The death of a brand?

For those of you that follow my blog, you know that I don’t use my blog as a rant platform. Well today, I am sorry to say, I have to diverge from my normal blogging style. But, don’t worry…it will still have to do with branding and marketing. I promise.

Southwest Airlines has been the Gold Standard (Platinum even) when it comes to customer focus and service. Not just among airlines, but among most American companies. Over the years, they have built a brand based on one singular notion…the customer comes first. I have to say, based on my experience with them today, I believe they may be veering away from that focus—which in my humble opinion will make them like all the rest of the big carriers. What will come of their brand? Not sure, but it can’t be good.

One of the best things about flying Southwest, besides the friendly staff and great fairs, was their flexibility when you had to make a change. Have to cancel a non-refundable ticket? No problem, we will still let you use the money for another flight. Have frequent flyer miles you want to use to buy a ticket for someone else? No problem. Have travel funds from a canceled ticket you want to use to fly your mom out to see her grandkids. Bring her!

Guess what…not anymore. Brand promise conflict? I think so.

Here’s what happened you decide…

  • I had to cancel a business trip because my son was going to have surgery
  • Southwest was nice enough to allow us to cancel the ticket and have a co-worker use the funds from the old ticket to buy the same ticket under her name so she could cover my meeting
  • I found out last night that the surgery has been rescheduled for July
  • My co-worker canceled her ticket so that I could reinstate my flights because I have to go on this trip
  • Southwest told me to go pound sand, the ticket will cost $1000 (from Reno to Chicago and back)
  • I told them that it was my ticket to begin with and that the whole process had started before they changed their policy on transfers today (yes… my luck… today)…again, go pound sand

So is what Southwest did wrong?  No, it’s now their policy.  Did their brand take a hit from me on social media from me today?  Absolutely!  And, more importantly, will experiences like this take their brand to a place it really doesn’t want to go?  Maybe.  Do they just want to be a commodity carrier and not a caring carrier?  Only time will tell.

Happy Marketing!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Wow! I am a true Southwest believer and this change in policy upsets me. Besides great prices, flexibility is one of the main attractions to SW. I mean, it’s not like their planes are especially comfortable or their food/drink choices are a step above the rest. They don’t provide TV, movies, great magazines or any other luxuries that would attract me to them. They have great prices, do not charge for luggage, fly anywhere I want to go and provide great service. It’s really unfortunate that they felt the need to change a policy and risk losing their good reputation.

    Reply

    • Posted by sharonmarkovsky on May 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Erin,
      I was just as suprised as you! It is a shame that Southwest is taking steps to be just like all the rest!

      Thanks!
      Sharon

      Reply

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