Customer Service At Southwest Air Essay

1582 words - 6 pages

As the project management triangle states, “do you want something done good, cheap, or fast?. Pick two!” That had been the constraints applied to many businesses until the launch of Southwest airlines in the mid 1960’s. Southwest managed to break free of the management triangle and offer safe (good), low cost (cheap), and timely (fast) air service in Texas and eventually across the United States. From the beginning, the company’s staff and management shared these goals, and developed a foundation on which to build the business. Visionary leaders Rollin King, Herb Kelleher, Colleen Barrett and other early leaders at Southwest, proved that there is no more competitive advantage than a dedicated, loyal work force. Her Kelleher’s transformational leadership style was just what the new airline needed to be successful, and motivate the staff of SWA to do what no other airline had done before: offer cheap, short distance, no frills air service, and make a profit doing it.
We have all heard the phrase, time is money, and for the airline industry this is literally true. Herb Kelleher knew that corporate management needed to be as unobtrusive as possible to allow for the quick turning of planes at the gate. He also realized that an open climate of communication, and decentralized day to day decision making, would motivate employees towards a shared goal of accomplishing this task. Employees viewed themselves as part of the team and by working together they would ultimately produce greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. At Southwest, employees experienced a high degree of work motivation, satisfaction, and performance as defined in McGregor’s theory Y. Employees at SWA were able to perform a variety of skills, and had a degree of autonomy not found at other airlines. Although each person had an assigned role or task within the organization, all were responsible for whatever it took to “turn the plane” and provide customers with the best service as possible. In return, Herb Kelleher and the management team provided feedback and rewards by celebrating and recognizing employee and company accomplishments.
Just looking at Southwest’s operational issues does not tell the whole story of the company’s success. They were unique in that they flew only one type of aircraft, which minimized maintenance concerns, and they used smaller less congested airports. They also eliminated meal service, paper boarding passes, and reserved seating which freed the staff to focus on the more important issues of timeliness and turning the plane quickly and efficiently. But in addition to these new operational techniques, it was the “Southwest Spirit” of customer service that set the airline apart from their competitors from the beginning. And that spirit started at the top and permeated throughout the organization. In fact, Southwest developed a culture of valuing people. A culture that included not only valuing the customers they served, but of the employees who comprise...

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