Touchdown in Houston. Flights like these, along with the hard work of Business Account Managers such as Matt Walton, make the commutes of Houston-based energy workers far smoother.


Helping Customers Keep Talent – Southwest and Business Travelers

When a Texas oil and gas company saw its business grow in 2015, it faced a dilemma. As the demands of managing its fields in the Midland area rose, the company’s staff wondered: Would they have to relocate from their homes in Houston? Would they have to move to Midland to keep their jobs? Some of their best drilling engineers, petrophysicists, and geologists were hesitating.

The company explored options for retaining its top talent. In 2017, during a meeting with the Customer, Southwest Business Account Manager Matt Walton listened as the company’s travel manager explained the problem. Could they manage to retain their employee talent if they allowed staff to commute? What would that look like?

For decades, Southwest has fine-tuned systems for meeting the needs of its Customers, whether through developing a user-friendly platform for purchasing tickets or going above and beyond to provide personal service. In the 2000s, Southwest’s approach to serving its Business Customers evolved too, leading to the development of a Southwest Business Team focused on this prized bunch of travelers.

Senior Director of B2B Strategy and Services Rob Brown, who joined Southwest in the 1990s, remembers that, at first, Business Customers used the same internet platform as individual Customers. As Southwest Business learned more from large Customers, the Team rolled out an online tool called SWABIZ® to help Business Customers of all ranges of travel activity receive services tailored to their needs. Southwest was the first in the airline industry to create such a business booking tool.

That tool grew directly from the Company’s core value of giving control to the Customer. “Part of the goal for building SWABIZ,” Rob says, “was to build  a booking tool and resource that would meet the need for companies that wanted full access to all of our everyday low fares, and a self-service experience in terms of booking and tracking their business travel on Southwest Airlines. This capability existed via SWABIX and the free online reports available. ”

Southwest Business Account Managers then reached out to small and medium-sized businesses too. The managers helped those Customers adapt schedule and fare offerings to their travel policies and procedures. All of this was focused on the goal of providing businesses small and large with services that better matched their needs, and for a lower price. That way, small businesses could put their tight budgets to the best use.

Matt brainstormed the Texas company’s talent retention question. Southwest Business might be able to find the right price to make commuting to Midland a workable policy option, guarantee that pricing for 12 months, and provide a schedule that would give employees the ability to commute from Houston. After more calculations, Matt created a business case and offered an airfare that was low enough to fit the company’s budget. Southwest could guarantee the fare for a year.

Matt also whipped up an internal business case for adjusting flight times between Houston and Midland to meet a commuting schedule. New departure times would allow some of the company’s employees to return in the evening after a day trip and reduce hotel costs. The flight schedule change also enabled key employees to get an early start Monday morning and get home late Friday evening, giving them more time with their families in Houston.

Finally, Matt leveraged support from Sales Analytics, Revenue Management, and Network Planning, and offered an optimized airfare that could fit the company’s budget going forward.

The company’s travel manager breathed a sigh of relief. The adjustments improved the employees’ lives, and Southwest earned a place in their hearts.

“It’s just part of who Southwest is. It’s part of the legendary Customer Service that we’ve been born and bred with,” says Rob. “It’s what sets us apart from all of our other competitors.” Matt and other Business Account Managers work with travel managers to make sure they have all the information on how Southwest can meet their travel policy needs and make it easy for their travelers to book flights and have the best business travel experience they can.

Whether it’s optimizing the reach of a business by leveraging Southwest’s route map, or connecting small and medium-sized businesses with tools that help stretch their travel budgets or boost their employees’ satisfaction, the Southwest Business Team goes the extra mile for Business Customers—even going so far as reworking timetables and fares that allow staff members to get to work and back home when they need to.

“The evolution that we’ve mapped out over these past 20 years has really shown the importance of business travel for Southwest Airlines and how we are evolving as an airline,” says Rob.