Worth repeating: Southwest Airlines: A great model for customer service

11 December 2013

I flew home from visiting to my parents on Southwest Airlines on Saturday and had a great experience, as usual. It brought to mind this post I wrote a year ago, when I was also flying from Spokane to St. Louis. I still think there’s a lot to be learned from this great airline.

I’m flying home now from my trip to visit my parents in Washington state. I’m flying Southwest, which is always my first-choice airline. Getting to Walla Walla can be a bit challenging and this time I flew Southwest to Spokane, rented a car and drove the three hours to Walla Walla. This morning, I was set to drive back for my return flight, which was to be at 2:40 p.m., flying via Las Vegas.

At 5:45 a.m. I was awakened by a text-message notification. To my consternation, it was Southwest, telling me that flight was delayed by an hour. I knew that meant I’d more than likely miss my connecting flight to St. Louis, since my layover was just an hour.

So I planned to try to get to the airport extra early, in case that was helpful, and I braced myself for long, tense hours in the airport today and the likelihood that I’d end up spending the night in Vegas.

Instead, just as I was getting ready to leave for Spokane, I received a phone call from an actual human with Southwest Airlines. She told me about the delayed flight (turns out it was because of fog in Philadelphia this morning) and the likelihood I’d miss my connecting flight. Then she offered to put me on the 1:40 flight to Denver, which would get me home by 9:20 p.m. (The original itinerary had me arriving home at 10:55 p.m.) When I book this itinerary, I chose not to fly through Denver because of the unpredictability of the weather there. But the weather there today is fine and I jumped at the opportunity.

That meant i had to make a beeline for Spokane, but luckily the call had come in time. I drove through heavy fog, which is no fun, but I got to the Spokane airport at 12:45 p.m. My boarding passes were waiting and I only had to wait at the gate for a few minutes. The flight left on time and I have an hour layover in Denver. The flight isn’t crowded and it has wifi. Life is good.

Thanks to Southwest’s amazing customer service and extra effort they made to ensure their customers wouldn’t be stranded, what was looking like a very stressful day is turning into a relatively stress-free one.

This is why I choose Southwest whenever possible. The customer experience is superior to that of any other domestic airline.

This is how they differentiate themselves:

  • They make the customer experience fun (or as fun as possible given the circumstances).
  • They go the extra mile for the customer.
  • Their seat selection and boarding process is simpler and more straightforward than other airlines. (I love the general boarding on Southwest.)
  • They don’t nickel and dime the customers. (Other airlines charge extra for checked bags and for what they consider premium seats.)
  • They aren’t super serious. They actually tell jokes.

All of these customer service attributes are things that I like to think I do for my clients. Next time I’m faced with a customer-service quandary, I’m going to ask myself, WWSWAD? (What would Southwest Airlines do?)

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Janine, what a great customer service story and example to emulate! Unfortunately, though, while I’ve experienced that, too, in the past (Southwest is my go-to airline, too) I am not enjoying that sort of treatment right now. Perhaps it’s because I’m putting in my time on what will likely be an unplanned five and a half hour layover, your post today caught my eye.

This is the second time I’ve been stuck at the airport, waiting for my connecting flight to arrive, when I’ve been told we’ll have to wait for another two hours, due to maintenance issues. Really? On the very same flight? Does this company not take hints?

The first time this happened was a personal bummer: I was flying on account of a death in the family. Stressed out already, I just thought it was the luck of the draw and hunkered down for the marathon.

This time, same flight sequence, the same “unexpected” issue cropped up. Somehow, that just smacks of poor planning. I get the feeling this has happened more than twice in the last month.

Perhaps Southwest would rather benefit from some organizational training from you!

Jacqi Stevens 12/12/2013 05:12 PM

Jacqui, I can imagine that my blog post’s title caught your eye today! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! Whenever I hear the words “mechanical issues” I start feeling cynical. I’ve been very lucky with Southwest when it comes to those; I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t been as lucky!

I hope that you’ll get to your destination safely and enjoy your time there (or back at home, whichever it is).

Thanks for your comment!

Janine Adams 12/12/2013 06:02 PM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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