Roy Harry, Creative Director, Media II, Inc.
This article by Ed Mitzen, Founder of Fingerpaint, includes tips that all executives can use to increase customer satisfaction. His article titled, “What Flying Southwest Taught Me About How to Run My Business,” include some gems that are common sense ways to set your company apart from its competitors.
Ed says: “As 2016 wrapped up, I glanced at my Southwest Airlines app and realized I flew the airline over 50 times this year, more than once a week. As a business owner, I find myself constantly observing how other companies function, both the good and the bad. It’s a great way to pick up tips on how to run a business—and also how not to run one.
I’ve learned a lot observing from the sidelines how Southwest runs as a company. Here are my top 10 things I have tried to incorporate into our company, Fingerpaint:
A positive attitude makes others happy.
You notice how happy the airport staff is at Southwest from the moment you interact with them. Whether it’s the gate staff, the pilots, or the flight attendants, they go out of their way to have a smile on their faces. It makes me happy to give them my business.
Humor can diffuse a difficult situation.
Whenever the flight attendants or pilots get on the intercom, they give you the information you need but often in a funny, clever way. Flying into Chicago one morning, where it was freezing, the pilot said, “It’s -5ºF in Chicago this morning. Good luck with that.” I have also experienced staff delivering bad news, such as a flight delay, in a human way, with empathy and understanding. Transparent communication with a little dose of “non-corporate” speak goes so far in connecting with your customers.
Great customer service isn’t dead in our digital, non-personal world.
Whether I call Southwest’s 800 number for help or ask for assistance from a staff member at the airport, it is very clear they want to help. I never feel like I am inconveniencing them with my question, which we all know is common in today’s world.
There are times when customers aren’t happy. And it isn’t the end of the world.
Despite Southwest’s dedication to treating customers so well, even the best service isn’t going to keep everyone happy. A flight gets cancelled due to weather, and a grandmother misses her grandson’s graduation: All Southwest can do is apologize and make sure she is booked on the next available flight. It’s OK if you do your very best and it’s still not acceptable to your customer. Sometimes it’s just an inevitable and unfortunate part of running a company.
All levels of an organization should be empowered and accountable.
Never once in all of my years flying Southwest has an employee told me that they can’t help me or that it isn’t their job. The employees are taught great customer service no matter who they are, their role in the organization, or their tenure with the company.
Having an amazing digital customer experience can mitigate so many issues.
Southwest’s app is one of the most user-friendly, customer-centric ones in the airline industry. You can easily check flights, check in, change flights, redeem points for flights, book a rental car, etc. By having such a well-functioning digital experience, it makes the customer experience much less stressful.
Marketing opportunities exist all around us, even if not in obvious ways.
Last week, Nintendo gave away its new 3DS XL consoles to everyone onboard a Southwest flight. It also included a voucher to download the newly released Super Mario Maker. Southwest prides itself on making connections with its customers, and what better way to kick off the holiday season than a surprise video game giveaway in midair. The press Southwest received via news feeds, social media, and television coverage gave both them and Nintendo some wonderful positive exposure.
A simple, consistent advertising campaign breaks through all the clutter, even in today’s oversaturated world.
I have always admired Southwest’s advertising for its bold, clean, simple, and humorous campaigns. They don’t try to tell too much but rather communicate the company’s philosophy of being a low-cost, friendly, compassionate airline. Created by GSD&M, Southwest’s new mini-musicals are another example of how traveling should be fun. I also love that you can instantly tell a Southwest Airlines advertisement simply from its color and layout. In a sea of sameness across industries such as insurance, financial services, and pharmaceuticals, Southwest’s ads do it right.
Rewarding your best customers with little things makes a difference.
Southwest rewards its best customers with little perks like free Wi-Fi, drink coupons, and bonus frequent flier points. These extras aren’t anything that will move me into a higher tax bracket, but I appreciate the company acknowledging my loyalty. Southwest does these things without marginalizing its main base of customers who fly occasionally, which I also appreciate.
Recruiting and training are vital to any organization.
A big reason for Southwest’s success is its dedication to ensuring all of the team members follow a similar philosophy with customer service and engagement. You never meet someone on the team who doesn’t “fit,” so to speak. They all operate with similar corporate values and beliefs, which only occurs with a robust training program backed by exceptional recruiting and screening.”
As Ed points out, a commitment of customer service excellence helps companies like Southwest creates a competitive edge in crowded markets. Just by calling or emailing a customer after the product is received is a easy start.
Fingerpaint is a full-service marketing agency committed to original thinking and uncommon collaboration. Based in Saratoga Springs, New York, and with offices in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Villanova, Pennsylvania, the firm specializes in brand development, strategic planning, digital and multichannel marketing, audio and video production and public relations. fingerpaintmarketing.com