Former Southwest Airlines manager shares customer service tips with UNT departments

Aug. 28, 2019

Jason Young, who helped create the customer-centric culture at Southwest Airlines and now offers training nationwide as a consultant, spoke to employees from the Division of Enrollment, the Toulouse Graduate School and Student Financial Services on July 26. He shared insight into the Southwest Airlines culture that is consistenly rated among the best in customer service and employee satisfaction.

The author of Servicetopia and The Culturetopia Effect recounted the tale of a particularly hot, sweaty, miserable flight:

Suddenly, the flight attendant started walking down the aisle, unrolling a roll of toilet paper. Everyone watched as she made her way to the back of the plane. Then, passengers heard her over the intercom: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m about to demonstrate how strong the flush is on our toilets.’ As the sound of the flush roared throughout the plane, the suction pulled the toilet paper all the way down the aisle. Everybody starts clapping; nobody was hot and grumpy anymore.

Young, who left the airline to launch the consulting business LeadSmart Inc. in 1998, expanded on suggestions from the departments in attendance to give students and guests a customer-focused experience that embraces UNT’s caring and sudent-focused mission:

  • Be aware: Make a point of looking for guests, saying hello and making them feel welcome.
  • Be available: Make it easy for guests to make connections with you and get their questions answered.
  • Be helpful: Go the extra mile to address a question or issue — even if that means walking with guests to another department.
  • Be friendly: Smile and be respectful and understanding in your interactions. This can be a stressful time for students and their families.

Internally, he says, employees should focus on others who are giving great customer service: “What if you were that person who just found people doing things right? People would want to be around you all the time. Be the person that’s getting that. It’ll change your day. It’ll definitely change everybody else’s.”

Laurea Irving, director of customer experience for the Division of Enrollment, says the parallels between the cultures at UNT and the culture at Southwest Airlines made Young an ideal speaker choice.

“You can do all things well, but without a caring and welcoming environment, those things fall flat,” Irving says, noting that caring is one of UNT’s core values.

About 300 employees attended one of two trainings and all left with a copy of Young’s book, Servicetopia, a guide to the ultimate customer service experience.

“Everybody in this room, every day, has the opportunity to inspire,” Young said, encouraging everyone to approach each day with enthusiasm. “What you do is important.”