HRM Case Study: Southwest Airlines' Competitive Advantage

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Savannah Samoszuk

Savannah has over eight years of hotel management experience and holds a master's degree in leadership.

Southwest Airlines demonstrates the concept of competitive advantage by elevating itself compared to the competition. Explore how their focus on employee satisfaction, flexibility for customers, and low operating costs have made this possible. Updated: 12/14/2021

Southwest Airlines

Every time you board a plane, the flight attendants go through the routine safety presentation. And if you look around, you'll probably see a lot of people reading or zoning out to whatever's blaring through their headphones because, let's face it, it's not the most interesting presentation ever. Now imagine hearing that same routine presentation with a few hilarious jokes thrown in, or imagine the seat belt instructions given in a goofy British accent. Seems unlikely, right? Not if you're on a Southwest flight. Surprised? Read on to learn more about how Southwest is setting itself apart from the crowd.

Southwest Airlines is known for its affordable ticket prices and friendly staff. But the incredible success of this company goes beyond pricing and hiring. This lesson will consider three aspects of Southwest's competitive advantage that have led to its great success: a commitment to employees, tremendous flexibility, and low operating costs. Let's dig a little bit deeper into each of these to better understand what makes Southwest different from its competitors.

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  • 0:00 Southwest Airlines
  • 1:07 Employee Focus
  • 2:17 Flexibility for Customers
  • 3:21 Low Operating Costs
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Employee Focus

One of Southwest's competitive advantages is its focus on its employees. Employee-focused companies are dedicated to creating an atmosphere in which employees can be successful. Part of this is hiring the right people - Southwest has its own YouTube channel full of videos by employees talking about the culture of the company. They use words like family and love and support, so it's easy to see that employees care for each other and feel valued at Southwest.

If people feel support and encouragement from management, they will be motivated to do their jobs well. Basically, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. Southwest embraces this philosophy whole-heartedly. If you've ever flown on a Southwest flight, you've probably seen this in action. Southwest employees are well known for being incredibly friendly, helpful, and cheerful. They are living the company's mission to providing customer service 'delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.' This focus on employees and having the right team gives the company a competitive advantage in customer and employee satisfaction.

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