Tag Archives: Southwest Airlines

Monday Morning Moment – Are Customers Loyal to Your Company or to Your Employees?

OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.

My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book.  Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.

Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.

What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.

Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.

In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:

Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.

1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways
2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train
3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path
4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews
5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief
6. Recognize and Reward Initiative
7. Ask Employees What They Want
8. By All Means, Have Fun
9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place

To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:

• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements
• Practice effective story-telling
• Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust
• Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip.
• Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value
• Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein

Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.

Research: Are Clients Loyal to Your Firm or the People in It? – Joe Raffiee

Why Managers Should Care About Employee Loyalty? – Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy

Does Employee Loyalty = Customer Loyalty? And, Did It Ever? – Michael Lowenstein

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills Writer

Eyes on the Customer Experience Prize: Will 2016 Be the Year of the Emotionally-Driven Employee Ambassador? – Michael Lowenstein

Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Companies No Longer Reward Loyal Employees – Eilene Zimmerman

8 Reasons to Keep Your Customers Loyal – Rama Ramaswami

Monday Morning Moment – Servant Leadership – Trending Forward

Photo Credit: Tri Pham, FLickr

The servant-leader is servant first.

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?Robert K. Greenleaf
“…more likely themselves to become leaders” – Isn’t that how you thought Greenleaf would end that sentence? I read it that way. We don’t naturally think of aspiring to serve – “moving up the ranks” to better position ourselves to serve.
Why write about servant leadership?
So much has been and continues to be written about servant leadership. The terms change and trend a bit differently over time. Of late, relational leadership has gained in popularity. This type of leadership is defined as “as a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good.”
I love that concept and style of leading, but servant leadership goes even farther. Relational leaders can focus on their particular team or tribe, in a mentoring, collaborative role…for the good of those leaders and the organization and client base. Servant leaders aspire to a wide reach. Not just leader to leader, but to permeate the whole of the organization with an ethic that everyone, at every level, matters. This is a huge aspiration but the gains are huge as well.

Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core, has written a piece on the 10 Leadership Habits Found in the World’s Best Leaders. These ten habits are derived by Larry Spears from the Robert Greenleaf‘s pioneer work in servant leadership. Read the article for Schwantes full commentary, but the 10 habits follow:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to the Growth of People
  • Building Community

Another list of qualities to consider is posted by business leader Skip Prichard‘s 9 Qualities of the Servant Leader. Both Prichard’s list below and Schwantes’ list above are excellent markers for your own leadership:

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps people with life issues
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells
  • Thinks you, not me
  • Thinks long-term
  • Acts with humility

Finish the whole of his article here (and don’t miss the comments – fascinating).

Photo Credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs, Flickr

Marcel Schwantes has also written 10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science. In this piece Schwantes tackles the misconceptions about servant leadership as well as the many reasons why it’s the best form of leadership. I personally love this article because the evidence of the kind of company that prospers under servant leadership is undeniable. We know these organizations by their service – like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Marine Corps, and many others. Very persuasive.

Finally, I’d like to share General Stanley McChrystal‘s view of leading “like gardeners”. My husband is a gardener. Even after a long, tiring day at his regular job, he puts in the time necessary to tend the plants he’s growing. Bent over, on his knees sometimes, doing the work of nurturing them to reach their maximum fruitfulness.

“Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern—they leave the crop stronger. So it is with leaders.”

Employees and customers know the experience (or lack thereof) of the leader who truly attends to their needs. No drive-by visits here. No sprinkling of some corporate fairy-dust just by the sheer presence of the leader in the room, or the building, or on podcast/commercial.

McChrystal warns against the leader who becomes too important to personally serve his personnel or customers.

“I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Always in thinking of leadership, we are tempted to look to our own leaders…to measure them by the scale of excellence (seen above). The servant leader is servant first. Don’t get muddled up by checking off what your leader is not. Serve that leader, as you serve other personnel and customers. Serve. Serve by leading. Lead by serving.
“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
[Please don’t miss the links below…especially those not mentioned in this blog. Also please share examples (in Comments section below) of servant leadership you have experienced…or your own personal journey in becoming a servant leader.]
Journey strong. Serve long.

YouTube Video – Servant Leadership – Leadership From the Core – Marcel Schwantes

10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science – Marcel Schwantes

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader – Skip Prichard

The Understanding and Practice of Servant-Leadership – Larry C. Spears

General Stanley McChrystal: We Should All Lead Like Gardeners

Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work Rankings: The Importance of Common Purpose – Barry Sanders

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 7 Skills of the Top Leaders of Tomorrow – Whatever Your Age or Stage – With Matt Monge – Deb Mills

Larry C. Spears and Robert K. Greenleaf

The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way) – Marcel Schwantes

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Quick Reads on Leadership – to Help You Stay the Course, Not Be a Jerk, While Being Innovative – Deb Mills

Happily Ever After – What Makes Relationships Work – Poster – Frank Sonnenberg

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service

Blog - Horst SchulzePhoto Credit: Arnezzy.tumblr.com

Just the expression “5-Star Hotels” summons delicious images of ocean views and chic, comfortable rooms and all those tiny touches to insure your return. Though never a guest in such a hotel, I have enjoyed 4-star treatment, and I have been a customer of Chick-fil-A  and Southwest Airlines. All through our days, we are administering and receiving some sort of customer service.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of learning about customer service from Horst Schulze, a world-renowned leader in the field of luxury hotels. He gained his wisdom and expertise, up through the ranks, and his counsel is applicable to any peopled workplace or organization. Schulze puts caring at the foundation for world class excellence – not just caring about the customer or client (albeit extremely important) but caring for all people (the employees and all who interface with each other in his industry).

Mr. Schulze talks about the service process as three parts: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. Genuine caring. Not silly over-friendliness, or with casual sloppiness. Genuinely caring for the customer’s personage, time, and purpose for that interaction.

Since his presentation, I have intentionally looked at service very differently. Whether we’re talking about a small business or a large franchise, a school or university, or even such a thing as a church connection team. We can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by intentionally and comprehensively setting our culture.

Mr. Schulze is people-oriented – with his employees, vendors, and customers. He manages this in his hiring and training practices and through a vigilant daily (industry-wide) practice of his canon of customer service standards* (definitely worth a read- click on the link below to read the 24 standards). As I listened to him speak, his whole demeanor was that of one who joyfully delights in excellence and bringing it to bear in improving the lives of those around him.

No matter how well we think we’re doing in providing services or responding to the needs of our clients/customers, we would do well to look at the practices of such businesses as the Capella Hotel Group, Chick-fil-A, and Southwest Airlines. You will see this common thread of caring in their philosophies, culture, and standards.

“I dreamed of hotels where every employee comes to work not just to work but to create excellence, where every employee is committed, and where it’s not about creating rules but about every customer being taken care of the way they want to be taken care of.” – Horst Schulze**

“Focus on creating an organization of excellence and have processes where you can transfer excellence. That starts by finding out what is excellent in the eyes of the customer – what the guest really wants from us – based not just on what they said they wanted but what they were really thinking.” – Horst Schulze**

“It’s my responsibility to set standards. I have no right to accept mediocrity or limitation. If you don’t point out flaws, mediocrity will set in. It’s my business to do what is right and not make excuses for mediocrity. I agonize when I make a decision that it is good for all concerned; if it’s not, I don’t do it.” – Horst Schulze**

[Leading by Culture] “Southwest was the first to create a position entitled “Vice President of Customers.” For many years Colleen Barrett held the position. She understood that Customers always come first, and that in order to have a Customer service mindset you cannot separate the importance of the internal Customer (Employees) from the external Customers (passengers). If the internal Customer is happy, it will naturally flow to the external Customer in the form of good service.” – Lessons in Loyalty, Ian BrooksBlog - Southwest Airlines - Customer Service Culture - leapq.orgPhoto Credit: leapQ.org

 “Every life has a story, and often our customers and our employees, need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are either experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one. The word ‘restaurant’ means place of restoration. We think of Chick-fil-A as an oasis where people can be restored.  We’re all people with a lot of emotional things going on that don’t necessarily show on the surface, so we try to offer amenities and kindness that minister to the heart.” – Dan Cathy, President, Chick-fil-A***

Blog - Customer Service - Chick-fil-APhoto Credit: jyontheroad.blogspot.com

“Forty years ago, exceptional was a glass elevator in the lobby; then it became real paintings and fine marble and so on. Now it’s coming back to doing what the individual guest really wants: personalized and individualized service geared not to the market, but to the individual. True luxury today is about responding to each individual guest.” – Horst Schulze**

*Capella Hotel Group’s Canon service standards conceived by chairman and founder Horst Schulze

**Defining Luxury – LEADERS Interview with Horst Schulze

YouTube Video – Horst Schulze- Presentation on Customer Service

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Summaries on All Speakers of Global Leadership Summit 2015 by David M. Arnold

Notes from the GLS15 – Creating World Cass Service – Horst Schulze

****A Lesson in Customer Service from Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy

The Chick-fil-A Difference: Why Customer Lingo Matters

Thank you. My pleasure.

What You Can Learn from Southwest Airlines’ Culture

***Lessons in Loyalty: How Southwest Airlines Does It – An Insider’s Point of View

Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – and One Heart I Know Well

Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – One Heart I Know Well

2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 390

[Disclaimer: This may seem like an ad for Southwest Airlines. It is not. It is a story of how marketing can actually reflect what is true – at least in my experience of this airline.]

I fly Southwest. Two free bags. Enough said.

Still, let me tell you about customer service like I’ve never received from any other airline. On their website, you can actually engage a screen that tells you which days are cheaper to fly. So much easier than re-typing alternate flight days on the booking page. Even after 20 years of frequent flying, I still stall out at check-in kiosks. The Southwest staff just seem to know right when to intervene and do it with graciousness.

Two free bags.

Open-seating is really a nice option. The check-in process at the gate is consummately fair. Onboard, the pilots and flight attendants act like real people (not like rigid, uniformed Ken and Barbie dolls). [Side-note: These folks in all airlines have very hard jobs and deal with all sorts of unpleasant people and situations. Still.] The Southwest personnel give all the FAA-required emergency information, but they do it in such an upbeat, people-friendly way that I actually listen.  Sometimes, they are even funny. Just such a nice touch to relax weary travelers. On most flights, we are offered a choice of pretzels OR peanuts with our beverage. We get to decide.

Two free bags.

The best side of Southwest Airlines after the getting us safely from Airport A to Airport B is their personalized customer service. There are lots of stories of grateful customers in their onboard magazine and on various websites. I want to tell my story here.

Trips back and forth from Richmond to Atlanta are a regular part of my life because my dad lives outside Atlanta. He has Alzheimer’s. Our visits are still very sweet, and so far, he still knows me. Although he doesn’t remember now how often I come, when I was there last, or what we do, I make those trips as often as possible. As much for me as for him, perhaps.

A few months back, I was sitting in Concourse C of the Atlanta Airport, waiting for my flight back to Richmond. The next time I would come to Georgia, Dad would be in a Memory Care Unit. This was on my mind, as I ate supper out of a box from The Varsity. Then someone spoke to me. That someone was a beautiful young woman named Candice Hewitt. She was a Southwest customer service representative on hospitality duty at my gate.Southwest heart with skin on - Candice Hewitt

We talked a long time, as if I was the only customer there. We talked about my dad. She listened…and listened…and listened. I knew she had other responsibilities and people to visit, so finally I “released” her. She reflected about how all kinds of people go through airports with happy destinations and sad. It’s not always vacation or weddings or successful business. She expressed that she was glad for our talk and that she would try to see me again at a gate visit during my travels.

We exchanged phone numbers. Believe it or not, Candice has been in touch regularly. Mostly we text. She checks in, just to say hello. I give her updates about Dad. We haven’t managed another gate visit, but that doesn’t really matter. When Southwest calls itself “the airline with heart”, Candice is who comes to mind. She is the heart of Southwest Airlines to me – the heart with skin on it.

I’ve flown a lot of airlines and had mostly positive experiences with them. Southwest’s culture intrigues me. I want to close with their purpose and culture statements (see below – from their website). The “Two Free Bags” policy is what drew me away from my previously preferred airlines. Many times, I don’t need to check bags. It’s then that Southwest’s Customer Service holds my loyalty. The elements of that service is communicated below, and the essence of it is pictured here, in Candice.Candice Hewitt

Southwest Purpose: Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.*

Live the Southwest Way**

Warrior Spirit

  • Work Hard
  • Desire to be the best
  • Be courageous
  • Display urgency
  • Persevere
  • Innovate

Servant’s Heart

  • Follow The Golden Rule
  • Adhere to the Principles
  • Treat others with respect
  • Put others first
  • Be egalitarian
  • Demonstrate proactive Customer Service
  • Embrace the SWA Family

Fun-LUVing Attitude

  • Have FUN
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Maintain perspective
  • Celebrate successes
  • Enjoy your work
  • Be a passionate Teamplayer

Work the Southwest Way

  • Safety and Reliability
  • Friendly Customer Service
  • Low Cost

Southwest at sunset

*Southwest Airlines Culture

**Southwest Airlines Values

Southwest Airlines’ Legendary Corporate Culture | An Interview with Dave Ridley – Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University

Customers of Size Policy – so gentle and respectful of all – just an example of the consideration of this airlines to what could be awkward for some of their valued fliers.