Service in the airline industry is kind of a wash in my opinion, but I want to tell you about an exception—Southwest Airlines. Here’s a recent travel experience that I think speaks volumes about the service focused culture that Southwest has created.
The line at curbside check-in was very long and the baggage handler didn’t have a moment to spare, yet he made his way inside the terminal and found me.
He said, “These fell out of your purse when you checked your bag and I was sure you’d want them back. I’m so glad I found you.” He handed me two $20 reward certificates from Nordstrom that indeed had been in the outside pocket of my purse.
And then he was off—I didn’t even get his name.
Is it something in the water?
What do companies do to instill this type of caring in their employees? What kind of service culture nourishes this type of behavior?
This experience with Southwest Airlines reminded me of when I worked at Walt Disney World.
At Disney, we were unconditionally empowered to do the right thing by the guests at our theme parks and hotels. We realized that people came to visit us because we had “magic”—and bad things don’t happen in the midst of magic.
We couldn’t make a mistake when caring for a guest, and that was constantly reaffirmed. Our mission was to create a great guest experience—period. This philosophy was bolstered by the fact that we were treated with respect, supported, and trained, and that we fully understood the mission. The same is true at Southwest Airlines.
Are your people set up to succeed?
If you are the leader of a team, department, or organization that delivers service to customers, here are some questions for you to consider in this new year:
- Is your service philosophy clear to all of your employees? Can they repeat it?
- Are your people empowered and trained to deliver on that philosophy?
- Have you asked your employees for their input on serving customers? (The front line always knows what customers expect.)
- Is support in place for them to execute? (The Southwest employee left his position to run into the airport and find me—he knew he wouldn’t get in trouble for going the extra mile for a customer.)
- Are your people recognized for creating the stories that people will write and talk about?
The beginning of a new year is a great time to revisit the merits of your organization’s customer service philosophy.
About the author:
Barbara Notre is Director of Corporate Communications and Initiatives for The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Barbara’s posts as a part of our customer service series which appears on the first and third Thursday of each month.