With a controversial move, Southwest Airlines tries to get better customer service


Southwest Airlines

Has an airline made you happy lately?

Or has it driven you to the level of despair you last experienced when you last flew with an airline?

Too often it seems that airlines promise to deliver a higher level of service and only end up delivering higher levels of anxiety and sadness.

Oddly enough, a major airline has taken a big step toward — perhaps — relaxing your furrowed brow. A smidgen, at least.

You see, Southwest Airlinesthat prides itself on smiling and joking — a little hard when you cancel tens of thousands of flights — just moved in the direction of even happier customer service.

Maybe you thought Southwest couldn’t be happier. The staff are always so happy except when they eventually lose their temper with a recalcitrant jerk from a passenger. (And who can blame them?)

Still, the airline just announced that the customer service voice you hear on the other end of the line — if you can finally get through it — may be even more inclined to help.

No, the airline didn’t use those words. But, in a fit of holy humanity, Southwest has announced it will close its customer service call centers† Yes, everyone. Each. Many were already working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now Southwest is fully committed to home-cooked service.

Your customer service representative is no longer sitting next to another customer service representative who wishes he had no one next to him.

Instead, they huddle next to their dog, their cat, or a strange green statue they bought on vacation in South Carolina.

Why would Southwest do such a thing? Is it to improve the level of customer service? It could be. Is it to make customer service representatives happier? It could be. Or it could be that the airline is finding it so difficult to hire someone right now that even the smallest extra benefit can tip the scales.

After all, we are talking about the airline that suffers from 20% of its new hires not showing up on their first day of work

Here is Southwest statement alluding to such dire realities, “Evolving to a fully remote workforce allows for greater flexibility both in attracting and hiring new employees from across the country and scheduling current employees who have worked with record efficiency in a remote work environment.”

I fear those with an overly rational countenance will suggest that this is a bad move. Now how can these people be managed effectively? In addition, some studies suggest that working from home can weaken your productivity

As may be the case with research, other research insists this is bunkum† What hasn’t stopped some companies — hello, Apple — from insisting that their employees return or be ejected from the spaceship.

In addition, most of Southwest’s biggest rivals, such as United, Delta, and American, are still driving customer service personnel in dire straits.

But is there a reason, or has there ever been a reason why those trying to please – or at least calm them down – customers should sit in call centers with a cacophony surrounding them? Has it always been just an attempt at management control? If I can see you, I know you’re there, so you must be at work.

Essentially, what customers care about is whether the customer service representative actually comes on the phone and if they can resolve their issue, preferably with a dash of empathy.

At least now there’s a chance that Southwest’s customers will see a slight improvement in the mood of their customer service reps.

You can sometimes tell what mood they are in, can’t you? A little bow here, a sigh there, a monotone that says, “I don’t want to be here.”

Now you might even hear a happy bark or meow in the background. It would be on-brand for Southwest, wouldn’t it?

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