commitment to passenger check-in kiosks is central to why Delta Air Lines is so entrepreneurial.

Each kiosk boasts plenty of personal space for luggage. They even position the kiosks to minimize any distractions for shadows caused by glare from outside sunlight. As for the airline’s self-service and Ecommerce business. I asked Mr. Weiss how he integrates social network marketing and Twitter into their business. He explained that when a corporate message is posted, there is not the same level of credibility as when it comes from a customer. There is more value when a message comes from peers, rather than just from his department. When Delta.com sends out a message they might get a handful of replies, when it comes from customers, dozens of responses are generated.

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