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How Southwest Airlines Became a Model for Customer Loyalty


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June 02, 2010

How Southwest Airlines Became a Model for Customer Loyalty

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Is it possible to drive customer loyalty by placing faith in the customer-enterprise relationship? Southwest Airlines believes that it can and has modeled a successful company based on this strategy. In a recent white paper from customer support software provider Parature, 'Lessons in Loyalty: How Southwest Airlines Does It - An Insider's Point of View,' lessons in true customer service are explored.

One key fundamental difference in the Southwest Airlines' approach lies in its overall philosophy. The company truly believes it is 'in the customer service business -- it just happens to fly airplanes.' This is believed so strongly that Southwest qualifies a customer service candidate for employment based on attitude, not experience. The company believes that you can teach a person how to deliver quality service, but the attitude must be brought to the job.

When an individual is hired for the job, they are immediately immersed in the service culture of the company. The company understands that to keep the customer service spirit alive within its walls, it was necessary to have someone at the highest levels to oversee the entire initiative. As a result, the company established a position: 'Vice President of Customers.'

Not only were Southwest employees trained to give excellent customer service, they were also empowered to do so. When people with the right attitude are hired and trained according to the company's customer service standards, they can be confident that the employee will make the right decisions. An inability to address an emotional situation on the spot and to the satisfaction of the customer is key to driving long-term satisfaction and customer loyalty.

To drive this mentality, Southwest customers are treated as friends and family. The company believes that if you take this approach, you will do things for customers that you would usually only do for friends and family. Customers receive birthday cards, customer service reps develop first-name relationships and customers are invited to company events.

Aside from this focus, Southwest Airlines also made sure the job was fun. They knew if people were having fun on the job, they would be more apt to come to work with a great attitude and deliver great customer service. This was exemplified through airport games and activities when flights were delayed, putting customers at ease and creating an air of relaxation and fun instead of frustration and anger.

By keeping customers at the forefront of employees' minds, Southwest Airlines ensures that the high standard of quality service the company has determined is protected across all channels. This includes a number of innovative programs that are unique and challenging to keep everyone intrigued.

While not every interaction will be perfect 100 percent of the time, Southwest Airlines is dedicated to ensuring it gets - and stays - as close to that 100 percent as possible.
To download a free customer case study and learn more about how Southwest Airlines improved customer service and boosted customer loyalty, click here.
Recently, Parature (News - Alert) hosted a free webinar, 'How to Build a Culture of Customer Loyalty - How Southwest Airlines Does It.' The webinar, presented May 19, includes a segment by May Lorraine Grubbs-West, president of lessons in loyalty and former director of employment, who reveals how Southwest built one of the most faithful customer bases in the industry. This webinar offers valuable tips on how to implement principles and practices to boost customer loyalty and position your organization as a leader in its industry. To access the archived version of this informative webinar, click here.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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