Southwest Airlines

Keeping the personality in hospitality

Southwest Airlines

Challenge

To build upon their focus on the delivery of exemplary customer service, Southwest Airlines wanted to move to hospitality; a shift away from transactional customer service which is ‘done to’ customers, to a focus on how customers feel.

Objectives included raising the profile of hospitality and aiming to make it real in every single interaction; providing employees with personalised insight into the kind of hospitality you show and where their hospitality strengths lie; and assisting leaders in their hospitality conversations.

Approach

The Team spent three days at Southwest Airlines HQ and Dallas Love Field Airport to understand the organisation, the culture, the diverse working environments, how Southwest Airlines defines and talks about Hospitality, and the communication and strategic landscape. We spent time with senior leadership to understand how communication ‘gets done’ at Southwest Airlines. We also interviewed 20 individuals from across the airline who had been identified by Southwest Airlines as being great at Hospitality. The output from these sessions informed the development of a communication and culture programme.

Outcomes

1,600
employees engaged during the soft launch
31.5%
of cohearts (staff) were engaged one month after launch
30,000+
cohearts (staff) completed the Hospitality Heroes Profiler
20%
reduction in Department of Transport complaints

Strategy

With an audience of 57,000 people in 99 locations, we needed to find a simple human truth which would appeal to a hugely diverse audience. So, “nothing is more fascinating than ourselves” sat at the heart of the programme.

This core insight drove the development of an online psychometric profiler which allowed individuals to identify their own kind of hospitality – how they like to show hospitality and how they like to receive it – and helped to shift the customer service conversation.

Work

Developed with the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre in the UK and piloted with 500 employees; the 21 multiple-choice question profiler helped employees find out what kind of ‘Hospitality Hero’ they are.

A full suite of leader launch communications helped get the programme off to a flying start, while a selfie-functionality developed for launch boosted early participation and sharing, encouraging participation.

The development of an insight dashboard helped Southwest Airlines leadership to make the most of the data generated from the profiler, and to make insight-driven decisions about hospitality across the airline.

In 2018, Southwest Airlines saw a 20% reduction in customer complaints as reported by the US Department of Transportation. We believe Hospitality Heroes undoubtedly played a key role in this success by identifying the Hospitality personality types. The Heroes Programme has significantly helped Southwest Employees take ownership of the unique ways they make Customers and CoHearts feel welcomed, cared for and appreciated.

Steve Goldberg, SVP Operations & Hospitality at Southwest Airlines