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Shaving for Success: The Saga of Ruppel's 'Stache

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Customer Relations and Rapid Rewards Vice President, Jim Ruppel, said goodbye to his beloved mustache of 38 years recently at our CR/RR Department luncheon. The mustache, which is nearly as old as Southwest Airlines itself, has been around since Jim’s first semester of college- even his wife had never seen that precious skin underneath his nose. But Jim couldn’t hold on to the glory days of the 70s forever. In fulfilling a promise to his Team, Jim shaved the ‘stache, complete with celebratory cartwheels from Senior Vice President of Customer Services, Teresa Laraba, and CR/RR Manager, Jona Berta after the department achieved their goals. “I guess we’re all about change around here,” said Jim as he caught a glance of his new look after shaving in front of the entire Department. Change has certainly been the key word in the Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards Department over the last year. Summer marked a particularly challenging season, and the Leaders wanted to do something extra to motivate the Teams. So last August, Jim made a promise in anticipation of the months ahead: if each group within the Department- Telephones, Support, Writers, Customer Advocacy, and Proactive Customer Service could achieve the goals set before them, Jim would kiss his beloved mustache goodbye. As soon as the results came in, Jim knew his mustache had seen its last discotheque. Each Team not only achieved the goals set out for them, but far surpassed the expectations. • Telephone Team Challenge: Respond to 90% of calls answered each month. o Result - 92.2% • Writing Team Challenge: Respond to letters/e-mails within 30-days. o Result – 96.4% • Customer Advocacy Team Challenge: Respond to DOT/Compliance correspondence within 30-days. o Result – 99.3% • Proactive Customer Service Team Challenge: Respond to all major events within 24-hours. o Result – 100% Over the last few months the Department has seen many changes that have contributed to the success in reaching these goals. August marked the beginning of a hiring blitz in Customer Relations, yet the vacant cubes weren’t the only things filling up on the fourth floor. The teams experienced unprecedented volumes of Customer correspondence, and had to pull together to achieve the tasks set before them. While the new hires and new business decisions helped the Department climb toward their 90th percentile goals, Jim attributes the department success to the Warrior Spirit behind each individual, and most importantly, the Department’s ability to work together. And, of course, a little encouragement from the Senior Leaders gave the Teams an added incentive. Jim’s willingness to shave his mustache was yet another example of the vibrant Culture at Southwes, one that makes Employees proud to serve their Customers. “Our Customers got what they expected from Southwest Airlines, and you gave them what they deserved,” said Jim in reflecting upon what the Teams had accomplished over the past moths. Still, the success signifies anything but a time to rest. The introduction of the All-New Rapid Rewards program and further opportunities for growth in the coming year will continue to present unexpected challenges, but Jim remains confident that the teams will continue to WOW the Customers, and leave them wanting to return to Southwest Airlines. Some things never change; we’ll always have our Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-LUVing Attitude. But change can be a good thing. While Jim’s ‘stache will stay in the 70s, the Team will enter the new decade, and Southwest’s 40th year of operation, with a renewed sense of Teamwork, dedication, and pride for a Company that never stops serving its Customers.