Oh the joy of living with passion!
It’s infectious. On a recent Southwest flight from Chicago to Louisville, the plane departed 20 minutes late, it was 10:30 PM already and passengers were tired and ready to be finished traveling.
The crew came on, did their normal announcements, apologized for the lateness and prepared for take-off. They could have ended there. They could have continued to grovel or blame the delay on something other than themselves. They didn’t and what happened was sure to keep a significant number of passengers on that plane coming back to Southwest flights again and again – and to tell their friends about it!
“It’s late. We’ve had a long day and we’re tired,” the flight attendant begins as we accelerated down the runway. “Tonight we are going to try something different in how we serve that should make it easier on us. As the pilot gets us to the correct angle on take-off, we’ll begin the service.” The plane’s wheels leave the ground and the steep accent begins. “OK, here come the peanuts,” the flight attendant announces over the speakers. Seconds later, a cascade of peanut packets from an upended carton whiz down the aisle and laughing passengers rush to pick them up and start passing them around. The mood is infectious and no one is thinking about the delayed flight any longer. Of course the flight attendant followed up with “now here come the beverages….” (which didn’t happen, but deepened the laughter.
What happened here? The crew (the hospitality arm of, amassadors for, the face of) Southwest made a genuine connection with those they serve. It didn’t cost them anything more than creativity and a wiliness (eagerness?) to be silly and unique. What other airline would do that?
It is the “little things” like these that make me, and thousands like me, die-hard Southwest fans. I’m a better advertisement for them than any commercial could be (just ask me and you’ll see!)
They practiced “radical hospitality” for those who travel with them. They remembered that those that come to them have a choice, and they do to. They get to choose to see those travelers as revenue, as dollar signs, or as guests – valued guest they would like to see again and again!
What else do they do that sets them apart and shows their genuine commitment to treat me as a valued guest? Well, they don’t charge me for bags, they don’t charge me a change fee if I have to change my flight when my travel plans change (Continental and US Airways and probably other carriers too – charge me $150 just to change to another one of their flights!). In fact, Southwest will charge me less if I change my ticket to a flight with a cheaper rate – and let me use the difference on my next purchase!
What do these practices gain them? My loyalty, praise and advocacy. What do these practices cost them? Nothing. They do cost them the opportunity to make a few extra dollars, but they will gain back those dollars and more as I book again and again and encourage my friends and colleagues to do the same.
Southwest also is committed to being good stewards of the revenue they collect. Their practices include only flying one type of plane cutting down cost on pilot training and streamlining repair and upkeep of the planes. And when possible, they purchase fuel and other staple supplies in advance at cheaper rates so they can save money later on. A sustainable business model enables them to continue to provide radical hospitality and keep me as a happy member of the Southwest “family.”
What are you doing in your ministry that shows them genuinely that they are your valued guests? What can you do that would cost you nothing (or little) that would encourage them to come back again and again? What are you doing in your practices that make them feel like a dollar sign – a revenue stream? What are you doing to keep your business model sustainable?