For some mysterious reason, I LOVED Southwest Airlines even I had never been on a Southwest flight. You see, I live in Calgary and Calgary-based WestJet Airlines models itself after Southwest. Anyway, Southwest used to mean nice people and services at an affordable fare to me until this morning.
After reading how Southwest had treated indie director Kevin Smith based on Kevin’s account of the facts and Southwest’s account of the facts (by Linda Rutherford – VP Communications & Strategic Outreach), I believe Southwest made some serious mistakes, continue to make mistakes and refuse to right itself.
I am blogging about this because I think there are some important lessons to be learned here. Feel free to share what you think in the comment section.
Here is an excerpt from CNet (emphasis added),
This may be the best example we’ve seen yet of how Twitter and other forms of new-media mass communication are shaping that old industry known as public relations. Nobody walks around with a Twitter follower count or blog URL painted on his or her forehead, and many extremely popular bloggers still live in relative physical anonymity, which means that the customer relations business is like a game of Minesweeper–you can never be sure what might blow up in your face. [kempton note: This is and should be good for customers because the companies better start treating EVERYONE with respect and good services.]
PR and customer service are two different divisions of a company. But this incident shows how, in the Digital Age, the two are increasingly overlapping. With Twitter, many companies are conducting customer relations in the public eye, and a company’s response to a high-profile disgruntled customer may require dispatching the PR team. Good communication between the two is obviously key.
From Kevin’s Twitter account, here are the first few tweets about this mess here, here, here, here (note: language), here (language re $100 voucher), here, here (on another flight), here, here (with twitpic), here, here (armrest up or down), here (the Southwest public shaming), here (the sad story of the big girl 1/2), here (big girl 2/2), here, here, SmodCast (***audio***, Southwest go f* yourself, a great listen), here (Kevin retweet Southwest apologize because Smith has a platform, part 1/2), here (part 2/2), here (the Southwest non-voicemail), here (the joke), here (Kevin reactions to Southwest’s non-apology 1/2), here (sorry, but you are fat 2/2), here (funny pix), here (Kevin’s reaction), other airlines, the offered $100 voucher (but not accepted).
Here are Kevin’s last two video clips
and this one.
A few of the many videos from Kevin about this mess,
More news from
SF Gate “Is Kevin Smith two people?” (funny), Mercury News, LA Times “Kevin Smith and the unbearable fatness of being”, LA Times “Kevin Smith’s Southwest Airlines incident sets Web all a-Twitter”, Huffington Post “Kevin Smith Challenges Southwest: Bring Airline Seat To Daily Show And I’ll Sit In It”, Businessweek: “Fat Nation: Kevin Smith is Not Alone in Airplane Space Wars”
For the record, because of this incident, I changed from someone who has never flown on Southwest but love it and would love to fly on it some day
someone who never want to fly on Southwest unless I have absolutely no comparable other alternatives.
P.S. This Southwest incident reminded me of Warren Buffett’s message to Salomon Brothers employees (I think it is Salomon),
“I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear on the front page of their local paper the next day, be read by their spouses, children, and friends … If they follow this test, they will not fear my other message to them: Lose money for my firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.“
Now the concerned Southwest employees have dragged the whole Southwest corporation’s reputations through the mud. And this news has now been reported not only in their “local paper” but repeated around the world. And this news has not only read by “their spouses, children, and friends” but internationally.
The best policy is to treat each and every single customer with full respect and do the right thing. Don’t lie because your lies to customers will be discovered and your apologies may only come after all the damages have been done.