As a service based industry finding what a customer

As competition between airlines
has become cutthroat, it has become very important for the airlines to gain any
competitive advantage they can get keep their current customers happy and lure
in new customers. So being a service industry, it is imperative for the airline
industry to deliver service according to customer expectations. But often times
it is difficult for an airline company to fully understand what quality means
with respect to different variables like prices, distance, classes and so on.
In a service based industry finding what a customer expects from the service
and matching it is the best way to provide a quality service. “For service
providers, understanding exactly what customers expect is the most important
step in defining and delivering quality service (Zeithaml et al., 1990)”. The article “Examining airline
service quality from a process perspective” written by Fang-Yuan Chen, Yu-Hern
Chang makes it easier to fully understand what customer expects from an
airline.

Since airline service is as a whole very large
area, the whole service was divided from the moment a customer buys a ticket to
the moment airline lands to series of individual processes. An extensive survey
was conducted among passengers using Taiwanese airlines. The passengers had to,
based on the level of quality they expect from each service process give a
rating of one to five. Based on the results they divided each service attribute
to low priority and high priority based on customer expectation. They were also
asked to rate if the airline was successful in matching their expectations.

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FINDINGS OF THE RESEARCH

The findings of the research were enlightening.
The services like baggage handling, efficiency of the travel agents , handling
customer complaints , cleanliness and seat comfort were all considered very
important to them. All of them was rated as highly important by the passengers.
“The findings also showed that assurance was consistently ranked as the most
important service dimension by the passengers(Chen and Chang 2005)”. .But a
pressing matter was that, among them the quality of service they get for seat
comfort, baggage handling, handling of customer complaints all were far off
from the quality they expected. While the service they receive for others was
deemed satisfactory.

Also, services like up to date airport
facilities, appearance of crews, inflight entertainment and food were deemed of
low priority by the passengers. Passengers to an extent scrutinize less even if
they don’t receive quality service for these attributes. That doesn’t mean they
don’t pay attention to these services, rather in times of constraint the
airline should concentrate on improving the services the passengers think are
of high importance than the aforementioned ones.

Reaction Statement:

The article provides very unique perspective
into what the passengers expect from the airlines. On one hand it was not surprising
to find that services like baggage handling, customer complaints handling and
cleanliness as the ones they prioritise the most. Those services form the core
of service operation. We can see how these services form the five performance
objectives of service operation, the five objectives being quality, speed,
dependability, flexibility and cost.  But
it was surprising to see that some of other services like up to date airport
facilities, inflight food service were considered not important by the passengers.

One reason could be the difference in the
region and the kind of passengers that use these services. The airline that was
used for the survey was more economical airline, so the results may largely
skew towards the services that is more advantageous for economical passengers.
The survey would have been more informational if they had included different
types of airlines and conducted the same survey in other countries to include
some of the western countries to properly represent the demographic. But even
still, there wont be a large scale difference in the results of passenger
expectation as the most of the airline passenger is consisted of the same
middle class the survey was conducted upon.

Importance Of the Findings:

The application of the survey is vast. Even in
the current industry we can see that some of the airlines are actively trying
to incorporate some of these elements in their fleet.

“Delta Airlines has also announced plans to
divert inflight entertainment to passengers’ personal devices (Sophie Roberts,
Dailystar 2018)”.

News like these are common occurrence nowadays.
Here the Delta Airline is trying to cut cost by saving on the cost of inflight
devices and letting passenger use their own devices like laptop and mobile to
watch the contect provided by the airline. It has been suggested that the
company can save millions of dollars on that alone . Airlines like RyanAir,
AirAsia are aggressively trying to cut cost by reducing costs associated with
entertainment, inflight snacks and so on. The result of these airline tickets
becoming more and more cheaper, paving way for the largest number of travellers
in the history of airline industry. Airlines like RyanAir has an average cost
of ticket at an astonishing rate of €46.67making it more accessible for
more people. And they do it by cutting the services that the passengers deemed
as not a priority and concentrating only on the most important services.

Conclusion and Suggestions:

The results from show that there is a
difference in the customer expectation and the actual service they get from the
airlines. In the current scenario where companies are trying to gain edge
through any means improving the services that the customer actually wants and
cutting down unnecessary cost could be the 
difference between a successful company and others. The airline industry
is going through a turmoil right now. In last two years alone five airline
companies have declared themselves bankrupt which is unprecedented. So by
improving services the company can maintain a competitive edge over others.

Further there is a need for much bigger survey,
covering much more wider spectrum , including different demographics and
nationalities that the initial survey was not able to conduct. By incorporating
their views the company will have much more broader understanding of the market
and the customers.

Reference:

https://www.dailystar.co.uk/travel/travel-news/671483/in-flight-entertainment-screens-flight-ditched-delta-airlines (Sophie Roberts january 2018)