Evan Spark’s ran an interesting post the other day about Southwest Airlines and Herb Kelleher, the company’s chairman. Take a look if only to watch this great video of Herb starring in a Southwest commercial 30 years ago. It’s clear why he spent so much of his career as their point man. He’s always been good in front of crowd. But so are most of the people that work at Southwest from what I’ve experienced and that element is a major competitive advantage for the airline.
Allow me to quote Southwest president Colleen Barrett… “our goal of serving you [the customer] with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit is not just what comes naturally to our Employees. It’s also the pledge we’re committed to honoring each and every day.”
Barrett apparently well recalls the message Herb has promoted for 30 years as well as she says, “Our Customer Service package is totally dependent upon [our] Employees. Without Employees—and without the right Employees—we would have at best poor Customer Service, and poor service means no more Customers.” At Southwest, the company priorities are simple, Employees, Customers, then Shareholders, completely upside down from the legacy airlines.
When I look back to the aviation companies I’ve worked for over the years, I now see why so many of my pilot buddies went to Southwest when Midway failed in 1991. They were the really smart people. Think of the free peanuts I’d have now after 17 years.
Just to be fair though, I tried combing through a few of the other airline sites for their mission statements. Nothing much about what drives them and certainly nothing about employees to be found, although American does have a page where they plead for customer patience when things go wrong.
Go figure. Southwest treats their employees like gold and the company is successful. The mega-carriers treat their employees like dog poop and most have had at least one run through bankruptcy.
Naw … must be a coincidence.
Seriously, everyone knows that Southwest is not just one of the few carriers making money today. Southwest is the airline that set and still maintains the operational and customer service standards the other airlines have been unable to duplicate.
And BTW, if you haven’t seen Southwest’s new blog – video, photos and a generally high-energy, ambitious, yet fun feel especially with their Day in the Life series – click over to Nuts About Southwest. I’m really envious.