Lithys 2017: Southwest Airlines - Surprise & Delight

Lithys 2017: Southwest Airlines - Surprise & Delight

Our surprise & delight program supports our company’s vision to be the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline and is already showing a positive return on our investment.



Company: Southwest Airlines

southwest_logo1.pngEntry submitted by: Ashley Mainz, Social Business Manager 

Community and Social Channels: Southwest Airlines Community, Facebook page and Twitter channel.

Lithy category:  Surprise & Delight


In its 46th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by more than 53,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually. Southwest proudly operates a network of 101 destinations in the United States and eight additional countries with more than 3,900 departures a day during peak travel season. Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation's most recent data, Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded.


Our surprise & delight program


The airline industry is highly competitive, but it is the People of Southwest Airlines and the personal connection we make with our Customers that set us apart.


Last year, Southwest carried a record number of Customers and received a record number of social media mentions. As our Company continues to grow, we are constantly looking for ways to connect with Customers in meaningful ways.


One way we are going above and beyond to connect with Customers on social media channels is through our social surprise and delight program. The program supports our Company’s vision to be the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline and is already showing a positive return on our investment. By surprising Customers with different types of Southwest swag, we are creating memorable experiences that we hope lead to stronger brand loyalty in the future.


Our goals, strategy and tactics


Through intentional social engagement, we’re surprising Customers with swag to motivate preferred behavior. The types of social conversation we are looking to engage fall into one of three pillars: Rewarding Customer Behavior, Hospitality, or Customer Development.





Using Lithium SMM for Service, Southwest is able to execute this program with ease. Within Lithium SMM for Service, we review each Customers’ social media profile, Klout topics, and conversation history to inform which incentive will be the most meaningful to the Customer.  


There are more than 25 different swag items available for use as part of this program ranging from Rapid Reward points to WiFi codes to exclusive Southwest branded items.  As the program has evolved, we have identified new incentives that appeal to different types of travelers. For example, we have Southwest-branded professional portfolios and power banks for our business travelers, pet bowls and toys for our furry friends, and baby blankets and onesies for our tiniest frequent flyers.



 The results


Since the program’s inception, our team has surprised nearly 5,000 Customers. We surveyed each person we touched through this program to understand the impact of the interaction and compared the results to the people who only received a goodwill response to their message in kind (no Southwest swag).


The results of the survey show that Customers’ perceptions and likelihood to fly Southwest improved significantly as a result of the surprise and delight interaction and half of the respondents said they would even be willing to pay more money to fly Southwest as a result of the interaction.


Impact on Perceptions of Southwest

  • 50% of survey respondents said the surprise and delight interaction left them with a significantly better perception of Southwest Airlines
  • 37% were left with a somewhat better perception
  • 13% were left with neither a better or worse perception

Impact on Likelihood to Fly Southwest

  • 44% of survey respondents said they were much more likely to fly Southwest than before
  • 24% were somewhat more likely to fly Southwest than before
  • 32% had the same likelihood to fly Southwest as before

In addition to these quantitative results, the program has allowed our team to forge deeper relationships with our Customers. The response we have received from Customers has been overwhelmingly positive and oftentimes the Customer shares their memorable interaction on social media or through articles and blogs. Some of these responses are so moving that we are able to curate stories for our owned social media channels.


In this particular example, the Customer shared her experience on her blog. A few months later, she was still so touched that she applied for a job at Southwest and is now a part of our family as a Customer Support & Service Agent!






The social surprise and delight program is a natural extension of the Southwest brand and a unique way to create meaningful connections with Customers.




Love, love, love this entry.  


While I have been flying Southwest for a number of years, it wasn't until I attended a seminar and heard Colleen Barrett speak on Servant Leadership that I really felt I understood what Southwest Airlines stood for.  Colleen noted, “Our mission statement is posted every three feet, all over every location that we have, so if you’re a customer, you’ve seen it,”  She continued saying, “It’s to follow the Golden Rule — to treat people the way that you want to be treated, and pretty much everything will fall into place.”


So - fast forward and reading this entry, I can see why Southwest won the Lithium Digital Excellence Award (Lithy) in the category of Surprise and Delight.  They have stuck to their core values!


To conclude Ms. Barrett's session, she shared that she wants Southwest employees to do what she clearly has mastered: To simply be themselves on the job. “We have always thought that your avocation can be your vocation, so that you don’t have to do any acting in your life when you leave home to go to work, that you don’t have to take off the real person that you are and throw it down on the couch.”