BIZTIPS - August 28, 2005

Biz Tips: Remember that Customers are People Too
Sunday, August 28, 2005
By Art Hill

In business (like life) little things can make a big difference. When I did a lot of business flying, I remember being impressed by getting a simple birthday card…from Southwest Airlines.

A friend just got a similar card – this time a humorous greeting on the fifth anniversary of her joining Southwest’s frequent flyer club. Another friend told me that the teen who house sits for them not only checked off each of the tasks on the list they left for him – he signed it and wrote “any time you need me” with two phone numbers to contact him.

These are small things, but they constitute brilliant and memorable customer service. Earlier this year, Southwest once again announced that it is operating at a profit – for the 32nd consecutive year! Contrast that with the half dozen or so other major carriers in bankruptcy during the same period. They all had the same opportunities. But they didn’t have the same view of their customers as people. People respond to attention, in even the smallest details.

Southwest has just launched a second on-line reservations system…in Spanish. Read more about it by their president, Colleen Barrett at http://www.southwest.com/about_swa/. Once again, the company has achieved a customer service breakthrough. Why? Because they realize that their customers are people too, and people take their business where they are welcome.

Bob Sherk, a marketing expert with the Mount Hood Community College Small Business Development Center, offers a handout at his seminars “101 Free Promotional Ideas.” While birthday and “anniversary” cards are not quite free, their customer loyalty value is huge.

Look for other ways to make your customers feel special. Show them you value more than their money. Many times it comes down to remembering that they are people too, and doing small things that show you care. Southwest has for 32 years, and look what it’s done for them.

Note: For more on winning practices at Southwest, read “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success.” First published in 1996, it remains a classic guide to good customer service and sound management based on strong values.


Content © 2005 East Oregonian