Southwest Employees Know How to Add Fun to the Customer Flight Experience—for FREE!

by Colin Shaw on July 25, 2014

Southwest Airlines knows how to make a boring speech fun. Best of all it doesn’t cost a dime. Recently featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, a YouTube video of one of the flight attendant’s safety speeches is an excellent example of how to add fun into your experience, even when it’s as tedious as a safety instruction speech on a flight.

During the segment called the RidicuList, Cooper showed the video titled, “Flight Attendant Brings Sass to the Sky”:

This demonstrates so many great principles about customer experience. There are a few points about this type of customer experience touch point that I would like to emphasize:

  • Not all customer experience improvements cost a lot of money. As a consultant, I hear this objection to our suggestions a lot. Companies often fall into the trap of saying that improving the Customer Experience costs money. This example shows it doesn’t have to.
  • A necessary routine activity doesn’t have to be dull. I wrote a whole post about how some companies make excuses for their bad experience because the “what” of their experience is bad. But it is important to separate the “what” of the experience from the “how.” This is not about the “what’”, which is giving a safety demo. This is about the “how”, which is to do it in an engaging way.
  • Hire both a high IQ and high EQ for your customer-facing employees. The right people in the right positions can go a long way to improving your customer experience. Emotional intelligence is the ability to control one’s emotions and the emotions of those around them, a key quality for your customer-facing employees. This is about making sure you employ the right people.
  • Humor goes a long way to improve a mundane situation. I believe that humor is underused in business. Of course, you need to have good judgment about its use and content. Plus you should never, ever use it to insult someone else. But a good laugh makes the whole day better for everyone and connects you with your customers at an emotional level.
  • Happy employees make happy customers. One of the reasons these clever and original announcements happened in the first place is because the culture at Southwest values its team members. As a result, employees are engaged and ready to deliver on the brand promise that Southwest has built in their branding and reputation

Not all Customers will like this. But that is fine; they don’t need to fly with Southwest. It’s been a LONG time since I actually listened to any announcements on a flight but I seem to remember that we all have “ a lot of choices for our air travel” so they can choose another carrier besides Southwest.

This isn’t the first video of this type. Southwest is known for doing safety demonstrations differently. Consider this version by Southwest employee David Holmes that went viral a couple of years ago:

As he says in his intro to the passengers, the speech about safety instructions is boring. He claims he did five times already that day. While I suspect that he says that throughout the day, he brings up a good point. We all know what he is going to say. So instead of doing it again with the same old delivery like always, he performed it as a rap…and a viral video was born, even featured on CNN and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. As he says at the end of his performance: “You aren’t going to get that on United Airlines.”

I’ll say! You know where else you wouldn’t experience this kind of creativity?  On any flight with budget airline, Ryanair. Why? They don’t have the employee culture that encourages this kind of innovation. But they don’t have a lot of things that Southwest does, like a good customer experience.

Southwest is fun. They have a fun culture that encourages this kind of innovation to create memorable emotional experiences for their passengers. They are a budget airline, which is the reason that these presentations are spoken instead of shown on the on-board video system, because of course, Southwest doesn’t have a video system. But despite the need to keep costs low, they aren’t cutting corners on the experience—at least as far as the safety video goes.

Who else has a great culture for innovation and creativity like Southwest? I’d love to hear stories of your experience in the comments below.

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Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world.  He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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Colin ShawSouthwest Employees Know How to Add Fun to the Customer Flight Experience—for FREE!