While awaiting a Southwest flight in Phoenix not long ago, I struck up a conversation with an obviously veteran flyer. He mentioned that he was on three or four airplanes each week. I inquired of him the many ways that travel has changed in his years at his craft. Let’s just say that he didn’t find the experience to be generally more enjoyable as time has gone by!
I asked him if he flew Southwest often. His response was very revealing. He shared that he “didn’t used to” because he focused on all of the things that they did not do that his regular carrier did (assigned seats, first class upgrades, etc.).
Then two years ago, despite being a member of the million mile club, he fired his longtime carrier for what he described as having a generally s##### attitude”. He mentioned that he then decided to give Southwest a try. He stated that instead of focusing on what they didn’t do, he decided to see what they did do well. His response was that “their flights are all pretty much the same. They’ll be full, but they’ll be quick. They load fast. They unload fast. They are usually on time. They aren’t always the cheapest, but they are always competitive. They don’t charge baggage fees and they don’t charge change fees, so I don’t feel like I’m being punished when my schedule inevitably changes. Their frequent flier program is easy to use. In general, they do a better job of keeping it simple and not p###### me off! I flew them 112 times last year!”
I believe that traveling this often would qualify as a frequent flier by any definition. He also shared that his former main carrier had “never even bothered to ask why my volume had fallen so drastically”. What he lacked in eloquence, he more than made up for in honesty and insight.
Lessons to be learned: Stay in touch with your customers. Know what they think of both you and your firm. Examine what offerings are most important from your customers’ perspective – not yours. Determine how your marketing approach will differ from your competition. Decide what your business’ action plan is. Then execute it! Southwest does – and they are one of the few airlines that has been profitable year in and year out. Don’t confuse the customer. Remember that it’s not possible to be all things to all people all of the time. Focus on what it is that you do well and let others deal with the rest. Be predictable. And while you’re at it – do your best to not p### the customer off!