Delta’s Looking for Someone New to Lead SkyMiles Strategy

A reader tweeted,

Indeed, Delta’s job postings include a listing for “General Manager, SkyMiles Strategy & Analysis” …

It’s understandable that someone might think, ‘they’re looking for someone to come up with a new strategy’ since the current the current strategy of slipping in changes and hoping that members don’t notice or don’t know the difference is so ill-advised.

Indeed, the way I’d sum up Delta’s moves over the past year is that they seem to believe the old adage ‘no one has ever gone bankrupt by underestimating the American people.’ They believe their customers can’t do math, don’t pay attention, and won’t know the difference if they’re continually less rewarding than their competitors.

The reasons to fly Delta, though, remain the same.

I’m going to suggest though that attempts to read tea leaves at Virginia Avenue through this job posting are ill-advised.

  • SkyMiles has a new Vice President who started last month
  • Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Glen Hauenstein remains in place.
  • This new position isn’t as lofty as the title “General Manager” might suggest. It doesn’t report, even, to the head of SkyMiles. Instead,

    This position will report to Ed Smith, Director – SkyMiles Program

    (Although I ‘get’ how bizarre it is that the Director of SkyMiles isn’t actually the person in charge of SkyMiles — corporatespeak! — let alone that the General Manager reports to the Director.)

Here’s a key function for this position:

Recommends strategy and tactics for program improvements that reduce cost, increase customer retention and contribute to Delta’s overall customer value proposition

They aren’t being charged with recommending a strategy for increased investment in the program.

If you think you have a degree in Business, Finance, Marketing, Management, or related field and 8 years’ experience in a corporate Marketing, Consulting, Management or Finance environment, and you think you have what it takes you just might be the next General Manager – SkyMiles Strategy & Analysis…

What would you do in this role?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “…Recommends strategy and tactics for program improvements that reduce cost, increase customer retention and contribute to Delta’s overall customer value proposition.”

    Reducing cost WHILE increasing customer retention and customer value? Seems to be an impossible goal and I can’t imagine anyone applying for the position would think it could be successfully achieved.

  2. Now it says it reports to Karen Zachary, MD of ‘global program management’ for SkyMiles.

    If they want cost cuts…there are far more layers of management than they need.

  3. @kimme – Identifying areas in which efficiency can be improved is an impossible goal? Wow, do you work for the government by any chance?

  4. I would bring all my ideas from my prior job at Hilton HHonors loyalty program 🙂

    Seriously I’m not sure what I would suggest or bring to the table. I think I would work to try to differentiate the Skymiles program from other airlines. I would work hard to attract loyalty from current customers regardless of how the program is devalued for frequent flyers. I’m sure there are some areas that would work for Delta. I think efforts aimed at attracting other airlines customers make the most sense. My guess is through status matching in shared hub areas would be the cheapest route. They mostly are getting a bad reputation at this point. My favorite part is how United follows them.

  5. @DaninMIC sez: “I think I would work to try to differentiate the Skymiles program from other airlines.”

    LOL. I would think they have already done that quite successfully, wouldn’t you say? 😉

  6. Unrelated question.. How do you search for Virgin Australia or Korean Air flights on Delta website ? The website mostly shows Delta flight or occasinal China Southern .
    Thank you

  7. If Delta is paying attention I avoided Delta due to Sky Pesco’s. I wa preparing to election minarets my delta credit card then the changes came one way travel reasonable options. Looks like my plans may change. Then Deltas did. I give it till July before I turn my card in.

  8. I used to do Strategy and Analytics for an OTA and had an offer for a similar title above at United Mileage Plus. This is much more an analytics role than a strategy role. At all these firms, they need a business person who can run data models to tell them what is making/not making money. Sometimes I was able to put together small changes or run promos that helped the bottom line (my biggest was probably an international fare sale on select foreign carriers), but the overall direction of the program is guided by the higher-ups. This person would just tell the higher-up how much money they would be making off the decision.

    That being said, 100% of the decisions made come down to the bottom line. One of the most common analyses I would run would be based on net revenue improvement vs. volume decline from adverse decisions. Very rarely was it not profitable at the end of the day to do a customer unfriendly move, as people get angry but rarely change decisions enough to offset the new cash being brought in.

  9. @Dan. What was the basis for predicting future revenue and negative retention and what was the margin of error? I’m sure the models were not always accurate. Also what type of incentive measures did you use for bonuses?

  10. @john- not sure if you mean our bonuses or bonuses for the program, but mines was purely performance in my role like any other consulting job (remember these roles are much more analytics). We weren’t tied to revenue we brought in and definitely not based on “revenue enhancing projects”.

    As for measuring, you have to remember I was with an OTA which is a bit different. We did a bunch of “A-B” testing which was the most accurate because we truly would compare apples to apples. Airline mileage programs really can’t do that (they do with targetted promos, but they can’t with wholesale program changes. When we did that measurement, we looked at YoY comparisons with blocks of time. Typically we would do a pre-period measurement then a post period, accounting for envoronmental changes outside of the new program that could effect YoY numbers. I suspect airlines do the same things, looking at volume, revenue, revenue per purchase, etc. on a YoU bases by region or segment. I will tell you, based on my job which is only one example, they don’t even bother looking at customer feedback or complaints. You can complain all you want, but if you still book your ticket then complain away, I don’t care. We used to joke about this at my company. Complaints could be way up but if it didn’t effect YoY volume then let them vent!

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