How Rejecting Someone Can Help

“I’m sorry, we’re not for you.”

This seems a little ridiculous for a business to say to a customer but let’s back up a little and understand where it came from.

When Southwest Airlines started out, they decided that they were going to make flying accessible. This was a real challenge considering that the margins in the airline industry were already scarily thin.

In order to pull it off, they’d have to streamline operations so they could reduce cost and pass that savings to the customer.

This doesn’t mean slashing features, it means focusing on the features that matter and cutting everything else.

So how do you decide?

Southwest cut features that didn’t focus on their core philosophy of putting people first.

  • They don’t offer meals for purchase on flights but instead offer free snacks and free checked bags.
  • They use one type of airplane, which makes service and maintenance and processes more efficient and cost-effective.
  • They only offer coach seating, which makes boarding and un-boarding the planes faster and easier to turn around at the gate. Southwest could turnaround 2 out of 3 planes in 15 minutes when the industry average was 55 minutes.
  • They offered only the most convenient flight times at high frequency.
  • When they hire flight attendants, they ask them to speak in front of the other candidates—but the hiring team isn’t listening to the speech, they’re watching the other candidates listen, encourage and engage with someone who in the hot seat.

So how does all this focus and award-winning customer service lead to the CEO of the company telling a customer that she should find another airline?

The customer had been saying: “your fares are great but I would like you if you had first class seating and if you flew to more airports, and if you offered meals.”

Since the fares were low because of the focus on the essentials, it was an easy explanation—but this customer wasn’t having it.

This customer wanted all of the non-essentials offered by other airlines but at the Southwest price. Just like many customers, who really just want a product designed specifically for them and all for free. This is normal, but it’s your responsibility to call it out and stick to your mission.

Herb Kelleher said, “I’m sorry, Miss, we’re just not for you.”

Today, Southwest carries more customer than any airline and they have a sterling reputation among their customers.

The moral of the story is that being all-in on your mission and purpose means being focused on the essentials and cutting out the distractions that seem like necessities—even if some people disagree.

2 Minute Action

What are you focused on?

What are the essentials of your life and work?

Family? A few friends? Your career?

Take this time to look at how you spent the last 4 weeks of your free time and you will see what your priorities are.

How many hours did you watch TV? How much of that time was spent on Instagram?

How much of that time was spent figuring out how you’re going to backpack Europe? How much of that time was spent figuring out how to buy that commercial real estate property?

Do a quick, 2 minute time audit and decide on a non-essential to cut from your life so you can focus.