Client attentiveness at Southwest Airlines

There is a reason I choose Southwest Airlines as my preferred airline: client attentiveness. There is a reason why I don’t pay attention to accumulating miles with a competing airline to ensure preferred boarding status but love Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program: client attentiveness. There is a reason I am a self-appointed brand ambassador for Southwest Airlines: client attentiveness.

There is a reason I choose Southwest Airlines as my preferred airline: client attentiveness. There is a reason why I don’t pay attention to accumulating miles with a competing airline to ensure preferred boarding status but love Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program: client attentiveness. There is a reason I am a self-appointed brand ambassador for Southwest Airlines: client attentiveness.

Let me give you an example: Gate changes are a fairly routine occurrence in the airline industry and, arguably, it’s up to a passenger to ensure that he or she is aware of such occurrences. But in my opinion a company that cares about its clients would ensure that passengers are notified of a gate change. Once upon a time, I arrived at a gate, noted that my flight number was still listed, noted that there were not any delays listed, noted that I was 40 minutes early to boarding. I relaxed. Around boarding time I noticed that no one was boarding, yet my flight number was still listed. I checked my email and text alerts to see if a gate change had been sent to me. I waited another 10 minutes while the airline staff chatted amiably. I walked up to the counter. The airline staff chatted amiably. I stood there. They chatted. I stood there. They chatted. I interrupted. I received a stare and one word, “Yes?”. I asked if the flight was still boarding, and I was met with something like this: “We announced a gate change 30 minutes ago.” Amazed, I asked then why my flight number, route, and time of boarding were still listed behind them. There was no response. I then asked where the new gate was. Across the airport I was told with a hint, “You better run, or you may miss it.” Stunned, I turned to my fellow gate-waiters and announced that the flight we’d all been waiting for had a gate change and that we’d better run or we’ll miss it. I sprinted to the new gate, told the gate staff there that several other people were following me, luckily they held the plane until all the other passengers arrived. I was thanked by these passengers while I sat in my seat sweating. I was stunned. And even though I had accumulated enough “points” to achieve preferred boarding status, that was the day I decided to purge my airline miles from that company as soon as possible, stop using that airline as my preferred airline, and stop trusting that airline’s “CRM” messaging. That was the day I decided to “try” Southwest Airlines. And I have been a happy airline traveler ever since.

Accordingly, it was no surprise to me when Rob Hahn of 7DS told me that Southwest Airlines has the highest NetPromoter Score of any other airline. NetPromoter Score essentially answers one question: how likely are you to recommend me (or my service)? I recommend Southwest to everyone I meet who relates a poor airline traveling experience. I tell them my story. I have yet to experience a marginal flying experience with Southwest Airlines. Have I met individuals who’ve had an unpleasant experience with Southwest Airlines. Yes. But they are far less in number than compared to other airlines. An essential key to Southwest Airline’s success is client attentiveness.

Let me give you an example: Once upon a time, there was a gate change on a Southwest Airlines flight where a gate attendant announced the gate change via the public address system then walked to the boarding door area and announced it again and then invited us to approach the desk if we had additional questions or needed help (the physical act of stepping from behind the counter to the boarding area–breaking the client-attendant barrier if you will–got our attention). That’s client attentiveness in action. Simple but memorable. Here’s another experience: I just recently received an “anniversary” card from Southwest Airlines thanking me for being a Rapid Rewards member. The card included a coupon for a car rental discount. A minor “wow” I’ll give you that (a big “wow” would have been some additional rapid reward points <grin>). Nevertheless, the anniversary card is simple yet effective. Because when I received this card I remembered all the “wows” I’ve had with Southwest Airlines over the last year; thus, reinforcing my decision to stay with them again this year. What attentiveness have you given your clients recently?

Related reading: Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company. Why this book relates to this post: Southwest is designing its client relationship and service experience.

Photo credit: hiddedevries

6 thoughts on “Client attentiveness at Southwest Airlines”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you anymore. There is a reason I not only fly them exclusively (except to go to RETechSouth in Atlanta where they don’t fly ) but I also have their credit card for my business and personal use. I have never , not once, had a bad experience with Southwest. When there was weather delays they brought us all snacks in the waiting area. When we got stuck in Taxiing mode for longer than normal they told jokes. When military members are flying they give them free drinks.

    This is the kind of company I’m proud to stand up and be a 10 on the NPS scale for!

  2. Ditto. My first experience with Southwest showed me they were different, in a good way. You know the usual pre-flight announcements delivered by attendants simply going thru the motions, like robots– well, not on Southwest– the attendant was entertaining, making witty remarks and humorous asides– I felt like I was at a comedy club. The passengers were all laughing– it put everyone in a good mood before the flight. Very smart.

  3. I also try to choose Southwest first and have never had a bad experience. Plus, when other airlines struggled with rising fuel costs and started charging baggage fees Southwest patted themselves on the back for hedging fuel cost options and STILL don’t charge for bags. If you are checking bags that can make the difference between airfares and airlines. They are good example of how you can be friendly and casual, and also be efficient and customer-service oriented. Enjoy your intelligent writing Eric – thanks!

  4. It’s amazing how the actions of one employee can reflect on a large company. For companies, hiring decisions and training are vital, for individuals, every contact counts.

    PS So glad to have met you. 🙂

  5. …and the best thing is that the flight attendants stand in the exit row while people are boarding….and the herds move right past the exit row because they don’t want to ask the attendants to move. Small thing, but I always get exit rows on SWA. Yippie!

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