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Southwest Airlines' new approach to technology jolts me out of my seat

Southwest Airlines' new approach to technology jolts me out of my seat


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It's amazing how quickly brands fall from glory.

Not so long ago, Southwest Airlines was everyone's friend. It was a great airline. It was adorable. Somehow we were able to avoid being charged for things that other airlines do, such as baggage fees.

Related article: United Airlines just gave tech companies a lesson on how to delight customers

But then the technological disaster quickly worsened.

Crew scheduling software caused a meltdown due to its age-old condition. Rival airlines publicly mocked Southwest's technology in ads. Even Southwest's CEO confessed that the company's technology was woefully outdated and inadequate. Surprisingly, the airline didn't even provide power outlets on board.

And when it came time to actually book a flight, Southwest Airlines refused to have its fares listed on aggregators like Kayak. It took an effort to only visit the airline's own website. As an approach to how people actually use technology, it was, and still is, eccentric in many ways.

Southwest promised at least a little change. He called for increased investment in technology.

But ever since then, I've written Southwest on my travel plans. For some reason, local airports had plenty of options not to consider this airline, despite regular email offers of (alleged) deals.

However, I received an email from Southwest that might change my mind. The subject line was simple, but it got past my natural defenses. It said, “Hey, can I email you?”

Perhaps that seems the most commonplace idea. But for me it resonated. That suggests that Southwest is considering some of the (relatively) modern ways of using technology to not just sell, but to forge new relationships with customers. Ta.

Related article: 5 reasons why email will never die

It's one thing for a brand to promise to finally enter the century with its approach to technology. It's another thing to see someone faithfully keep their word even in the smallest detail.

I personally, and I may be in the minority here, appreciate the bits of marketing that can come into your orbit via text.

Companies like sneaker brand Converse and online wine seller De Négoce have balanced the frequency of text messages with the ability to at least provide interesting offers. Somehow, the text format makes everything more personal.

Related article: Best AI chatbots: ChatGPT is not the only one worth trying

These companies were not reluctant. They don't make fake shrieks. They respected my phone calls and time enough that the whole concept of text marketing began to hover along an axis between acceptable and attractive. (Unlike the political campaign text messages I regularly receive.)

If only Southwest could do the same, and Southwest's email solicitation for these texts was, “Would you like to know when fares are lower?” — Then you might be able to appreciate airlines a little more than you do now.

Southwest Airlines is now focused on attracting younger travelers, those who grew up with technology from an early age. So perhaps this foray into text marketing is just part of it.

Also: Gen Z looks to AI to overcome data fears, but the rest of the generation is worried

But even for my world-weary soul, the simplicity of this approach to technology might just overcome my reluctance to fly airlines.

Brands often forget that technology can repel people just as much as it can attract. Done right, United Airlines recently introduced a very thoughtful alert system that lets you know when a seat you want becomes available, and if you do it right, it might make customers feel a little better.

Of course, if Southwest started sending me too many texts, I'd be right back in my book of shame.

But I signed up for the text, so let's take a look.




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