What Southwest Airlines Can Teach Auto Dealers

Ask any car dealer – heck, ask a business owner in any industry – and she’ll tell you that the secret to success is a happy customer.


And she’d be right… sort of.


It’s true that happy customers are crucial to making sales. But the way to create happy customers starts well before they walk through your door.


The secret to creating happy customers is creating happy employees.


A recent study from Glassdoor.com, one of the world’s largest job search engines, bears this out:


Maintaining a satisfied workforce—particularly among customer-facing roles—should be considered a key prerequisite to delivering great customer experiences.


In its survey of 293 employers across a span of 11 years, researchers showed a significant, strong correlation between employee morale and customer satisfaction. The correlation was especially evident in customer-facing roles like sales and support.


It just makes sense.


It’s hard to give your best to your customers when you dread coming to work. But the opposite is also true. When you wake up every morning looking forward to seeing your colleagues and supervisors, you can’t help but reflect that to potential customers. It’s easy to sport a sincere smile when you’re sincerely happy.


What can you do?

  • Show appreciation. The number-one rated employer in the study, Southwest Airlines, is known for acknowledging team members’ successes and contributions. They even encourage employees to acknowledge each other for jobs well done. This is an easy one to emulate. Put up a bulletin board in the breakroom giving props for specific good work. People love seeing their name and pictures.


  • Share the love – and the profit. Southwest, of course, is famous for showing its appreciation by sharing a percentage of its profits with its employees. In 2017, that profit sharing amounted to an average bonus of 13.2% for every employee. It’s probably not in your budget to share that much of your profit, but you can create annual bonuses – however modest – based on your company’s performance. Another way to invest in your employees? Send them back to school. The tuition assistance you offer today could pay you back in ways you didn’t imagine, in the form of more knowledgeable – and loyal – team members.


  • That’s right: just listen. A former employee of Trader Joe’s – the third-rated company in the study – explains that her managers always took time to listen to what was going on in her life, whether business related or personal. She felt heard, understood, and valued. You, too, can implement this in your day-to-day operations. When a team member stops to talk to you, take a moment to just be present. You don’t have to offer advice, but just showing you care enough to listen will make a difference.


  • Create a path for growth. In the earliest stages of the hiring process, Hilton – rated number four in this study – asks its candidates about their long-term career goals. More important, they promote from within wherever they can. You can do this, too. When you see a particularly promising employee, develop his talents and let him shine in a bigger role with more responsibilities.


What’s the bottom line?

Take a page from Southwest’s playbook: Rank employee happiness above customer satisfaction. You’ll find that loyal team members will bring you even more loyal customers.