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October 20, 2011

Masters of Customer Service - Southwest Airlines - Part - I

Post 9/11 Southwest began to get requests for refunds from Customers who had purchased tickets but were now afraid to fly. Most of the competitors of Southwest decided to allow the refund, but add a “refund penalty” to cover their cost and lost revenue. Not Southwest. It put itself in its Customers’ shoes. Southwest thought, “Why should we penalize people who had become fearful of flying due to circumstances beyond their control?” So, Southwest took a risk and decided to offer full refunds to anyone who asked with no penalties. No questions asked. Southwest was counting on all its Customers not to make a bee line on refund request. Why? Because Southwest had developed a great relationship with its Customers and trusted they would have faith in Southwest.

And, the customers they proved Southwest right. In fact, not only did many of them not ask for a refund, Southwest was overwhelmed when many customers sent their tickets in with notes saying “Southwest Airlines take this ticket and keep it. I don’t want my money back…I just want you in business in five years and today you need the money more than I do.”

Southwest Airlines sends out most frequent Customers a birthday card. One year, a Customer called to let it know that Southwest was the only one who remembered his birthday! The airport ticket agents are on a first name basis with most of its frequent fliers and knew the names of their children, spouses, etc.

Southwest would often invite its Customers to participate in company events. Halloween was one of the holidays that Southwest celebrated in a big way. Every department competed by having a theme and some even put on shows for customers.

When things get stressful at the airport due to bad weather causing delays, Southwest plays gate games with its Customers to relieve that stress. The gate agent might announce to the Customers sitting in the boarding area that Southwest was giving a $25 off coupon for their next flight if they had a hole in their sock, people took off their shoes and held up their foot to let Southwest judge who had the biggest hole. It is a lot of fun and takes the Customers’ minds off the delayed flight.

South-west pilots and flight attendants have a fun attitude. A pilot might walks up the Jetway into the plane with a briefcase. Sticking up outside the briefcase is a book entitled “Idiots guide to learn How to fly a jet plane”, or the flight attendants would announce that there was an individual on the flight who was celebrating his 95th birthday and would asked the entire cabin to sing Happy Birthday.

At the end of the song, she would then announce that the 95 year old pilot was very grateful for their attention. They might sing a song, tell a joke or tell people “Smoking is not allowed on this aircraft. Anyone caught smoking will be escorted outside to watch the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

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