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Bruce
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Southwest Management Question

Tue Jan 20, 2004 6:18 pm

I'm curious, do the southwest execs like Colleen Barrett and Herb actually read their mail - such as from customers? And do they personally respond? I recall someone said that Colleen really hates email and prefers "snail-mail".

And what exactly does Herb K. do these days? I seem to recall that he stepped down from his position as CEO (?) Does he still take part in the day to day running of the company?

bruce
Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
 
goingboeing
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Tue Jan 20, 2004 11:43 pm

In a lot of cases, yes they'll read them. In fact, it's my understanding that every letter, good or bad, gets routed thru the system. I agree wholeheartedly with the "no e-mail" for complaints or compliments. It's way too easy to rant and not sit down and think about what you're writing. I recall once when I wrote to compliment a SWA ramper I met while watching planes at MCI several years ago. His pride in his company was admirable. But I sort of butchered his name. I got a response back (signed by Herb) thanking me, as well as a copy of the letter Herb sent to the employee (they researched and found the guys real name) as well as a copy of the VP of ground ops letter to the employee. I was quite impressed.
 
SWAFA30
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 12:17 am

A department called Customer Relations handles all general correspondence for customer complaints and compliments. When your letter arrives at CR, it is assigned to a "writer" and a case number that will accompany the correspondence as it works its way through the system. Often additional research is necessary. For instance if a passenger writes to complain about an incident that occured on a flight that I was working, Customer Relations will contact me to get my side of the story before responding to the customer. Customer Relations will also perform research with FLIFO and other pertinent departments to make sure that the customer has their facts straight. For instance if the passenger says that the flight was 3 hours late, customer relations will check with FLIFO to see if the flight in question did indeed depart 3 hours behind schedule. If the flight was only 45 minutes late, the writer responding to the inquiry now has a better idea of the honesty of the customer involved and will take that into account when forumlating the appropriate response. They are not going to write back "liar, liar pants on fire" but they can and do give compensation sometimes when passengers are genuinely inconvenienced. As GoingBoeing pointed out, the same level of attention is given to complimentary letters and they are always shared with the employees whenever possible. Whenever a good letter is written about an employee, a copy of the letter, the company's response to the letter, and a note to the employee from the company is sent to the employees home address. It is a nice touch and a great motivational tool. A far as letters written directly to Herb or Colleen...senior management have reading/writing staffs that handle their correspondence. They do enter their offices and some may even cross thier desks for signatures. However, it is their staff that handle the bulk of the correspondence. If you ever receive a letter from Herb et al, you will notice at the bottom the initials of the administrative employee who drafted the letter.

Herb was at one point, Chairman of the board, President, and CEO. Colleen Barrett is now the President. Jim Parker is now our CEO. However, Herb continues to serve as Chairman of the Board. Herb is responsible for selecting new cities. You may have noticed that he was present at the press conference when PHL was announced last year. Not really sure how involved Herb is in the day to day ops of the company. To be perfectly frank we miss Herb around here. We have a solid management team in place but they simply don't inspire the same pride and loyalty that Herb did. In the good old days the employees of this company would have followed Herb into the gates of Hades. Jim Parker...uh not so much. As an example. For the first time in our 32 year history, SWA is facing the very real possibility of a labor strike as the flight attendant contract talks continue to breakdown. The feeling among many of the rank and file is that if Herb were at the bargaining table, this would have been settled months ago. That is just an example of the effect his absence as our leader is having on our company.
 
goingboeing
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 12:33 am

SWAFA30 - actually, from what I have gleaned from other boards, Herb usually wasn't at the bargaining table -which allowed him to be viewed as one of the "good guys". I believe that was Parker's job prior to his promotion. I have read that to many, it would be better if Parker passed the labor relations baton to someone else, since it would eliminate the feeling that "managment" is being difficult. Yes...he and the other managment folks would still be given the final say, but IMHO, it's one thing when it comes from a representative, and something entirely different when it comes "from the horses mouth".
 
SWAFA30
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 12:56 am

GoingBoeing-

I understand that Herb may not have physically "at the table" however, as the head of the company, he was the one that the rank and file looked upon as being in the driver's seat. Contract talks were often contentious however, when all was said and done, Herb still largely had the respect of labor. This is not the case with JP. The relationship with Inflight Service (the largest union at SWA) and JP is at a crossroads right now. Currently it is merely contentious and strained. Short of a miracle, that relationship is well on its way to outright hostility and rancor and distrust. You know...kinda like the relationship between Siegel and the AFA at US. It's official. Southwest is now a 'real' airline.
 
goingboeing
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 1:07 am

That's the gist of the other forum...Herb wasn't "the man at the table" during the contentious disputes. Parker was. What they wrote was the perhaps it would be better for Parker were he NOT the one at the table, but in the drivers seat. I can kind of see their point - while Parker (or Herb) may still be viewed as "driving the bus", they didn't put the reputation of management directly against one of their employee groups. I know that bottom line contention is contention, but in the past, it was never "management" who was at the table...it was legal. And that, IMHO is an area where Parker should have passed on the "sit down" negotiations to a subordinate.

edited to add:

From what I understand, in LUV's early years, Herb approved a lock out of the mechanics.

[Edited 2004-01-20 17:08:47]
 
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Bruce
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 2:11 am

Uh oh..... sounds like all is not well at the LUV headquarters! Hopefully SWA isn't going to descend into a simmering pot of discontent like other airlines are. Eventually that will show on the customer and then SWA will be like any other airline.

bruce
Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
 
SWAFA30
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RE: Southwest Management Question

Wed Jan 21, 2004 2:14 am

And that, IMHO is an area where Parker should have passed on the "sit down" negotiations to a subordinate.

I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, that ship has already sailed and the damage with regard to this union has already been done. In a few months JP will have been at the table with the flight attendant group for two years with disastrous results. The depth of bitterness among much of the membership that exists towards this man is breathtaking. It is too late for him to step away from the negotiations now and expect all to be forgiven.