Southwest Airlines Stepping Up Customer Service

In an economy with nearly 20 percent unemployment, one would think that people would choose to cut back on expenditures such as travel. The truth of the matter is that people are still flying because they are becoming better-informed consumers.

Travelers are choosing to stray from their usual travel schedules and use many of Southwest Airlines flight specials. Southwest Airlines has been on the cutting edge of consumer service and affordable nationwide transportation. Books have been written about what has now been coined as the “Southwest Effect” and their fuel price hedging strategies have allowed them to remain competitive through recent anomalies (Iraq War, Katrina, etc.), but many have not heard or experienced how they leverage technology.

One of the many features that Southwest uses to exude friendly customer service is a technology called virtual queuing. I recently experienced this technology when attempting to book a flight during the Christmas Travel Season. I knew that they would be receiving tons of calls, so I was prepared for the worst. To my surprise it was actually pleasant. This virtual queuing is a technology that they recently implemented as an enhancement for customers who are affected when they experience higher call volume than normal. During those heavy volume periods, they enable “virtual queuing,” which gives the Customer the approximate hold time, and then allows him/her to enter a phone number and receive a return call from one of our Customer Representatives. The Customer keeps the same place in the “holding pattern” without having to remain on the line. Changes like this are invaluable to customers and help to develop patronage.

Another technology that Southwest uses to keep customers informed is a web-based program called Ding Fares. Everyone has heard the commercials, “Ding! You are now free to move about the country.” A comedic play on words off of what the pilot says when the plane reaches cruising altitude. Ding Fares allows the consumer to choose their home airport or airports to find exceptional travel deals. Customers no long have to sift through tons of different flights. They just open up this program and everything is organized for them.

Gary Kelly CEO, President and Chairman of Southwest Airlines and the nearly 35,000 employees know that leveraging technologies such as these are the key to future success.

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