Southwest the quality management and a good customer service focused on the employees


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Southwest Airlines is a good example of managing the corporate brand with a focus on employees – the main group of stakeholders. Awareness of the fact that the employees are the main contributors to building the brand and understanding that this group of stakeholders is the priority client, enabled Southwest Airlines to become the leading airline in the United States by the number of passengers per year.

Well-organised management that combines corporate culture and clever brand management – manifested through the commitment of the personnel – led to a situation where the company instead of employees has a group of fans who are constantly contributing to the growth of the brand value: day after day, during every flight.

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Southwest the quality management and a good customer service focused on the employees

  1. 1. CasesStrategy DocumentsC01 / 2011ReputationSouthwest: The qualitymanagement and a goodcustomer service focusedon the employees In a business where the key to success is based on passengers’ turnover, Southwest has found a competitive advantage involving its employees with Southwest brand. Southwest Airlines is a North American low the employees’ satisfaction. This radical change of cost airline, 38 consecutive years of profitabil- approach has given good results from its inception ity backing Southwest experience. The fewest to the present time; So much so, that even within number of complaints from consumers since the fusions that the company has suffered, the 1987 and the largest number of passengers main idea has been always to think first about the carried all over the country (more than 100 employees. This positioning defines a solid corporate million per year). culture through its history. The airline has been developing the last three years In the sector services there is a principle widespread an only company’s annual report (performance, that “the customer is King”, and with good reason. people and planet) following the Global Reporting But many times, the obsession of the customer Initiative’s (GRI) standards. The key indicator to satisfaction, can make we forget the stakeholders, measure the performance of the company comes very important and closer at home, employees. In a from the results of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), company’s products and services customers become index to measure the willingness of customers to timeless brand ambassadors, but must be borne in recommend a company and classified them into mind that employees are the true storytellers both three groups: promoters, passive and detractors. the company and its brand. In fact, according to Global Reptrak Pulse of Reputation Institute, on It is fitting to point out the fact that the company the reputation of a company the perception of the strategy does not focus on managing the quality and product weighs less (40%) than the perception of the good customer service, but start of managing corporate brand (60%).Document prepared for Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership quoting, among other sources, the interventions ofSouthwest Airlines in the fifteenth International Conference on corporate reputation, brand, identity and competitiveness held in NewOrleans, May 2011.
  2. 2. Southwest: The Corporate culture history Southwest understands it that way and base itsquality management In 1967, Rolling King and Herb Kelleher initiated a business model on low-cost operations to such aand a good customerservice focused on new aviation business for the market of Texas taking point the company is pioneer in rotation servicesthe employees its services to the three main cities of the State : between a flight’s arrival and the boarding the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Thus, on June 8, following one, keeping its airplanes ashore no 1971, the first Southwest plane took off from Love more than twenty minutes. But this requires a Field in Dallas to Houston. high involvement of its employees in order to act effective and efficiently, key issues to maximize the During the 1970s, Southwest operations marked company benefits. the direction of the company in the future, since by 1974 they reached the record of 1.1 million This circumstance demonstrates to what extreme passengers. Southwest’s low costs let that the the company depends on the good acting of its price of their tickets was highly more competitive staff and why is essential to take care of the main than the rest of companies in the sector and made capital of the airline: its employees. In its strategy, Southwest, a small regional airline, from becoming Southwest puts employees first for that reason one of the most valued lines in the world. Southwest is the first company in the United States on Fortune Most Admired Companies. The birth of the company culture is due to the strong relationship between management, workers and The harmony between the brand and employees is trade unions. The founder and CEO to 2008, Herb based on if you take care of your employees, they will Kelleher, who took upon himself to lay down the treat well your customers and your customers will basis of Southwest’s famous culture, characterized keep the company afloat. This is also demonstrated for humor, the loyalty and the relaxed style. through a program of points and actions towards Kelleher was in charge of traveling all around the employees where, from the beginning, the company country working together with the employees. As a offered secure jobs. Even though that policy has result of this and his concern to ensure the cultural been affected by the cyclical changes, the company compatibility in recruitment, Southwest has become has known how to dodge the economic onslaught in the prototype of a company where they work hard EE.UU in order that these do not impact negatively but they enjoy themselves at the same time. on its staff. The construction of this culture begins with a concrete process of selection of people who possess the “If you treat your values of the company, as well as technical expertise. Southwest has a philosophy of selection of people employees well, they will with a profile of a servant’s heart, good sense of humor treat your customers well and an attitude of not taking life too seriously. The company was born with this philosophy, which is also and your customers will used to train staff putting them up to be always in a keep the company afloat” good mood face to face with the customer. Southwest Airlines bears in mind the premise employees are the Another example of harmony between the first ambassadors of the brand. company and its employees resulted in the actions taken against the terrible consequences for the The key to success: Employees airline industry caused by the attacks of September One of the keys to have good financial results in the 11. Due to the vertiginous descent in the use of aviation sector is the speed with which you do the the airplanes as means of transportation after the change of passengers. attacks, the company chose to cut out its cash reserves before touching the staff. The employees Brand management through its employees took the company measures in a very positive way and helped the brand inclusively renouncing part of their salary in order the company did not lose Suppliers competitiveness or even failed. Their culture is based on stories in which the employees are the “heart heroes”. To achieve the Southwest: deployment of attention to its workforce, the shareholders customers Employees company has a small group within the internal communication area called the “Internal Client King”, which is a small Department of six people managers involved in taking care of the rest of the employees. Their activities include, for example, congratulate them on their birthday, giving them the sympathy Source: Southwest Airlines, 2011. from any tragedy, etc. Cases 2
  3. 3. Southwest: The This Department is dedicated full time to serve to Another example of the strong corporate culturequality management the rest of the employees as customers. Product of focused on employees is found in the “One Love”and a good customerservice focused on this action, they are organized, for example, costume programme that has been set up as a result of thethe employees parties in Halloween, even inside the plane the merger of Southwest Airlines with Airtrain Airways. staff is dress up as witches, or, for Valentine’s day, Furthermore in this sense, the company works in the flight attendants are disguised as hearts. All the construction of network communities and in of this arises the idea of making fun of them and activities of social responsibility where differentiates perform many activities to surprise their employees two clear lines of action: and customers. 1. Facilitating transportation and advising to “The satisfaction of your the employees’ relatives in case of disease, disasters, etc. employees is the best 2. Accomplishing a single company report which way to cultivate a strong integrates financial information and non financial information. corporate culture” Conclusions Harmony between brand and employees Southwest Airlines is a good example of corporate The company has created its brand from the pride brand management focused on employees, their of belonging of its employees who considers the main Stakeholders. The belief that employees are the main pillar on which holds all their business, to main ambassadors of the brand and the conception such an extent that we find the own employees that this Stakeholder is the priority customer, has in the Mission of Southwest Airlines, that it is turn Southwest Airlines into the biggest U.S. airline as follows: Dedication to the highest quality of by number of passengers transported per year . customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. With good management unifying corporate We are committed to provide our employees a culture and brand - manifested through its staff - stable work environment with equal opportunity the company has achieved to have, rather than for learning and personal growth. Creativity and employees, fans that constantly increase the value innovation are encouraged for improving the of the brand: day to day and in every flight. effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest customer. Brand management through the service Company employees customers Brand route -To involve in the brand -Internal Client King -Quick service -Development of the sense -Good customer service of belonging -Good connection between -The employee is the first the brand and customers thing Source: Southwest Airlines, 2011. Southwest Airlines strongly believes the satisfaction of their employees is the best way to cultivate a corporate culture. In order to know the degree of satisfaction and pride of membership, the company realizes quarterly a satisfaction survey to all the employees. Cases 3
  4. 4. ©2011, Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation LeadershipBusiness foundation created by large companies to professionalize the management of intangible assets and contribute to the developmentof strong brands, with good reputation and able to compete in the global market. Its mission is to be the driver which leads and consolidatesthe professional management of reputation as a strategic resource that guides and creates value for companies throughout the world.Legal NoticeThis document is property of the Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership and has as its objective to share businessknowledge about Brand, Reputation, Communication and Public Affairs Management.This document is directed exclusively towards its addressee and contains confidential information, subject to professional secrecy, whosedisclosure, copy or non-authorized use is against the Law. If you receive this document by mistake, let us know immediately and erase itwithout keeping a copy.Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership is the owner of all the intellectual property rights of the images, texts, designsand any other content or elements of this product and has the necessary permission for its use, and therefore, its copy, distribution, publicrelease or transformation is prohibited, without express authorization from the owner.