Southwest Airlines Continuous Customer Service Innovation

One of our (VeraSage’s) cornerstone philosophies has been “study success for success leaves clues“. As my colleague, Ron Baker, likes to remind people – “study success – and model that. Because if you study failure, what do you expect to learn? How to produce more failures?” Mistakes and failures (like poverty) are commonplace. What is rare is success and wealth. I believe this is an important distinction between what we, at VeraSage, promote and celebrate and what almost every other consultancy/advocacy organization celebrates. While others are content with following the herd, we seek knowledge and wisdom from outside of ourselves. Speaking (well actually writing) about outside in analysis, I return to the topic of this posting: The celebration of Southwest Airlines.

Yesterday I was coordinating the use of my Rapid Reward tickets. Southwest provides a fairly straight forward online assistance but I have learned that when the trip involves coordinating more than 1 person and multiple 1-way trips, a helpful and knowledge person is superior. So, I dialed the 1-800-IFLYSWA number and was placed into the on-hold queue. After about 15 seconds I was informed of my anticipated wait time (in this case 4-7 minutes) (a customer centric information tool {thank you} that allows a person to determine if they can wait). Immediately thereafter (and this is the gist of this message) I was offered the option to enter in my phone number and they would call me back when my turn was ready – and note – they informed me that I wouldn’t lose my current on-hold position. I thought this was great. So I tried it. I entered my phone number and confirmed it, spoke my name for reference, and hung up. About 5 minutes later, my phone rang and I answered and the auto attendant informed me to press the pound key when I was on the phone (this assumes that maybe another house guest answered) and they would connect. I did, and I was connected. Great idea. Great service. Excellent KPI – thinking about the customer experience.

Here is a High-5 to SWA. If only the IRS would provide this (no one wants to listen to an hour or the same Muzak followed by commercial breaks about how important my call is). For Southwest – my call is so important they free me up and call me back.

Thanks Southwest. Thanks for thinking of your customer and valuing what is important to us.

For all of the other businesses and organizations that place people on hold – think about your customer experience and learn from Southwest. Your customers will appreciate it and your business will thrive because of it.

Now – go have a great day.

Dan Morris


  1. Dan,

    Great post, totally agree. As you know, I was delayed at Kansas City airport looking for any airline that could get me back home. While my airline, United, put me on hold for 25 minutes (on the 1K line!!!), Southwest called me back within 15 minutes. What a better experience. They couldn’t help me get home, but boy did they try.

    It’s the little things that matter with customer service. I wish more companies would pay more attention to this.

  2. Dan

    What a great example of “looking at life from the other guy’s point of view”. Southwest really do know how to look to the outside.

    Some other organisations think the “Your call is important to us” message is sufficient. This demonstrates that one airline at least knows what ‘important’ feels like to their customer.

    Do you imagine British Airways would ever get this? Hopeful but doubtful!


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