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The Sinatra of Southwest Feels the Love
May 26, 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/business/24nocera.html?s cp=1&sq=herb+kelleher&st=nyt

This great profile of Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines tugs at the heart of their success; caring about associates and knowing that  that caring will reflect favorably on customers.

The article pointed out  that Southwest pilots took out an ad congratulating Herb on his great career.

"When he brought up the pilots ad — and when he talked about how much the company’s employees meant to him — he wept. “I’m Lucky Herbie for having all of these years with all of you,” he said. More than a few people in the audience wept right along with him.

No surprise there, either. Over the years, whenever reporters would ask him the secret to Southwest’s success, Mr. Kelleher had a stock response. “You have to treat your employees like customers,” he told Fortune in 2001. “When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.” As he stepped away from the company this week, his line did not’t change.

“We’ve never had layoffs,” he told me the day before the annual meeting, sitting on the couch of the single messiest executive office I’ve ever seen. “We could have made more money if we furloughed people. But we don’t do that. And we honor them constantly. Our people know that if they are sick, we will take care of them. If there are occasions or grief or joy, we will be there with them. They know that we value them as people, not just cogs in a machine.”

Can that really be the reason Southwest is still making money while its competitors are bleeding red ink? Can it really be that simple?"

In How you do...What you do we refer to Southwest Airlines often as a great service benchmark company:

“If our employees don’t feel good about their work environment and don’t feel they have the tools to do their job, what kind of exchange are they going to have with our passengers?”

- Colleen Barrett, President, Southwest

This is reminiscent of our discussion regarding “Associates First, Customers Second.”  Since their founding over 40 years ago this was Herb Kelleher’s ideology for Southwest, to which he and Collin Barrett remain committed today.  If you have ever flown Southwest Airlines, you can’t help but notice that every one of their associates appears uncommonly happy and, even when you try to resist, it’s contagious.

Does one need further proof that internal service done well by all associates. leads to happy customers who are the recipients of that "reflected glow" of the great service they receive from one another?

Congratulations Herb on being a demonstration to the world of what a true Service Champion can achieve for his company, his associates, his customers and himself.  You should be proud.  You made simple what so many must  must find complicated because you have succeeded while almost everyone else in your  industry has failed.  Well done....

 


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