In 2019, Southwest Had A CX Disaster; In 2020, Its Customers Forgave The Airline — Here’s Why
Last year, when Forrester’s 2019 Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) results came out, I was saddened to see the score for Southwest Airlines drop a statistically significant 2.9 points, landing the company at No. 3 in our airline rankings. Famous for its customer-obsessed culture and the customer-centric design of its experiences, the CX stalwart is typically at No. 2 behind JetBlue in our rankings and occasionally takes first place.
What caused Southwest’s dip? When the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the 737 MAX, Southwest canceled what’s estimated to be over 100 flights per day. Subsequently, it also reported a sharp increase in “involuntary denied boardings” — which you and I would refer to as bumping passengers. This was all happening right as our survey of Southwest’s customers was in the field.
At the time, I predicted that Southwest would recover in the CX Index due to the CX equity it has built with its customers. As it turned out, Southwest not only recovered but even set a new high score for the industry and passed JetBlue to take the top spot among airlines.
What You Need To Know About The Big Picture When It Comes To CX And Forgiveness
As we said in this year’s US CX Index benchmark report, consistently high performers in the CX Index have built a reservoir of goodwill with their clients. That earns these brands forgiveness when they make a mistake. On average, the percentage of these brands’ customers willing to forgive them is 7 points higher than their industry averages. Standout performers in their sectors, such as the US National Park Service and Navy Federal Credit Union, have 18-point advantages over their respective industries.
This finding could not be more relevant as the nation deals with multiple crises and brands make inevitable mistakes when responding. Expect brands with CX Index scores at or near the top of their industry to be forgiven for their missteps — and rewarded with disproportionately high customer retention, increased revenue per customer, and more customer recommendations.