- Southwest Airlines’s customer experience initiatives, launched following 2022's holiday travel fiasco, are paying off, executives said during Southwest’s Q4 earnings call last week.
- Improvements to its in-flight Wi-Fi capabilities, a revamped loyalty program and a new bag-tracking feature were among the airline’s main CX investments last year.
- “Sentiment is fully recovered at this point,” said Bob Jordan, president and CEO. NPS scores returned to pre-pandemic levels and have recently hit record levels, he added.
In the wake of last year’s holiday travel issues during which Southwest canceled 16,900 flights, the airline set to work making sure that such travel disruptions would never happen again. Key to that promise to customers was an effort to revamp its customer experience.
As part of that, Southwest announced its first ever chief customer officer in Tony Roach at the end of last year. Roach told CX Dive that the airline’s trust scores have rebounded since the airline’s holiday struggles and credited the rebound to Southwest’s commitment to transparency and dedication to fixing the issues that caused disruptions.
Executives on the earnings call said that customers have responded well to Southwest’s CX initiatives.
“Our completion factor, on-time performance, early morning originators, turn compliance and turn differential and mishandled battery, all showed substantial year-over-year improvement, which in turn led to a year-over-year improvement in our Trip Net Promoter Score,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest's chief operating officer.
Southwest has worked to notify passengers of disruptions well before their flights, canceling flights 14 hours in advance on average and 70% of flights at least 6 hours in advance, Watterson said.
“As you can imagine, providing that much notice improves the customer experience,” Watterson said. “In fact, we have found that it can result in NPS scores that approximate those with customers with no disruption to their itinerary.”
The airline is also seeing improved customer satisfaction scores with its Wi-Fi product, according to Ryan Green, executive VP and chief commercial officer.
Comparing the fourth quarter last year, Jordan said the airline was able to maintain its customer base and that customers did not “book away” — that is, switch to other airlines.
“As we look at our consumer — our customer behaviors, we look at our customer metrics, demand for Southwest Airlines, there's no indicator or indication that we saw any hangover or book away,” Jordan said. “In fact, the holiday periods were the strongest periods of the quarter.”