A lesson in customer service…why Southwest Airlines is #1

I wanted to share the letter I wrote to Southwest Airlines…

My first time in Portland I made an error on the train system on the way to the airport. I arrived late to the airport at approximately 6:00 pm for a flight that was to depart at 6:24pm. I hurried to the United Airlines ticket counter. With such a narrow window to make my flight I immediately explained my error and how I just wanted to make this flight to get home to my wife and children and then asked how I could do that. I stated that I could get through security quickly (I was prepared).

After several minutes of the attendants explaining to me how it probably wasn’t possible and after they made unanswered phone calls to the gate I started to get upset that I probably would not make the flight. Some kind of quick action to resolve the problem seemed like the only answer, but it wasn’t happening.

Non-attentive United staff…

One of the attendants then started to show a co-worker something on the monitor as if she was training, leaving everything up to the third attendant. The third attendant, after letting the gate phone ring for a few minutes proceeded to start typing on the computer without informing me of what she was doing. After a few minutes of typing I finally asked what she was doing.

Always keep your customer updated…

She stated that she was “trying to find out if there were any other flights” that night but it looked like “there weren’t any until morning”. I didn’t want another flight. I just wanted to catch my flight. I spent a total of about 10 minutes at the ticket counter with the 3 attendants trying to verify if I could still fly home tonight…or not.  I just wanted to get on a flight tonight and it evidently wasn’t going to happen. They just couldn’t make it happen.

The best part comes now…

My next experience was the experience I wanted to share with you. I left the United ticket counter and ran over to the Southwest counter.  I told them all the same information including the fact that I was fast and would run to the gate and was prepared to get through security fairly quickly. That is when I encountered a completely different Customer Care Culture. I teach Customer Service and am very familiar with this phenomenon.

The huge difference in service…

The attendant told me they had a flight leaving in 12 minutes that it flies direct to Reno (which is where I was going with United, but with one stop and a 3 hour delay).  I told them I could get there and they took my payment and called the gate. Another attendant encouraged me by saying “you can make it, we know you can”. I purchased my ticket at 6:19pm and arrived at the gate at the far end of the terminal at 6:29pm.

Exceeding Customer Expectations…(A+)

The flight attendant, Bob (Flt #263 Portland to Reno) offered me a beer on the flight for running and trying so hard to make the flight on time. They left right on schedule. Wow, what a difference. I hope this story helps you perfect your customer service culture because I will always fly Southwest now when I have that option.

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