MIAMI — Southwest Airlines opened a brand new information hub at its Dallas headquarters Tuesday night.

Dubbed the ‘Listening Room’, the facility combines as a sort of nerve center. It integrates multiple information sources from traditional and social media, to real-time airline operations in order to meet customer needs. It will be staffed, with representatives from customer relations, communications and marketing departments ready to answer questions and deal with challenges as they arise.

Such centers and services are not necessarily new to the industry. As passengers utilize devices that are increasingly connected to the world around them, they’ve increasingly taken to social media channels to ask questions and voice complaints. Airlines were quick to jump on the social bandwagon as a way to harness and resolve with those questions and complaints.

Indeed, most major carriers in the US have been staffing their social media channels for some time now to do just that. For many tech-savvy travelers, seeking resolution via Twitter has proven far more effective (and timely) than making the traditional phone call or waiting in line at an in-terminal customer service center.

Southwest listening center (Credits: Author)
Southwest listening center (Credits: Author)

For those wary of going mobile, Ashley Pettit, Social Business Adviser for Southwest, is quick to point out that staff inside the center have all of the same resolution tools available to traditional customer service representatives. “They are able to go in look up in the system…get an update [on a lost bag, for example], status report, or track down the bag,” she says. Stuck at the airport? Reach out to Southwest’s Facebook page and someone will soon contact you about your options.

But Southwest insists it is more than just customer service. “The objective is to move from insights to action…to constantly have that 35,000 foot view of what’s going on in the world,” says Pettit. That means utilizing the team’s content creators and community builders to look for opportunities to insert Southwest into social conversations. So not only can the team help find that lost bag, it can only wish you happy birthday, she says, or participate in trending topics.

For now, the center will be online 18 hours a day, while Southwest airplanes are flying. Pettit says they hope to expand to 24 down the road.