Southwest proves my point with a splash of half-and-half

 Hire the right people, empower them to make customers happy. This is the story of one tiny kindness strengthening the Southwest brand, for one customer. Staff like Carol, here, help to explain why among all U.S. carriers, only Delta has a larger market capitalization than Southwest (and Delta’s fleet’s almost twice a big!)

Hire the right people, empower them to make customers happy. This is the story of one tiny kindness strengthening the Southwest brand, for one customer. Staff like Carol, here, help to explain why among all U.S. carriers, only Delta has a larger market capitalization than Southwest (and Delta’s fleet’s almost twice a big!)

Last month I found myself in a dilemma that’s common (for me). I was on a Southwest flight; it was the beginning of a long day, so when the flight attendant came by taking drink requests, coffee was in order.

Now, I have to admit that airline coffee’s gotten better, overall, over the last few years. But creamers haven’t. So when Carol asked me if I wanted ‘cream’ I plaintively asked, “Do you have milk?”

“No,” she replied, “we have those little creamers.”

Call me a snob, but my problem with those things is, I don’t care for dairy substitutes with a dozen or more ingredients including mold inhibitors and partially hydrogenated oils.

When the flight attendant saw the look on my face, she leaned in conspiratorially and said, “I have some of my own half-and-half in the galley. I’ll bring you some of that.”

And a few minutes later when she returned with my coffee, she also had a cup with an inch of creamer that had once actually been inside a cow.

I was reminded once again that front line staff are always in a position to create an incredible brand experience, if they’re given the freedom to creatively respond to customer desires.

 From ‘Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s’

From ‘Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s’

The fact that Southwest didn’t have a little carton of milk or half-and-half in the service cart – that they instead carry something better called ‘whitener’ than ‘cream’ was, admittedly, a small problem for me. But it wasn’t something I took personally.

The thing is, when Carol brought me a bit of half-and-half from her personal stash, that was personal. It was a moment when a front-line customer-service staffer made a personal connection, and showed she cared.

I will probably never get on a Southwest flight again without thinking, at least for a moment, about the time a flight attendant improved day just that little bit, by doing something just for me.

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