Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts on Customer Service

I had the chance to fly Southwest airlines this weekend to a one day meeting in Chicago. Two flights in 24 hours. I used to call them the cattle herd airline because they really made flying a bit of a challenge with no seat assignments and chaos in the airports as people lined up for an hour prior to boarding to get a better position in line. I was one of those who would camp out in line sitting on the floor to get a good spot. I didn’t like it, but always felt it worth it so I could get a good seat. I really prefer exit rows and so the earlier in the boarding process the better for my chances for those seats.

If you haven’t flow SWA recently you may not know that they have moved away from chaos to a much more orderly boarding process. The trick now is to get checked in at the 24 hour prior to departure timeframe to get your seat in line. They now have created an orderly self managed boarding system where people group themselves into groups of five and board in the order they received their boarding passes. This system is great if I have access to a computer 24 hours ahead, which is not always the case. But on these flights I was a little late so in the A40’s both ways.I was delighted to get exit row seats on both flights – actually my choice seats – one on the aisle on the extra wide side and the other the seat without any seat in front of it on the other side. Homerun on all accounts.

But the thing that set apart my trip was the fun we had doing the mundane. The flight crew sang, did their work in poem and rap, they made the boring stuff fun. Before, during and after the flight they were focused on delighting us captives on their plane. That is the way I see a lot of the folks that work at SWA. They think different. They think customers and fun. They are about the experience. The tools they have to work with are the same – seats too close together, overhead bins too small, lousy peanuts and the same old drink list - but they make it work in a different way than their competition. On my last flight they went to extra lengths to make sure to stuff every last bag overhead so people would not have to gate check. They didn’t have to do that – but they did. They came by twice to make sure we had all the drink we needed – probably not in the job description – but they did. Customer experience is something we all need to work on. It needs to be consistent and enjoyable. People do business with those they like. People like to be appreciated and have a little fun. We need to figure out how to make technology fun and create that awesome customer experience each time we interact. It can be as simple as our VM message to a note or email telling people hello but we need to make it happen.

1 comment:

Stuart R. Crawford said...

Great posting again Arlin. In Canada we have been blessed with WestJet Airlines that modeled themselves after Southwest. WestJet was the first airline that I have flown to have live satellite TV at each seat, offer a fun environment, the staff are owners of the airline so there is pride with ownership.

I have my own customer service story that I had today as well that was a real joy. I will post it on my blog at