5 Business Lessons I Learned From Flying Southwest

At the time of this writing, I’m sitting 10,000 feet in the sky heading home from a week long trip to California. I hadn’t planned to write an article on the plane but I’ve been so impressed with Southwest airlines I couldn’t resist.

If you live in the United States, chances are you’ve heard of, if not have flown Southwest airlines. They are known throughout the US as a reliable and fairly cheap airline provider, a perfect fit for a college student like myself. Rest assured even if you’ve yet to hear of them, or live outside the US, you’ll still be able to take away a few key points from this post.

Having flown hundreds of times on dozens of airlines, I’ve come to understand which airline companies “get it” and which don’t, and unfortunately in the US it’s frequently  the latter. Today I will be sharing  what makes Southwest airlines the best US airline in my opinion and what you can learn from them to make your own business flourish.

Cultivate Happiness:

One of the reasons I try to fly Southwest as much as possible, is because I find the people working there to be amazingly happy. I can tell that most employees  don’t just work at Southwest, they  actually WANT to work there. For an airline this is fairly rare. I can’t tell you how many times I see employees of other airlines not give a damn whether or not their customers are happy. With Southwest I always feel like my satisfaction is their number one priority.

Zappos, the popular shoe company, has been getting a lot of press lately because they do a great job with their customer service department and it obviously  boosts their sales.  How does Southwest cultivate happiness?  Right now the entire plane is being lead by the stewardess in a dance to celebrate the 4th of July.

Whether you work for yourself or with others it’s important to just do work but actually love the work. Make happiness a priority. At Southwest they know how to cultivate happiness and they have a very happy customer as a result.

Know Your Customer:

One of the things I like about how Southwest runs is that they know their customer. They know that many people are just looking to get from point A to point B at a relatively low price point. If you’re looking to be coddled throughout your entire flight with fancy feet rests and outrageously expensive 5 course meals Southwest is not your airline.

Southwest could easily attempt to cater to the higher end customers of the flying world but in the process they would alienate those who enjoy their cheap fairs and simple flight routes.

There’s an old saying I’ve sure you’ve heard that says if you try to please everyone you’ll please no one. Great advice but do you listen?

If you blog for example, it’s important that you know your audience and don’t waste  time trying to please those who have no business buying your product or service. Reminding yourself that you control who you sell to is very important. It’s OK to push your limits every now and again to explore who will buy what, but remember to stick to your fan base because that is where the action is at.

It’s OK to let people walk. It’s OK if what you offer doesn’t suite everyone because quite frankly it shouldn’t. Focus on  your following and watch the results roll in. Know your customer like you know yourself, it works.

Cut Back The Non Essentials:

As I just mentioned, because Southwest knows their customers they are able to cut back on the “norms” of  other airlines. For example Southwest doesn’t serve expensive microwaved meals. Instead they say ” you can do without.” Sure not having a meal on a 4 hour flight may be inconvenient at times,  but that problem can be easily solved by bringing your own food onto the plane while keeping cash in your pocket.

Southwest also doesn’t do business class, which allows for them to keep their rates low while pleasing those who would never even consider flying first class. If you’re  looking for a full body massage and pull out bed, Southwest makes it clear you better look elsewhere.

Because they don’t have to charge you for food  or over the top comfort they are able to keep their rates low and please their specific customer: Those who want to fly for cheap.

Are you all fluff? Could you simplify to get the point across easier? Often times we load our businesses up with unnecessary components that only slow our mission down. Try cutting back to only what’s necessary and see where that takes you.

Be Unique:

I’ve already covered most of the ways Southwest is “unique” in my previous points, no meals on board, no  first class etc. Yet I cannot stress how important it is to rise above your competition. For example, Southwest has a policy of not being on other travels sites, allowing you to only buy tickets  on Southwest.com.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m very impressed with that idea because it says ” this is where I’m at, come and get me.” When flying Southwest you don’t have to search the entire internet for hours to find the best deal because you know exactly where it’s at.

How is your service or product unique? Are you going above and beyond the competition or are you producing average quality work? Look for small ways in which you can improve your business. Little steps add up.

Keep It Simple Stupid:

The main reason I enjoy flying Southwest is because you know exactly what you’re going to get with them. There’s no random baggage fees or constantly changing rules. Occasionally  they have to make changes to stay up with the industry, but generally speaking they are fairly predictable when it comes to their service which I’ve come to enjoy.

I see far too many businesses changing their game plan when it’s really not needed. Keeping your overhead and business model simple allows for you to dominate your competition without pissing a bunch of people off.

Don’t try to overcomplicate things when the easier way works best. Don’t fill your business with shit that doesn’t add to the core. Simplicity always wins.

What companies do you have a tremendous respect for? What actions are you taking to ensure that your tribe shares that same respect? Please share in the comments below.

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