Talking engagement with Southwest Airlines

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If you’re looking for another post on the Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines fiasco I am afraid you will be disappointed. Kevin has blown it out of proportion, Southwest responded, move on.

Christi Day, of Southwest Airlines, took some time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts on how her company engages it’s customers. I hope you find this as useful and interesting as I have.

Q. How does social media fit in at the highest levels of your business?
A. Social Media for us has become incorporated into every announcement, initiative, and crisis. These channels allow us to keep a pulse on our Customers to see how we can shape our business to better accommodate their needs.



Q. Does it feed into specific corporate goals?
A. Southwest Airlines thrives on being an innovative and maverick business. We are challenged everyday to provide the best customer service with the highest degree of company pride. That strategy is easily communicated in our online channels.

Q. How do social network initiatives fit?ow does it fit
A. For us, it’s primarily about communication. Customers want information and they want it quickly. Gone are the days where a 30-day turnaround for a written letter. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and our blog – www.blogsouthwest.com are great resources to provide speedy answers and information to our Customers.

Q. What processes did you put in place to enable going social?
A. Our leaders trust us 100% to be the communicators for Southwest Airlines. We don’t have a ton of processes or red tape in place every time we want to send a tweet out. Instead we have processes for overall company messaging. If we have a particular event, we go through the process of determining the channels we’d like to use, ask the appropriate parties to weigh in and help craft messages, then we report back any successes or learnings. The approach we have at Southwest is very collaborative and convergent.

Q. What social communication policies have you put in place?
A. Our guidelines for our employees are here:

  • If an Employee posts a comment related to Southwest Airlines in a public forum – we ask for a disclaimer stating opinions are own, and not that of Southwest Airlines Officers, Directors, or Employees.
  • Understanding that they are—and will be held—accountable for their comments/videos/posts. In the event that an Employee’s comment/videos/posts violate Southwest policies or are inconsistent with our Leadership Expectations, the Employee will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.
  • Employees must also be aware that every Customer is a reporter/photographer, and their actions can be recorded, written about, or videotaped and quickly distributed all over the Internet.


Q. How many people do you have monitoring the social channels today?
A. We encourage all employees to monitor online channels and alert us if they see anything alarming. We have a Social Media Council at Southwest. These folks are responsible for various online communication channels. The Council is comprised of passionate Social Media gurus plucked from different departments throughout the company. The Council is responsible for pushing the Social Media strategy forward for Southwest. We meet monthly to share best practices, brainstorm, benchmark etc. We also have established spokespeople for each channel.

Q. What tools are being used today? How did you go about tool selection?
A. We use tools like CoTweet, Tweetdeck, Radian 6, Vocus, to monitor and measure online content. We are always on the hunt for new tools that we could add to our belt.

1 COMMENT

  1. From what I’ve seen, the people who think KS has blown things out of proportion…happen to also be PR people. The *real* people that count—and that would be customers—think quite differently. I fail to understand how anything SW did—including lying, revealing private travel information, and character assassination—is good for their bottom line.

    The apology they offered was akin to them saying “We apologize for the pain you experienced, but we won’t apologize for punching you in the face.” After looking at SW’s and KS’s accounts, Smith came out to be the honest broker while SW was shown to be the typical corporate shills. (And they still haven’t addressed Natali’s story, which can be heard on http://www.smodcast.com.)

    As it is, for me and our house, we shan’t fly SouthWest again. I’m over 200 pounds, and I don’t want to have the possibility of being humiliated in front of an entire plane full of gawking passengers. I hope they lose a large segment of business from the awful way they’ve handled the situation.

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