Almost Nuts About Southwest Airlines?

Last Christmas I bought my husband tickets to the 2009 NBA All Star Weekend in Phoenix over Valentine’s Day weekend. Since we live nowhere near Phoenix that gift needed to include airfare & hotel. I got a good fare through SouthwestTM so I booked the flight. Unfortunately, our NBA tickets fell through and I ended up canceling the flight. In addition to their consistently low fares, bags fly free policy, multitude of nonstop flights to places I like to go on vacation like Orlando and Tampa, FL, Scottsdale, AZ, and Park City, UT, one of the things that I like about Southwest is their cancellation policy. If you need to cancel your flight then you can use the fare amount (possibly minus a service fee) toward another fare.

The good news is that I’m going to go on a trip before Valentine’s Day weekend this year, the not-so-good news is that Southwest’s policy is that you must use the credit before 1 year from the date of purchase (not the date of the trip). Essentially, not only am I’m losing 2 months for buying my tickets in advance of travel, but my credit expires on 12/24 (nothing like those Christmas Eve gifts!) – which is before mid-January when I want to fly.

So I called Southwest Customer Service to see what they could do. Although I didn’t get the result I wanted, I’m still almost ‘Nuts About Southwest’ (the name of Southwest’s blog).

  • The Customer Service agent was courteous and explained the policy even though it was written on my cancellation receipt and that there was no way they could extend the expiration date because of the way their ticketing system is set up.
  • He then proceeded to let me know what he could do after my credit expired, which was (for a $50 per person fee) extend the credit for another 6 months. I wasn’t excited about losing $100, but it was better than losing the entire fare amount.
  • The Southwest Customer Service agent also reminded me that the credit was transferable to anyone (so if you’re looking to travel between now and Christmas Eve send me an email and we can work something out!).

What marketing lessons have I learned from Southwest?

1)   Hire good customer service people who represent your company in a positive manner.

2)   Communicate your return/exchange policy in writing before, during and after the sale. Then have your Customer Service people reiterate the policy when someone calls with a question about it.

3)   Always have a “Plan B” so you don’t lose the customer completely. They might not be 100% satisfied, but they’ll respect you.

I’ve been following @SouthwestAir on Twitter for some time, but when I saw that several of my Facebook friends became fans of the Southwest Facebook Fan Page (perhaps because of the Fans Fly Free promotion), I became a Facebook Fan, too. One of these days maybe I’ll be completely ‘Nuts About Southwest’ but for now I’m a Fan who’s almost there.

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