Negative customer experiences are generally the water cooler chat of service experiences, but there’s plenty of good stuff fueled by employees who go out of their way to delight customers to talk about!
Walking to a gate in an airport is as habitual and routine as it gets when you fly almost weekly. My experience walking up to the gate this particular day in LAX was anything but monotonous. I had the pleasure of watching Southwest Airlines live up to their reputation of putting more “luv” into the customer experience. As I approached my gate, I recall boarding was delayed by 30 minutes, but the late departure wasn’t what stood out. What caught my attention was loud, upbeat music and a Southwest employee with a microphone looking for volunteers to participate in a dance off. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than a microphone and a dance off, I noticed a paper airplane contest where travelers were winning drink coupons, did someone say, “drink coupons” …. I’m in! Next, a Southwest employee is handing out chocolates to everyone preparing to board and another holding a sign, “SWA <3’s Cali!”
You’d have to search hard to find a gate hold area with the positive energy, laughter, and enthusiasm that the employees of flight #6380 radiated that afternoon.
Every company in any industry has the potential to create moments of wow. It doesn’t require a huge financial investment or complex program implementations. These “ah ha” moments are simply created by employees who are passionate about serving customers. Gartner predicts in their Customer Experience Marketing Survey, that 82% of B2B companies will be “mostly or completely” competing on the basis of customer experience within the next two years. Meaning that competing on price and product or a combination of both is becoming much less important. As companies battle it out for the best CX, the winners will be those that possess the superpower of engaged employees.
Southwest’s employee centric culture can be attributed to their Founder, Herb Kelleher, who famously coined the phrase and philosophy, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” You can’t train employees to care and you can’t make up in training what you missed in hiring. It’s employees that bring our experiences to life as customers. Personally, I felt a bit more alive after dancing and high fiving with a group of passengers I’d never met and a team of animated employees I didn’t expect to encounter.
As we boarded, the passengers were bid farewell with a ukulele performance in the jetway and the high energy team waved us off as our plane departed.
Every seat has a story, cheers to Southwest Airlines for making my story a truly memorable one that day and a story that I still remember so vividly one year later!