Posts Tagged With: Southwest Airlines

Are the people of America treated as business partners?

(This is the seventh installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)

I’ve laid out the first secret that would help our leaders bring America back to a healthy state:  Create a compelling vision by knowing who we are (our purpose), where we’re going (our picture of the future), and what will guide our journey (our values). If our leaders had a clear, agreed-upon vision, it would help them set national goals they could focus on. But they shouldn’t try to figure everything out by themselves. That leads me to the second secret.

The Second Secret: Treat Citizens as Your Business Partners

Assumption: The more that people are “in the know,” the greater their commitment to work together to help solve problems.

In my work in the business world, one of the things that has bothered me the most is watching leaders of companies in financial trouble go behind closed doors and make all the decisions by themselves in an attempt to turn the situation around.  It’s amazing to talk to people in those organizations who didn’t even know there was a problem until major layoffs were announced. Those people certainly didn’t feel like business partners—they felt like victims.

A lot of people don’t know that Southwest Airlines is over eighty percent unionized. When employees were first asked to vote on being union members, they came to cofounder Herb Kelleher to tell him what was going on. He said, “I love unions as long as they will let you sit on the same side of the table as me. If they want us to sit on opposite sides of the table, vote them down.” Union leaders have been present at every leadership meeting I have attended at Southwest Airlines. That’s quite a different story from other airlines that fight with their unions or even declare bankruptcy to break union contracts. At Southwest, they are one big family of business partners.

That’s why I think many Americans don’t trust politicians—because they don’t treat the American people as business partners. They don’t share information with us. We know we’re going through a difficult time but we don’t really know the facts. Politicians are sitting around Washington trying to figure out solutions to our problems and they haven’t asked us to help.

My wife Margie and I were recently in Australia visiting a business colleague, Lindsay Fox, who founded Linfox Transport. When we first met Lindsay in 1977, his company was doing about $10 or $15 million in annual business. Today, Linfox does over $1 billion annually just in logistics—not only in Australia but also in countries all over Asia. He’s one of the most respected businessmen in Australia. Several years ago when Australia was having a big problem with unemployment, Australia’s then-prime minister asked Lindsay and the head of the trade union association to take to the road. They visited major cities and towns in Australia to share the facts about the unemployment problem and to try to convince business owners to provide work for unemployed people.  This approach helped generate over 60,000 new jobs. Why? Because they went to the people, shared the information, and asked for help. Lindsay was quoted as saying, “It’s incredible what you can do when you believe you can work through it. This is why it’s tremendously important to work with the government, with friends, and help people.”

Our leaders need to do the same thing. Be honest with us. Tell the American people what the issues are and then go to communities around the country, let us know how we can help, and listen to our suggestions. I guarantee you that the citizens of this country have lots of good ideas and are willing to work with our leaders to find solutions for America’s problems.

Jack Bowsher, former Director of Education for IBM, agrees with my contention that Washington should treat our citizens as business partners. He argues, “To protect our way of life and our standard of living, we Americans must become more involved in seeking the truth about the key issues that are being debated and voted on at all three levels of our government.”

If our leaders in Washington would start seeing American citizens as true business partners, it’s amazing to think of what we could accomplish together. Would you agree?

When it comes to getting America back on track, I believe involving every segment of society is essential. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Categories: Government, Leadership, Teamwork, Values, Vision, Vision for America | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do America’s Leaders Have Any Agreed-Upon Values?

 (This is the fifth installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)

Our leaders in Washington first need a compelling vision if they are going to move this country in a positive direction.  In recent posts I’ve covered two elements of a compelling vision: A significant purpose—what business we are in as a country; and a picture of the future—where we are headed.

The last component of a compelling vision is having a clear set of operating values. What will guide our behavior as we move forward?  This is critical.

I’m amazed that of all the organizations I’ve worked with or visited around the world, fewer than ten percent have had a clear set of operating values. Without values, it is a free-for-all. Even those organizations that have a set of values often have too many values. It’s hard to remember eight, ten, or twelve values—much less have them guide your behavior. They may be framed beautifully and look nice on the wall, but they have little meaning to anyone. So what you want is a few values—three or four—that people can focus on and live by. Continue reading

Categories: Government, Uncategorized, Values, Vision, Vision for America | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

What is America’s picture of the future?

(This is the fourth installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)

Last time, as part of my thoughts on what we can do to make a positive difference in Washington, I gave you the first component of a compelling vision: having a significant purpose. The second aspect of a compelling vision is a picture of the future. What do you want to be true in the future that is not true today? If you do a great job at what you’re doing, what will happen?  Focus on the end result, not the process of getting there. And your picture of the end result should not be abstract—it should be a mental image you actually can visualize.

Continue reading

Categories: Government, Vision, Vision for America | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Do we know what business we are in as a country?

(The third installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)

In my last installment, I introduced the idea that successful organizations are led by someone with a compelling vision.  A compelling vision comprises knowing who you are (your significant purpose), where you’re going (your picture of the future), and what will guide your journey (your values). Let’s take this concept, one segment at a time, and apply it to Washington. Continue reading

Categories: Government, Vision, Vision for America | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Customer is King

As part of a new series, I’m introducing today’s leadership concept via a segment extracted from my latest book, Lead with LUV, coauthored by former Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett.

 

The Customer is King

I’ve said for many years that profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people. No organization has lived and breathed that lesson better than Southwest Airlines.  Read on for a great example of how Southwest creates Raving Fan customers by taking care of them like nobody else does.

Ken: These days, nobody has to convince anybody that the customer reigns. People are realizing that their organizations will go nowhere without the loyalty and commitment of their customers. Companies are motivated to change when they discover the new rule: Today, if you don’t take great care of your customers, somebody else will.

Colleen: That’s for sure! So great customer service has to be top of mind for all of your people. We emphasize that all the time. I love the way you and Sheldon Bowles challenged us all to create Raving Fans®, not simply satisfied customers.

Ken: We think enthusiastic Raving Fan customers make your business into a great business. Today you can’t be content to simply satisfy customers. Raving Fan customers are customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they want to brag about you—they become part of your sales force. Let me give you a simple yet powerful example of this, from an experience I had personally with Southwest Airlines.

What usually happens when you call most airlines to either make or change a reservation?  You get a recording that says, “All of our agents are busy right now, but your business is very important to us, so please stay on the line and we will be with you as soon as possible.” Then the music starts. You could be on hold for who knows how long, sitting and waiting to talk to a human being.

Recently, I called Southwest to change a reservation. Normally at Southwest, a human being picks up the phone. This time, a recording said, “I’m sorry, our Customer Service Agents are all busy right now; but at the beep, please leave your name and telephone number and we will call you back within ten minutes.” So that’s what I did. What do you think happened a few minutes later? My cell phone rang, and this pleasant voice said, “Is this Ken Blanchard?”

I said, “Yes.”

“Ken, this is Bob from Southwest Airlines. How may I help you?”

Colleen, I’ve never had that experience with any other airline. How did you make that happen?

Colleen: That’s a feature that’s available to all airlines. It’s called virtual queuing. It helps us handle our heaviest calling times without lowering our Customer Service standard.

Ken: Why would Southwest use such a feature, and no other airline seems to be doing it?

Colleen: I don’t know. But we’re always looking for service capabilities that far exceed those of the competition, and that even exceed customer expectations. Being called back by an airline? It was beyond most customers’ belief. Yet we routinely try to do the unexpected, and can then enjoy the growth and good reputation generated by customers like you, Ken, who have spontaneously joined our sales force by bragging about us.

 

If you think it’s too much trouble to go the extra mile for your customers, think again. It’s just common sense: Treat your customers unexpectedly well and they’ll be so delighted they will come back again and again, tell their friends, and your organization will reap the benefits.  Do you have any great customer service stories that have become legendary around your organization? If not, you might want to stop and think about it.

Categories: Customer Service, Passion, Relationships | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com. Customized Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,831 other followers

%d bloggers like this: