Even mighty Southwest Airlines can't win 'em all, in Social Media Land

By Micah Solomon, keynote speaker, customer service speaker, customer service consultant, and #1 bestselling author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.” Visit with Micah at https://customerserviceguru.com

I find a lot to admire at Southwest Airlines – not an unusual outlook for a customer service speaker, author, and traveler. So, when I read some of these (and there are more than a few, scattered among the praise) #SWA-tagged tweets from passengers who are 100% convinced that Southwest Airlines has it out for them:

• that Southwest has gone through their luggage and stolen their knick-knacks,


•that Southwest has intentionally made them miss their connections to save the airline money in some unspecified way,

and on and on,

my reaction is a pretty unconvinced 



… In today’s Yelp and Twitter-infused world, it’s an enormous question: what is a business, even a business as generally acclaimed as Southwest Airlines, to do with customer frustration–and suspicion–like this?

Well, there is an awful lot a business can do, for example:

• monitoring feedback frequently and responding with immediate and genuine concern.  A customer who thinks an airline intentionally botches connections feels, clearly, unimportant to that airline and will be mighty surprised to get a personal email checking to ensure she got to her destination and if further assistance is needed

• (In the case of the “Southwest stole my knick-knacks from my checked luggage” theme): inquiring politely to “double-check” the contents of one’s carry-on bag – thus letting the customer find out on his own if by chance he put those sundry items somewhere other than his checked luggage*

• and, probably (if I were Southwest), making good on the loss in either of these scenarios, wherever the “fault”** may ultimately lie.

But, in the end, you can’t win em all, with customers who don’t know you, who aren’t yet loyal to you.   And that is where building your overall corporate reputation comes in, built employee by employee, encounter by encounter – until you have a large plurality of customers who won’t initially react with a negative jerk of the knee (or keyboard), but, rather, are inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt–and expect that you are on their side.  Loyal customers, in other words.

Truly loyal customers are worth their weight in revenue.  They are less price sensitive.  They are more open to your company’s experiments–such as  brand extensions–and will even help you design them, if you’re listening.  And, most of all, they will consider your small foibles — actual or otherwise — in the best possible light, whether they happen to the loyal customer directly, or the loyal customer hears about them online (as is now, so easily, possible).


*Being sure to not ask this directly is the DYPII — The “Did You Plug It In” language principle–see tomorrow’s–or my first Post-Hurricane Irene– post for much more on this.

**(not a term you want to use with customers)


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