Brand Culture: Insights from Southwest Airlines

Brand Culture: Insights from Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.
Southwest AIrlines Boeing 737.
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.

Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines has recorded its 41st consecutive year of profitability — in a business sector where profits are elusive. Southwest is the most consistently successful of all U.S. airlines.  So why is Southwest Airlines making money in an industry in which no one else does?

Profit, Employee Loyalty, and Customer Loyalty Are Linked

Southwest Airlines understands that profits and growth are linked to customer loyalty – and that customer loyalty and employee loyalty are inextricably linked in service businesses.  To deliver rewarding results for customers, rewards must be created for employees as well.  Thus, employee loyalty begins with employee satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction levels at Southwest Airlines are high and carefully cultivated by management.  From its founding in 1971, Southwest management has understood that the internal quality of a working environment contributes most to employee satisfaction.

Their philosophy is one that empowers its employees and provides the training necessary for employees to act in accordance with the company’s service standards.  Employees at Southwest are empowered to achieve results for customers without checking with a supervisor first – so long as they are comfortable with taking an initiative.   One of the reasons this policy is effective is that Southwest employees with more than one year of experience are owners of the company through its profit-sharing plan (link to southwest website).  Thus, employees are motivated to assess each action’s impact on profitability.  This leads to extraordinary acts of service on behalf of customers.

Company Culture Reinforces Brand Loyalty

Southwest has effectively created a culture that revolves around employee and customer satisfaction – a culture that is embodied by its brand.  Southwest’s strong brand is built on the promise of low prices, convenience, high quality customer service, and a no-frills-but-pleasant experience.  The airline offers frequent departures, on-time service, friendly employees, and very low fares.

Southwest’s vision has been consistent since the company’s founding in 1971:  help people get where they need to go — on time – and have fun doing it, your business is sure to thrive. More importantly, their company culture is set up to reinforce employee loyalty – which, in turn, leads to customer loyalty.  What processes has your company set up to encourage employee loyalty?

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