Culture at Southwest Airlines on the Eve of Merger with AirTran
In looking at Southwest’s values and norms, it’s helpful to examine how the company’s culture is described by all stakeholders (internal – employees, management; external – investors, customers). Five key values emerge that guide the company at all levels. 1. Zealous passion for customer satisfaction
Southwest’s relentless commitment goes beyond the lip service most companies uphold. From line level to the C-suite, everyone works hard to ensure customers feel they are the center of attention. Flight crew routinely exceeds passengers’ expectations to the point it has become routine. Attendants feel encouraged to be creative. They feel their duties entail not just standard tasks, but going further to ensure customers are entertained or engaged in other ways that would ‘infect them’ with Southwest’s positive energy. Senior management does its part by, for example, doing everything to keep prices as low as possible low and using fees for special services only as a last resort. Despite Southwest’s conservative approach to change, its commitment to doing everything possible for customers still comes through. Management does not dismiss opportunities for improvement without due analysis. Upgrading planes and expanding internationally is challenging, but Southwest is looking into that. To attract business customers, it reworked the boarding process. 2. Conservatism with fiscal and technical resources
Related to Southwest’s passion for low prices, is its frugality with resources and approach to technical change. The company treats its own funds as it expects its customers to do: prudently and as efficiently as possible. Thus, I would disagree with one of the quoted analysts who mentions that Southwest is stuck in their ways. Rather – as when evaluating new aircraft - Southwest appears to consciously not want to be at the bleeding edge of change. Instead, it values a measured approach moving...
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