Want Happy Customers? Learn from the Southwest Airlines® Employee-First Mindset.

Learn how one airline fueled customer satisfaction by giving its employee experience a tech-driven upgrade.

Fifty years ago, commercial air travel in the U.S. was a luxury reserved for the upper class. In fact, a single ticket for a flight from Boston to Los Angeles would have cost around $4,500 in today’s money – disposable income middle-class Americans simply didn’t have.

Then in 1971, an emerging carrier called Southwest Airlines disrupted the airline industry by giving the middle class wings.

Starting with only four planes serving three cities in Texas, Southwest® embarked on a mission to break the class barrier to air travel. But achieving this goal required more than offering affordable plane tickets. It meant adopting what the company called a “Servant’s Heart” for service, as symbolized in its “Southwest Heart” logo.

That collective attitude is made possible by first creating a compassionate atmosphere for employees.

“It’s incredibly important that we put our people first and show them the same caring attitude that we expect them to have with our Customers,” said James Ashworth, Southwest Airlines VP of Customer Support and Services.

At Southwest, care is more than an attitude. It’s an action that permeates every department, team, and job function within the company. A prime example is the company’s commitment to accessibility.

“We want to be the most loved airline in the world,” said Ashworth. “And the world includes people with disabilities.”

For Ashworth, who is visually impaired, putting employees first means ensuring that people of all abilities have the tools they need to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Let’s take a closer look at five ways Ashworth and the team at Southwest used Einstein 1, one integrated CRM platform, to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty – beginning with improving its employee experience with best-in-class applications to unite every team.


“In an industry like ours, efficiency and hospitality separate the elite companies from the good companies, and our Customers deserve an elite experience.”

James Ashworth

Vice President of Customer Support & Services

1. Save $2.8 million with a simplified, employee-centric HR experience.

Employee experience has always been top of mind for Southwest. When it came to digital transformation, the company focused on the department most integral to its employee experience: human resources.

Using Service Cloud and the Salesforce Platform, the company redesigned its online HR services to provide employees with faster answers and greater visibility into personal and company information.

Instead of waiting days for answers over email, employees can find the answers themselves on the website or submit a case request through a custom app. The company also rolled out a new employee service center portal that allows employees to submit requests, view pay and benefits information, and access live help.

For example, an employee can log into the portal, request a leave of absence through the live chat feature, and receive approval from HR the same day. At the other end of the portal, service agents see a full picture of that employee’s data and use it to serve them better. With each employee’s personal data and service history in one place, agents can process more approvals and answer more employee questions in less time.

And the timing of the employee service center’s rollout could not have been better. The portal went live in March 2020, when thousands of employees were transitioning to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With newly optimized self-service and case resolution capabilities, the company’s HR division was prepared for the influx of employees’ pandemic-related questions.


2. Serve more customers in less time by consolidating 15 systems into one.

To keep customers happy, Southwest needed to equip its service agents with the data and productivity tools required to deliver efficient, personalized service experiences. With Service Cloud, the company consolidated 15 disparate systems into one, providing agents with a single view of each customer while simplifying service functions.

With the customers’ data accessible in one place, agents can quickly provide the answers regarding payments, rewards points, flight information, and more. And they can serve customers in their channels of choice, including phone, web, and mobile.

For example, Service Cloud’s in-app chat tool allows customers to contact live agents, even while in flight. Agents using this feature can quickly pull up customer data for fast case resolution, and they can even handle multiple cases at once.

Access to contextual data across multiple service channels has also helped agents better manage their workloads. Since Southwest implemented the in-app chat feature, 30% of all customer service calls have been redirected to chat. As a result, service agents can handle a greater volume of customers in a given workday.

systems consolidated into one
customer service calls redirected to chat

And with AI-powered chatbots, customers can find answers to common questions through self-service resources, resulting in fewer cases opened.

“Sharing Customer data across all Customer-facing Employees and channels helps increase the speed of decision-making, and improves our ability to provide a much more Customer-centric experience,” said Ashworth.

To continue delivering on its value of unparalleled hospitality, Southwest uses the features available with Salesforce’s Signature Success Plan, which includes proactive monitoring services. With the Signature Success Plan, the Salesforce Proactive Monitoring Team continuously monitors performance, errors, and platform limits across all Salesforce solutions. And with proactive monitoring services in place, Southwest is quickly notified of potential platform degradation issues that could disrupt the customer experience.

“Salesforce is vital to Southwest’s operations, and the Signature Success Plan ensures we can deliver a seamless experience to our customers, partners, and employees,” said Julanne Groezinger, Manager, Salesforce Center of Excellence.


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3. Foster an inclusive company culture through built-in accessibility.

With the input of employees like Ashworth, Southwest has standardized accessible tools and systems across all departments using Service Cloud.

“Employees are the ones delivering those Customer experiences every single day,” said Ashworth. “It’s imperative to ensure we are equipping them with autonomy so when they recognize an opportunity to surprise and delight a Customer, they have the tools and means to do so.”

Service Cloud’s in-app chat includes accessibility aids that allow differently abled individuals to perform everyday tasks with ease. For instance, visually impaired service agents can use built-in accessibility options, such as text magnification or voiceover, to communicate with customers. At the same time, customers who are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing can reach out to agents using the same accommodations.

“Our Leaders continue to show their love for us by making our environment easy to work in,” said Eric Aiken, Customer Service and Support Representative. “Because of that, we’re able to offer great Customer Service to our Passengers and make them feel loved as well.”

Additionally, Southwest only partners with vendors whose technologies accommodate users of all abilities.


4. Give central teams nationwide visibility into technical operations and corporate culture.

As Southwest’s national presence grew, so did the challenge of keeping teams connected across the country. The airline needed a solution that would not only give central teams a full picture of local operations, but keep every employee engaged in the company culture.

With the Salesforce Platform, the Tech Ops team can use low-code applications to track workflows and route cases to any IT team across the country. Technicians can now track parts requests from maintenance hangars and route them to the proper departments – all from a custom app. This way, local IT teams can fulfill engineering and ground operations requests in a timely manner while still following corporate protocols.

Additionally, IT and Development teams can take advantage of easier, more efficient internal collaboration with Slack. For example, team members involved in launching technology, like a new parts tracking application, can create specific Slack channels for deployment planning, so each team gains access at the right time.

Southwest’s Culture Services team also uses the Salesforce Platform to keep track of local efforts to promote workforce culture. For example, central team members can scroll through a single app to view data around cultural engagement activities in the company’s Fort Lauderdale, FL, hub and report that data to the rest of the team.


5. Level the playing field for sales with market insights and tools.

To stay profitable while delivering exceptional service at a low cost, Southwest implemented Sales Cloud in its corporate and cargo sales divisions. With Sales Cloud, sales teams can track leads, opportunities, activities, and accounts for business customers on a single dashboard. It also enables the company to compete with other major airlines and gain market share.

With process streamlining and data visualization capabilities, corporate and cargo sales teams can get more done in less time. Additionally, Sales Cloud helps Southwest serve corporate customers better by simplifying business travel. For instance, employees of companies with a Southwest partnership can make last-minute bookings or itinerary changes with a few clicks – at no extra cost.

Southwest also built a self-service travel portal, Southwest Business Assist™, to better meet the needs of its growing business customer base. Through this Experience Cloud-powered portal, corporate travel managers and travel management companies have instant access to information about contractual commitments, discount levels, consumption, perks redemption, and more. Conversely, the portal sends automated reports to Southwest that visualize KPIs and sustainability data for each business customer.

“It's so much more than a booking channel,” said Dave Harvey, VP of Southwest Business. “It's a transformational service for eco-conscious travel management companies and corporate travel buyers. It makes back office operations more efficient and helps them reach their sustainability goals – a huge win.”

For Southwest, being the most-loved carrier means more than investing in continuous innovation. It means staying grounded in the company’s original mission of making air travel simple, friendly, and affordable for all.

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