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Look Who's 40! | A Most Unique Recommended Reading

publication date: Jun 15, 2011
author/source: Dr. John Hogan CHA CHE CMHS

15 June 2011

Look Who's 40! | A Most Unique Recommended Reading | By John Hogan

Lessons From The FieldTM

Look Who's 40! | A Most Unique Recommended Reading | By  John HoganI just returned from a trip where I spent some time with my best friend whom I had not seen in awhile and celebrated a milestone birthday with my daughter and her family. As always, I look to read something of interest and am pleased to recommend a somewhat unusual item. It is unusual because it is actually an inflight magazine from a major US airline but one that is very interesting because it tells fascinating stories in many ways.

We all have experienced some airline horror stories of delayed flights, lost luggage,(what we feel are) excessive fees, insensitive responses from certain staff and questionable policies. While I imagine the airline I am about to name has had some unsatisfied customers over the years, this issue of SPIRIT magazine shares some remarkable and at times moving stories of customer service, of exceptional staff commitments to each other, their company, the flying public and of the corporate belief system.

This airline has won many "best in class" awards and as significantly, has been profitable for 39 of its' 40 years, which are both major accomplishments. I first flew this airline in the mid 1970s when I accepted a promotion to my first department head position at the Sheraton Houston Hotel. In those days, the airline flew a limited schedule among three Texas cities because of legal entanglements and the pressure of larger competitors that did not want an upstart in their back yard. Things certainly have changed in those 40 years.

If you are outside the USA or happen to be in locations they do not service, I am speaking of course of Southwest Airlines. I found their June 2011, 40th Anniversary Special to be very enlightening and entertaining and wanted to share some observations on this issue. I must add here that the airline did not ask for any PR, nor have they compensated me for this unsolicited column. I enjoy flying Southwest because of the attentiveness of their staff, their fair and understandable pricing, and their inclinations to go a bit "beyond" some of their corporate policies when appropriate and if it is in the best interests of all parties.

Why is this recommended reading? Following is a partial list of what I found to be some highlights:

  • The welcome from the CEO (in both English and Spanish, reflecting customer sensitivity) tells a story. Many airline magazines have this feature, but Gary Kelly is not bragging as some do about something irrelevant to passengers but he is delivering a sincere message.
  • Star of the Month - this features "real" Southwest associates being highlighted for what they do, how they do it a little differently and one can sense the pride.
  • Rapid Rewards Freedom Stories - A segment that highlights paying customers, why they use this particular airline and what they like about it. I wonder if other airlines would have these kinds of stories every issue....
  • We Owe It All to YOU - a genuine one page thank you from Southwest founder Herb Kelleher to the now millions of people who have come to use the service annually
  • Reader Photos - with Facebook and all the Social Media available, people do not need to send their photos to an airline magazine, yet apparently people do every month. Why is that? What does that say about this airline's corporate culture?
  • Amusing statistics on numbers - trivia for everyone that makes one smile.
  • Life Aps - ten one-page mini lessons on a range of topics
  • Business Shorts - Five business related articles on Business Meals, trips, words, perks and ideas,
  • Beginning on page 80, there is a history of the airline, with some little known details about the early years in particular that are surprising and.(quite readable)
  • A tongue in cheek conversation/interview with founder Kelleher and current president Kelly.
  • 40 ways to celebrate, including instructions on how to download 40 free iTunes
  • Care Mail - while I imagine these may be some of the best ever, this section includes some remarkable and at time moving stories of customer service. They are impressive because they all seem to come from the heart of the associates of Southwest who were serving their guests - and they did not need to get permission to do the right things.
  • There are 40 Lessons, such as
    • #1 - Keep the Idea simple enough to draw on a napkin
    • #4- Raise more money than you need, and then double it
    • #7 -Target the under-served and overcharged
    • #11 -Lack of money makes you frugal
    • #13- Promote from Within
    • #20- Simplicity has value
    • #26 -Take your business, not yourself seriously
    • #35 -It's about Customer Service, not "scalability"
    • #39 -Never rest on your laurels or you will get a thorn in your, um, butt
The magazine has other features: city highlights on Nashville and Chicago and an entire section on the airline's newest city served, Charleston SC. The staples of every magazine are represented as well.

I recognize that this airline has its share of challenges, of mistakes and of missed opportunities as do we all, yet over the years I have personally seen moments of excellence.

My challenge to hotel owners, managers, innkeepers and other hospitality businesses is this:

Go back to those 13 points above. How would you answer the following ten questions?
  1. How do you welcome your guests? At the desk? In a message in the room?
  2. How do you recognize your "Stars"? In what ways? Where? Do they have pride?
  3. How do you recognize your regular, repeat guests?
  4. How do you say "thank you" today? Or ever?
  5. Do you look for guest or staff input?
  6. Is your hotel an interesting place to stay?
  7. Do you make travel easier on guests or do they have reason to complain about you?
  8. Do you look for ways to improve the guest experience at your hotel each month?
  9. What does your " Care Mail" reveal?
  10. Are there lessons learned at your hospitality business that can be shared?

Hospitality Tip of the WeekTM
"Always respect the three parts of every successful hospitality business. Make your decisions with the needs of the owner, associate and guest/customer in mind."
Hotel Common SenseTM - Philosophy #1 John Hogan

KEYS TO SUCCESSTM is the umbrella title for my 2011 programs, hospitality services and columns. This year's writings focus on a variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my "HOW TO" articles, HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONSTM, Lessons from the FieldTM, Hotel Common SenseTM , THE P-A-R PRINCIPLETM and Principles for Success.

Feel free to share an idea for a column at info@hoganhospitality.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements ... And remember - we all need a regular dose of common sense.

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events. He is Co-Founder of a consortium (www.HospitalityEducators.com) of successful corporate and academic professionals delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing hospitality today. www.HospitalityEducators.com is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability. Individuals wishing to contribute materials may send them Kathleen@HospitalityEducators.com. Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.

Consulting Expertise and Research Interest
1. Sales Management and training
2. Turn-around and revenue management
3. Professional Development for the Organization and the Individual
4. Customer Service
5. Making Cultural Diversity Real
6. Developing Academic Hospitality programs
7. Medical Lodging Consultants

If you need assistance in any of these areas or simply an independent review or opinion on a hospitality challenge, contact me directly for a prompt response and very personalized attention.

Your Hospitality Resource for Hotel Owners, Innkeepers, Managers and Associations

Email: johnjhogan@yahoo.com

ORGANIZATION Hospitality NetJohn Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
USA - Phoenix, AZ Phone: 602-799-5375
Email: info@hoganhospitality.com

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