We’re already halfway through the year and one encouraging trend in the region is the number of companies who are taking steps to improve customer experience. I wouldn’t say they are in the hundred, but very definitely in the tens. The numbers aren’t important, what matters is the emergence of a new intent.
If we all hired the right people to deliver our brand promises; life would become a lot easier. Yes, they would need to be equipped and empowered, but that is the easy part. Finding people with the right attitude is the challenge. This is not about adding HR processes, but about making them on-brand; from attracting talent, interviewing, inducting, developing, and rewarding. Talent management in our region is typically off-brand in the sense that it’s entirely generic.
Southwest Airlines, the leading US low cost carrier is cited as a glorious example of getting the people dimension right. Southwest decided on a very clear winning ambition*: to be the highest-profit airline in America by delivering the highest employee and customer satisfaction. (* A winning ambition is like a Mission Statement, only more interesting).
They put employees first, because they know that human engagement is the primary differentiator in a service business. Their brand promise is simple – it’s cheap and cheerful. They deliver cheer across the entire consumer journey, one they call the Southwest Experience. Flight attendants make their own announcements. Some of tell poems, and some sing the announcements. It puts a smile on the passengers faces, plus they listen.
The Southwest Experience is based on three very distinct cultural values. One is called the Warrior Spirit, another is A Servant’s Heart. And the third is Fun-Loving Attitude.
They start by getting the right people. Southwest recruitment ads are humorous. One showed a drawing of a dinosaur; crazily coloured over by a kid. And a teacher’s note: “Brian, please try to colour inside the lines.” The body copy reads, ‘Brian showed an early aptitude for working at Southwest Airlines’.
Job interviews start when applicants enter the building. The receptionist will rate them on friendliness. They’re observed in the waiting room: are they chatting with other people or are their earplugs in? During these interviews, Southwest uses a seven-point checklist, rating applicants on personality dimensions that are very hard to fake.
Southwest’s earnings in 2016 were a record $2.37 billion. Total operating revenues topped $20 billion. It’s also the 23rd consecutive year they’ve been named in Fortune’s list of World’s Most Admired Companies.
They even have Culture Committee working to keep pace with the growth of the business.
Go and look at http://investors.southwest.com/financials/company-reports to see how people can drive results.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside