Customer Service Economics

1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In a recent trip abroad, I once again saw the continued decline of customer service. Doesn’t customer service mean “to serve the customer”? Unfortunately, customer service is interwoven with short term profitability, not long term sustainable growth and profitability. In the U.S., Southwest Airlines grew to the most profitable airline in the industry. It was all about the customer. People look for a reasonable service at a reasonable price… with a smile. Why do we look for the smile? The smile is an outward indication of joy. Joy is an indication that you are walking in your calling. This is a subtle truth. At Southwest, everyone was happy while at other airlines, half of the people worked with “scowls” on their faces. Yes, people complained that they were “herded” onto the plane like cattle since there were no seat assignments. That did not keep Southwest from becoming a major competitor in the U.S. markets. Their focus on customer service and treating the customer with respect and appreciation caused travelers to overlook the “no frills” aspect of their business plan.

What happened to customer service? The love of money. Losses in the industry enabled the airlines to cut customer service as an excuse for their inability to make a profit. It the 20 year plan, is selling that free snack going to matter? “No” for two reasons. First of all the airlines do not focus on a 20 year plan, it’s all about the next quarter’s profit. Secondly, by lowering your customer service you expose yourself to reduced future income. Continued absence of customer service will send your customers to your competition. That is precisely why Southwest was able to flourish.

What is the solution? You should hire people who have a passion for customer service to represent you to the public. Obviously the revelation of Love must come forth to provide an adequate supply of people to choose from. Is the person applying for the position because the love people, or just the salary? If you want to sustain your revenue stream, match the job with the person’s calling. A customer service person could become one of your most valuable assets.

Southwest Airlines is losing the revelation that brought them to prominence. “Without a vision, the people perish.” Herb (the founding Southwest CEO) is out of the picture. His successors are losing the vision. Ultimately they will lose customers to the next airline who can sustain the passion for “serving”. Serving mankind produces sustaining wealth.

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