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Colleen's thoughts on Customer Service

blusk
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Our President, Colleen Barrett, is spreading her wings in the blogosphere, and she recently did a post on Hill & Knowlton's Client Service Insights blog.  If you would like to read her thoughts on Customer Service, please click here.
25 Comments
Leo_Bottary
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With your tremendous dedication to customer service excellence, being nuts about Southwest is easy! Thanks to Colleen and Linda for working with me. It was quite generous of both of you.
blusk
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Will do, Leo!
China_Moon__Rea
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I've heard 99% AWESOME things about Southwest airlines. I truly wish you all stopped here in Madison WI so that Madisonians and myself could experience the great customer service first-hand. I sit waiting in the wings... ~China Moon, RealtorÂ
Cindy9
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I read both articles today, this one on Colleen's views behind customer service and also the article on fare wars.. Maybe these articles should have been combined.. Colleen hit the nail on the head when she said that they get people to try SWA by offering unbelieveable prices but they keep us coming back because there is no competition when it comes to service.. Hands down we would always choose SW over other airlines because of customer service.. In my eyes there is no other airline with such an amazing group of people from the top of the corporate ladder down to those that we don't see or hear much about.. I can honestly say that after all of our flights we LUV SWA not only for the savings but also because of the people.. Cindy
FriendofBlogBoy
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Colleen, Your answers to the interviewer were excellent, powerful and very appropriate. For years, the flying public, the business world and the media outside of Texas have often looked upon "little ole Southwest" as a blip on the radar screen down in Texas and tended to dismiss SWA is a fad that would eventually go the way of the Pet Rock. Well, guess what? SWA is NOT going away, but is finally receiving some long overdue and much deserved publicity. Unfortunately, that attention is currently focused on Wright Amendment issues and low fares, but once they get to talking about Southwest enough, interviews such as yours in the linked blog will help educate them that Southwest is MORE than just a low-fare airline. Eventually, not only the aviation industry, but the entire business world will begin to figure out that the success of SW is due more to how it TREATS people than how it CHARGES people. Low fares are wonderful, and are a big incentive to get folks to fly, but what brings them back again and again is the POS that they receive from all of your Employees. Thirty-five years ago, Herb helped to start what will someday be seen as a cultural revolution in the way businesses treat both employees and customers, and despite the Elvis outfits, Wild Turkey and Harleys, I think THAT will be his lasting legacy and what historians will note ahead of low fares! We LUV you guys and gals, Kim 🙂
Tricia5
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I have flown southwest for many years, hold the southwest credit card.....and I am now considering other options for my future travel. My last flight to Vegas was a nightmare and the airport staff in Vegas was non-responsive. I tried to call Southwest corporate but was not given anyone to talk to about the situation, I was put off and was told I would have to write a letter. What happened to the great customer service I was spoiled with?

FriendofBlogBoy
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Tricia, No one is perfect, and that includes the Southwest Employees. I certainly believe that you had a bad experience, but, I have to feel that it was highly unusual for them to be "non-responsive" to your concerns. Any of the times that I have ever had a reason to inquire about something or mention a concern with ANY SW Employee, whether ground-based, air-based or phone-based, I've gotten what I've felt was a honest and sincere desire to make sure that the situation was addressed and that I would look back on the event favorably. I'm really sorry that their famous "Positively Outrageous Service" was not up to par for you, but I urge you to contact their Customer Relations folks at their corporate office (see the website for details: http://www.southwest.com/about_swa/luvbook.html ) again. Give 'em a chance to make you happy! Best wishes, Kim
Jeff_Hoyt
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Hi there. I googled "airline customer service blogs" and up you popped. Not sure my offering will even mesh with what you're doing, but I'm Jeff Hoyt and I write and produce a podcast called "Hoytus Interruptus." My latest show is called "Freshly Squeezed at 30,000 Feet." It's about a recent flight I took where I sat next to two extremely large passengers. It's a funny (albeit frustrating) tale that features a lot of great music. I also briefly discuss the whole issue around obesity and air travel. If you or any of your readers would like to hear it, I'd be honored to have you drop by: http://www.hoytus.com
Matt_Brown
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How far will Southwest go to "under promise and over deliver on the Customer Experience."? I recently had the unpleasant experience of loosing my luggage while flying Southwest. I understand that these things happen and until today have not been upset about the situation (minus a misunderstanding in Long Island.) The agent who took my report in Baltimore was very helpful and friendly, he did a difficult job with the utmost professionalism. Today however I received my refund check and it was not what I expected. I will follow all the proper channels to dispute the settlement; however I fear an endless stream of policy, procedures and standards because that's what most big companies hide behind. I believe, in customer service, there is a big difference in settling and issue and making it right. I sincerely hope that I can find someone at Southwest who knows the difference and will work with me to make this a win-win situation.
Forrest_Hagler
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I've been flying for business for over 20 years and have joyfully settled into a routine during the past several years of flying (pretty much) exclusively SWA. During this time I've graciously been awarded several Companion Passes. This helps to take a huge sting out of traveling for a living in that my wife can always join me when her schedule permits...free of charge! That, in itself is enough for me to love SWA, and I do, but your great customer service is really what deserves my loyalty. Thank you for being different. One of the differences is assigned seating. I recently heard a rumor that you may be considering assigned seating. For what it's worth, I like your open seating policy and encourage you to retain it. I tend to make many last minute reservations and my concern with assigned seating lies primarily with the unlikely prospect of not being able to sit next to my wife. Actually, SWA played a major role in our romance as we were living in different cities during our first year of 'courting'. You can see I have many reasons to say thanks...so, thank you for being a little different than the 'other' guys, for great customer service, for companion passes and your generous Rapid Rewards program. I luv you just the way you are......................RH.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Forrest, As I read your comments, I was struck by your appreciative attitude in the way that you phrased one of your comments. Saying "...IÃ
delivron
New Arrival
Southwest is an amazing airline. Any legacy airline would have laughed at me today. I needed to change a flight from Chicago MDW to Albany, NY on December 14 from a 5:30 PM flight to a 2:30 PM flight. When I purchased the ticket approximately a month ago. Well the cost of flights has been lowered by $45.00. By rebooking both the outbound and return flights I saved $45.00. The legacy airlines would have charged me $100 to change the flight and forget about the refund. Yes it is not a cash refund but I fly SWA continuously so I just put it in the bank. Now a challenge Delta and US Air to give me that kind of service. I find the proposed merger just laughable. Imagine Southwest flying to Atlanta. Lets fly Southwest to Atlanta.GA. Andrew deLivron Phone 518-636-4114 Fax 603-415-6334 delivron@nycap.rr.com 38 Old Schroon Road Pottersville, NY 12860
Matt_Brown
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This post is a follow up to a post I left on November 14, 2006. I was fully prepared to battle southwest to receive what I thought was fair. I had even gone far enough to find the home phone numbers of a couple of executive to bother them at home, but I decided not to follow up any attempts to get a fair compensation for my lost luggage. I reasoned doing so would only result in further aggravation and disappointment and I wanted to let go of my anger and move on. I wrote off my fair compensation and added Southwest to my list of companies that despite what they say really donÃ
Kari_Smith
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Hello, I have been flying SWA for many years now and have been very impressed with the level of service and the great way the SWA employees have handled any problems.........Until now, The Rapid Rewards program has gone from a first class one to a Hit or Miss STANDBY system.I've always been able to use my Rewards cert. the same as cash.....if there was a seat available, it was Yours. Now they only alot a Secret( yes I said SECRET number of seats per flight), when they are gone I was told "can't help you, I asked for the manager and Tim said"Just book farther in advance, sorry we have no flexability" I was suprised to hear that the system was changed, I wasn't notified of any changes.I've gotten SWA and think this should have been disclosed. I'm very frustrated and know there are plenty of others, please show the southwest spirit and change it back. Thanks, Kari Smith Colleen, I read your interview on customer service......actions speak louder then words.
Brian_Caffrey
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Just returned from my first flights with SWA and want to give Big Kudos to the crew on flight 286 from SAN DIEGO CA(SAN) to RALEIGH DURHAM(RDU). Lora was especially helpful in looking after my 2 year old son who was travelling with an ear infection. Her attention to his welfare was heartwarming and she somehow managed to rustle up some gum for him to chew on the ascents and descents. I'm a frequent flyer for business on other airlines but the whole SWA customer service experience will ensure I'll look you up first...regards, Brian
Larry5
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I've come to dislike the "Cattle Call" experience. I printed out my boarding passes today, 23 hours and 52 minutes before my flight time and I got seating group B. I can't believe everyone of those A group passengers tomorrow will have logged in and printed passes in the first 8 minutes it was avaialble. What do others think about this. Is it normal to be in grou B when getting boarding passes 8 minutes after they become available??
Gretchen_Karpow
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We are proud to announce that our son just made Captain at Southwest Airlines after 7 years of flying right seat. I am writing this to offer a suggestion to Colleen Barrett or Gary Kelly. As parents, we have seen our son and a number of his friends go through years of hard work and sacrifices to realize their dreams of becoming captain for an airlines such as Southwest. When our son received his captain stripe last week, it was somewhat disappointing to find that Southwest does not have a small ceremony to celebrate this achievement. I would think this would be a great morale booster for the pilots. This may or may not be a practical suggestion but at least I knew it would be considered because Southwest management has such a well known reputation for their excellent employee relations. I have had the privilege of meeting Gary Kelly when he graciously accepted my university's request to speak to our MBA alumni and, from that meeting, felt that he would be open to suggestions of this type. Gretchen
Peter_Bechard
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I manage a training department that send instructors all over the United States and have contact with over 1,000 people every year. During presentations we always are asked about our travels and experiences. Well, now that Southwest Airlines has been caught lying about delays and then treating one of my instructors very poorly. By lying, telling a traveler there are weather problems when the are none. By poorly I mean not notifying anyone when you have Air traffic problems early in the day that leads to us not being able to book or make other arrangements. Southwest's policy of not using other airline when you screw up and finally leaving my employee stranded in the airport all night with no assistance or offer for a hotel room or even a meal! So now I will not book travel on Southwest again for any of my employees. Sure that may only be 50 or 60 flights. No big deal for you. However I will ensure that at every presentation and speaking engagement we perform, the tail of how poorly you treated one of my employees will be told. I will contact every customer who travels to Tampa for work with us not to travel on your airline. You think you are that big you can get away with this; well I am doing my best to make sure you are accountable.
Cygnus
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Peter, You say you're a manager of a professional training department. But with a post like yours which is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, you'll have to do a much better job of convincing me or anyone else on this blog that the alleged event you're referring to ever occurred. Put it this way; I'd sooner fly SWA than take a course from you or one of your trainers. Because SWA employees can't, but this SWA customer can, Paul
Jose_C_
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I wanted to express my dissatisfaction on the recent events of a young lady being asked by a Southwest supervisor to change or cover her attire because she was wearing a miniskirt. If another passenger had the right to complain about the young ladyÃ
Pamela_Anne
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I am so thankful that Southwest took a stand for and asked a scantly dressed young lady to "cover up" or another asked to "pull her top up and her skirt down." I for one am very apprectiate of the stance they took. I don't want to sit next to someone or want my children sitting next to someone with exposed breasts and a skirt so short that when she sits down her bottom is exposed. This dress is appropriate for a night out on the town; but totally inappropriate for someone flying in confined quarters with families with young children, teens and even adults who choose not to have to look and or be exposed to her "Exposed" body parts. There is a time and place for certain attire. I would be very upset if she was sitting next to my family. Certainly she has the right to wear what she wants but she should have used a little common sense in choosing her attire for flying - its' morally unacceptable and I for one am thankful that Southwest took a stance for me/us on this.
Walt
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When is SW going to call off the clothing Gestapo? After the last fiasco,(and to a poster above, no "breasts" were exposed so get your facts straight), SW sent out an email to their employees reminding them that SW has no official dress code.Yet again within the past day or so a SW employee did it again. The first time it was kind of humorous but enough is enough and I won't fly SW if this is how it is going to act. When out in public, some people may dress in a manner with which others disagree. Such is life, and if you don't like it, stay inside and don't fly.
Terri_Strobl
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On Sunday, Jan 27th, in Orlando my girlfriend and I missed our flight to Manchester, NH - I just want to thank Marva and Joanne at gate 104-106 for helping us to get on a later flight to Manchester. Needless to say it was a long day for us. The two ladies mentioned above kept their cool and always had a smile on their faces. Thanks again ladies. SWA fan, Terri
Larry_Slutz
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SWA is very good in the airports at deligating responsibilites to their employees but is NOT at the Customer Service phone number. They do not have an escalation path with any decision making capability at all. Committements for a call back from a Manager (Alivia?) were not met and absolutely no value to solve my problem because of mangement capability or authority. My issues is simple. I did business with SWA online and now I have to wait to recieve a piece of paper from them to extent ticketless funds. While that is happening, I'm loosing out on special flight offer. WHY?
Pat_Townsend
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May 9, 2008 To Colleen Barrett, President, SouthWest Airlines, The disclosure of some faults with your maintenance schedules didn’t bother me – because I knew that the customer-centric core of SouthWest Airlines guaranteed that, while come technical rules might be stretched, no one would ever be put in danger. Now, because of what I will admit is a relatively small incident, I am not so sure. Here’s the sequence. I will admit that I may be overly sensitive on this topic because I am a writer/speaker on the topics of quality/leadership and customer service. (You are, of course, invited to look up my name on Amazon.com to see a list of the books that my wife and I have had published on these topics.) • On May 5, I had SouthWest tickets to fly from Houston Hobby to San Antonio. It wasn’t a good day for me. I had a kidney stone on the loose (everything you have ever heard the amount of pain associated with kidney stones is true) and had taken a goodly amount of pain medicine . . . I was in a bit of a fog.. • When I arrived in San Antonio, it suddenly occurred to me that I did not have my windbreaker jacket. My first thought was that I had left it on the plane or at the gate area in Houston. I immediately approached a SouthWest Baggage Claim representative and gave her all details as well as I could think them through at the moment.. She promised to look into it and call me. I left the airport, confident that if the jacket could be found, it would be. • As the hours passed, I remembered that I had, in fact, left the jacket in the Men’s Room just before the security check going into the SouthWest gates area at Houston Hobby. I wasn’t worried. I had told enough audiences over the years about the customer-centric nature of the SouthWest corporate culture that I was confident that the jacket would be chased down. • On Tuesday, a few hours after the successful removal of my kidney stone, I called the number of SouthWest Baggage in San Antonio and left a message with the more exact details – and was told by the recorded message that I would be called back promptly. I also called the SouthWest Baggage office at Houston Hobby, left the same message/details and was again assured by the recorded message that I would be hearing back from them shortly. • On Wednesday, May 7, I again called both the San Antonio and Houston Hobby offices, left the same detailed messages, and received the same assurances. • It is now Friday, May 9. I have not received a phone call from any SouthWest employee. In all honesty, it was an old (albeit favorite) jacket and losing it is a less than traumatic event. Finding out that the Southwest corporate culture has changed so dramatically that I would not get a follow-up phone call from either office after the initial report or any of my four (two to each office) follow-up phone calls . . . that is truly bothersome. I am no longer so sanguine about the motivations behind the maintenance scheduling, the reports about free flying lessons given to an FAA official, etc. I am fully aware that everything from fuel prices to competitive pressures have put a great deal of pressure on your organization. I am sorry that these pressures have apparently begun to change who is the organization is at its core. Pat Townsend