What Accounting Firms Can Learn From Southwest Airlines’ Service Model

If you go to any accounting firm website, you will likely see service as one of their value propositions. The reality is that very few accounting firms can truly place a stake in the ground around service. Why? First, people don’t hire an accounting firm with an expectation that service is going to be terrible. There is an amount of implied service that comes with hiring a firm. For example, returning phone calls and emails in a timely fashion is expected. Second, very few accounting firms go far enough to truly differentiate themselves on service.


southwestAccounting firms aren’t that different from airlines. Like many airlines, there is an assumed level of service and there is a broad field of possible providers. I fly a lot, and I can tell you that there is one airline where I have consistently seen a live and breathe service model: Southwest Airlines. Southwest has created an almost cult-like following and it’s not because they are the most economical provider. It’s because their service is truly heads above everyone else AND they are reliable. Here are a few things accounting firms can learn from Southwest Airlines:


  1. Surprise their passengers with the unexpected. There have been countless stories of employees going above and beyond for passengers. From turning around a plane and re-booking a passenger whose son was in an accident and on life support to ordering pizzas for an entire plane due to a bad weather delay, there is no shortage of finding opportunities to WOW passengers with thoughtfulness. Whether they’re at fault or not, Southwest owns the opportunities to serve their passengers.
  2. Empower their employees. While I am not a Southwest executive or employee, I never get the sense that the employee needs to get approval to make a decision to better serve a passenger. While I am sure there may be a process for reimbursement or stipend for things like buying pizzas for an entire plane, they give ownership to their employees to make the right calls. Even better than that, their employees love to serve others. I have never heard a Southwest employee complain about his or her job while serving someone. I also never see them do the bare minimum or do it with a poor attitude.
  3. Remind you of their track record. Southwest reminds you each time they have an early departure or arrival into an airport in a playful way. The pilots or flight attendants comment on it in their announcements and jokingly hope you won’t be upset. If they are late, they always apologize for it.


Your clients expect you to deliver their services in a timely fashion, but how many of you go out of your way to truly WOW you clients and remind them of your track record?


Top-notch client service doesn’t just create happy clients; top-notch client service creates raving fans. Raving fans talk about what you are doing, refer business your way, and generally market for you.

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