Stephen Hopson collects great business stories on his excellent blog Adversity University – many of which happen to be about Southwest Airlines.
I’m a huge fan of Southwest myself – not that I’ve ever flown with them, I’ve just read a lot about them, including the excellent book Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.
Here’s one of Stephen’s favorite stories that shows how employees at Southwest use their intuition:
…a flight attendant from Phoenix named Debra Undhjem stepped in to help an elderly (87 years old) passenger.
Although the elderly woman missed her plane in Oakland, she did make it to Phoenix only to miss her connecting flight to Tulsa. Since there were no more flights to Tulsa after the missed flight, the customer had no choice but to stay overnight and catch the next available flight the following morning.
In light of her situation, customer service supervisors decided to put her up in a local hotel at the airline’s expense. That’s when Debra got personally involved.
She decided to go beyond the call of duty and invite the elderly customer to her home for the night instead of putting her in a hotel room all by herself. Debra made necessary phone calls to relatives in Tulsa informing them the elderly lady would be arriving on the first flight the next day. The following morning Debra brought this customer back to the airport and waited with her until she was aboard the first flight to Tulsa.
This is not only a touching story – to me it illustrates how employees who work for a happy company are much more likely to have the will, the initiative and the energy to do nice things for other people.
Stephen also shares the story of how Southwest Airlines was invented by Rollin King, a San Antonio entrepreneur, John Parker (his banker) and Herb Kelleher (his attorney):
One day, Parker was complaining how expensive and inconvenient it was to fly between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and suggested that a new airline be started up. Rollin shared this concept with Herb who at first thought the idea was crazy but ended up talking about it over cocktails.
In the final analysis, Herb famous words were: “Rollin, you’re crazy. Let’s do it!”
“You’re crazy. Let’s do it!” – reminds me a little of Richard Branson’s motto: “Screw it! Let’s do it!”
Stephen’s own story is pretty fascinating too – he’s a former Wall Street stockbroker turned motivational speaker, author and piliot. And he’s also deaf. You can read his story here.
And for more on Southwest Airlines read their blog which is always a laugh and a half.