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A-Ha Moments

Increasing Choice and Reducing Costs

Written by: Bill Sherman on Monday, 7 July 2008, 10:26 AM

Recently, I flew from Oakland to St. Louis via Southwest Airlines. And witnessed a corporate aha-moment.

Old: Southwest Snack Box

For many years, Southwest handed out “snack boxes” on its long-haul flights. These snack boxes would contain a variety of snacks (cheese crackers, 100 Calorie Oreos, etc.) Most people would eat one or two of the items, but few people would eat all of the items.

Yesterday, the flight attendants walked down the aisle with a “select-a-snack” tray. The tray contained essentially the same items, but people had a chance to choose which items they wanted.

If passengers wanted peanuts, great. If the they wanted two bags of Oreos, that’s what they got.

Yes, it takes a little bit longer to serve snacks this way, but the impacts are significant:

New: Southwest Select a Snack

  • Increases customer satisfaction (they get what they want)
  • Reduces wasted food (customers take only food they like)
  • Reduces packaging (no need for extra boxes)
  • Incorporates recycling (after each flight, the cardboard trays are taken by the service crew and refilled)
  • Saves dollars for Southwest (and in a tight economy that’s critical)

Many airlines now charge extra for things people desire (more legroom, an aisle seat, a snack, a soft-drink). Southwest has found a way to improve its customer experience and simultaneously cut its costs. This sort of savvy approach differentiates the company, and it aligns with the current marketing campaign of “Freedom from Fees.”

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