Southwest Airlines describes itself as a customer service company that happens to fly planes.
Contrast the Southwest philosophy with the Grinch mentality of many other airlines. I heard recently that “SLF” is aircrew slang for “passengers”. It stands for “Self-Loading Freight”.
Many brands outwardly market themselves very differently from the actual brand experience. United used the “Fly The Friendly Skies” tagline for 30 years. My experiences with United in the Sky, on the Tarmac, in the Customer Service line, at Check-in, at Baggage Claim, have been far from “friendly”. This isn’t the fault of flight attendants (many of whom are heroic personally). It’s how United as an organization prioritizes customer service.
Customer service is one of the most important but least appreciated domains of marketing. Brands are not judged most by their ads. Brands are judged most by what happens when things go wrong. It is an area for great brands to shine and for lousy brands to show their true colors.
Customer service is also an area for brands like Southwest to create a clear point of difference. It helped make Southwest into a legend. While the airline industry is getting commoditized, Southwest has a Net Promoter Score 45 points above the industry average. They are one of the most successful airlines in the world.
Instead of just saying “we appreciate your business”, there’s value in showing it.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)
Here’s another cartoon on this theme drawn from my experiences with United.
And here’s an hysterical mock inflight video from MadTV that parodies the airline service experience.