Critical Incidence Report

Critical Incidence Report

Executive Summary

Critical incidence refers to a period when a client gets to interact with the service provider. This period is important because it presents an opportunity for the service provider to measure customers’ level of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The paper describes a critical incidence where I travelled to Sydney with Qantas airline (economy class). The expectations were top-quality services given that Qantas is an international airline with different destinations all over the world. Service delivery was poor and there was a huge service gap, in terms of both customer gap and provider gap. The expectations of the consumer were worlds apart compared to the services delivered. The analysis of the incidence shows that there is a breakdown of communication, poor physical facilities, and poor service delivery as part of the consumer gap. The provider fell short of reliability, empathy and responsiveness to customer needs as some of the main factors that led to dissatisfaction. The paper recommends a number f measures for Qantas airline including front-line personnel marketing, employee response, customer-oriented service delivery and use of customer surveys to enhance service quality.

Critical Incident Report

Part 1: Critical Incidence Description

I travelled to Sydney with Qantas international airline economy class. Generally, the service was poor from the attendants to food and interior of the plane. My flight was about 30 minutes late and no one gave explanations or updated the customers on what was going on.

To begin with, the attendants did not offer support advice when I needed help with the baggage. There was no one to help me to stow the baggage. I happened to place my laptop at the wrong place – I did not have an idea on where to place it—I placed it in the overhead locker. The attendant came with another customer’s luggage and started pushing her luggage in the same overhead locker. When I told her I had kept my laptop in the locker, she rudely told me to get it placed it somewhere else. The airline clearly lacked dynamic and friendly flight attendants for customer service.

In the plane, the coffee and tea machine were not working, and no flight attendant bothered to guide customers on what to do or offer explanation. The attendants of the flights were generally rude and did not bother to make customers feel comfortable. Snacks are available at the gallery upstairs but the gate to back stairs where there is self service, so I had to ask for everything. Yet the attendants were not responsive enough.

I had the worst experience with the legroom. There is no room in the seat-after to enable you stretch your legs will and have a comfortable sitting position. I was told that you must pay for exit row—about $90. The seat was also not firm and its base did not have any cushioning. The plane also showed some signs of marked lateral movement at the back. The seats gave me a backache, and I can imagine its worse for people who suffer from travel sickness. The coffee area is small, and in the same space, there are continuous queues for toilets since the toilets are not enough.

The food was just average. The quantity of the meal served was small compared to other international airlines. I was particularly disappointed to realize that not all fruits that were part of the package in the website were available during the flight. For instance, in their website, the portico at the back shows was filled with fresh fruits, light snacks and drinks, but when we came to reality such refreshments were not available. The food offered was just lukewarm; I would have expected to be served with hot food in an international airline. Generally, the quality of food was not up to standards.

Given the Australian culture, I expected all flight attendants to offer s smile and greeting to customers. This was not the case, they were boring, rude and talked back to travelers whenever they made inquiries or asked for something. I asked for flavored tomato juice, but the attendant never brought it and she kept walking up and down past my seat.

The entertainment system appeared fragile and outdated, with only a few options to choose from. The speakers are aging and there was limited movie selection, with an out-dated IFE. The interior of the airbus that I travelled in was lackluster and dry. The seats were outmoded and dull, denying me the comfort that I expected to enjoy when travelling in a national carrier. The customer next to me kept complaining about how Qantas requires young and vibrant attendants and overhaul of its service delivery system. I flew back using Emirates for the same class, and the service was different.

Part 2: Critical Incident Analysis

Customer gap

Customer gap occurs when there is disparity between consumers’ expectations and service delivered (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.2). Qantas is an international line, so the consumer expected to get first-class service in terms of personal entertainment, booking details, friendly staff and quality services. However, all these expectations were not met, which led to customer dissatisfaction.

Service Delivery

Customers expect friendly staff that can offer personalized services to each passenger according to their needs. For instance, customers expected quality meals delivered in a friendly and dignified manner. The staffs were assuming to the customers and they did not maintain the expected hygiene standards. This is a source of dissatisfaction to passengers. They also expect to be shown around or be directed accordingly when seeking help. Customers tend to personalize the element of service delivery. They study the attitude of the attendant and their interaction with customers in term of being polite, jovial, sociable, rude, and arrogant and hygiene standards.

Communication

Communication to the customer shows that he valued by the service provider and that relationship between the two is healthy according to Laws (2001). Flights are faced by numerous inconveniences such as weather and other forms of disasters. As a result, there may be delays or changes in scheduling. It is upon the company to communicate to the customer about the delays and course of action (Laws 2001, p.61). Consumers expect constant feedback from the company when making enquiries. Employees that are too slow to respond or are not knowledgeable about the company operations generally lead to dissatisfaction among consumers.

Passengers require different during the trip. Consumers are more satisfied when there are communication materials to guide them through the services that they require and where they can find them. Most customers do not like asking for everything when travelling. Consumers want labels or orientation beforehand (Archana & Subha 2012, p.61). Alternatively, if they will have to ask for anything, they need immediate response from the flight attendants.

Physical Facilities

Physical facilities in an airplane are part of service delivery, and consumers expect them to be functional and up-to-date with current technology. Psychical facilities such as interior and entertainment systems form a significant part of the customers traveling experience and their perception of the airline. Most customers expect a well-lit and warm interior that is modern and with the latest technology (Noe, et.al 2010, p 32). In this case, the interior was dull and boring that denied customers the luxury and ambience they expected in an international airline.

Personal entertainment is an important aspect of travelling according to Noe et.al (2010). Customers want to have a selection of movies or screen activities. They expect functional and latest music systems. In this case, all entertainment equipment were outdated, and there was no selection to choose from. The snack bars were also closed and the coffee and tea machines were not functional. The drinks and fruits were being served on a limited menu, unless what is expected in such airlines. There were queues in the toilet because the facilities were few. Consumers had to keep asking for things that should be readily provided by the company.

Comfort

An airline should be in a position to ensure comfort of passengers. The seat should be comfortable and designed to make the customer relaxed though out the journey. The design of the seat tells a lot about the company’s concern for its passengers. A comfortable seat shows that the airline had the customer in mind and that it wants to make the customer get value for his money (Bitner, et.al 1990, p.77). It also shows that they care about the health and well-being of the customer, which in turn influences the perception of the customer towards the company (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.7). In this case, the seats were not comfortable, they were old, and there was no legroom to allow customers to sit well.

Provider Gap

Airline service delivery is a process; Service delivery begins at ticketing and ends with post-flight services. The provider must ensure that all the responsibilities to the customer are met thought out the process.

Reliability

Customers should able to trust a business because it honors its terms and that customers know that they are covered. This can be achieved by delivering service at the exact time and according to the package that the provider had endeavored to deliver. The service should be error free, and in case of an error the service provider should be able to rectify in good time within a convenient operating time (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.3). Qantas was not able to have the flight on time, and did not respond in good time. The terms provided in their website such as meals and fruits to be offered were also not available.

Responsiveness

Customers want flight attendants that can attend to their needs and respond promptly. During the flight, most passengers did not know how to handle garbage and where to keep it (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.5). Others need not know where to get their drinks and snacks. Whenever customers asked for things, the response was slow or got rude comments.

Empathy

Airlines are expected to give caring and individualized attention to its customers. The attendants need to understand customers and ensure that they are constantly accessible whenever customers need them (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.5). Communication is also important as a way of fostering empathy with the client (Noe et.al 2010, p.12).

Part 3: Recommendation for Provider

Front-Line Personnel Marketing

The service provider should make use of front-line personnel marketing. In service marketing, the front-line personnel are the face of the product, and their interactions with customers heavily influence a customer’s perception of the service provider, the service or the brand (Marinova, et.al 2008, p.29).

In spite of their importance to a service company, front-line employees do not have an opportunity to innovate and improve their work setting or the way they work on daily basis. It is important for the company to understand front-line employees know and understand the clients better than anyone else. They provide invaluable source of market intelligence due to their daily interactions with the passengers and the public, so they understand their particular expectations and complaints (Marinova et.al 2008; Ekinci & Dawes 2009). Unfortunately, communication is one-way and does not allow information sharing with managers and the company according to Marinova et.al (2008). The company must make use of the employees to get this information and use it to formulate sales plans and policy units. At the end of the day, the organization will also achieve an integrated knowledge culture in the business that will allow the employees to serve the customers better (Ekinci & Dawes 2009, p.508). A simple feedback mechanism will allow front-line employees to give a response to the company that is more accurate, timely and responsive.

Knowledge management among front-line employees enables them to understand each consumer’s needs and respond accordingly without having to go back o consult through a lengthy process (Ekinci & Dawes 2009, p.513). Most frontline employees are not professionals, and so they lack the appropriate skills to deal with customers in the changing business landscape. The company should enhance knowledge management through communication, ensuring consistency, induction and obtaining market intelligence (Noe, et.al 2010, p.16).

Communication in this case means creating effective and open communication platforms with front-line personnel to ensure that they can pass information and get constant feedback within the hierarchy. Secondly, communication is about equipping them with the knowledge required to handle different clients each day (Dehghan, et.al 2012, p.). In the same line, it is important to make senior managers available to them so that they can represent the whole organization to the customer even at the lowest level. Once this flow of communication has been achieved, it is important to ensure that it is consistent throughout the units of service outlets and from time to time.

Employee Response

How do employees respond to problems and complaints responded by the customer. The company may not always get everything right as far as service delivery is concerned. However, the manner in which the employees will respond to customer demands and problems can move from customer dissatisfaction to customer satisfaction according to Bitner, et.al (1990). For instance, a customer would say he or she missed a flight because of a problem with travel car, but the

The issue of employee response in travels services especially those involve international airlines is wide and one that requires in –depth training. To begin with, the airline should recruit employees that will easily fit into the function. Such employees are able to work with people from different cultural norms, are dynamic, creative, tolerant, outgoing, able to handle pressure, initiative and excellent communicators (Noe, et.al 2010, p.21). For existing employees, it is important o have regular training and workshops on how to approach and respond to problems that are presented by customers on daily basis (Bitner et.al 1990, p.79).

Apart from recruitment and training, employee response has a lot to do with employee-employer relationship. There should be constant communication between employee and employer to facilitate passing of instructions and giving feedback

Customer Oriented Service Delivery

With increased competition and economic downturns, players in the airline industry are only left with an option of customer-oriented service quality to survive in the market. Traditionally, airline services were equipment-based, but a lot has changed with competition and technology, and travelers are looking for a travelling experience that appreciates their value and offers personalized services (Archana& Subha 2012, p. 51).

Customer oriented service delivery is the basis for customer satisfaction. Satisfaction begets loyalty, which is the building block for a reputable brand image. Importance of brand image to the company will be returning customers and new customers that are eager to experience the services of the brand and identify with the brand (Noe, et.al 2010, p.26).

Service Quality Dimensions Through Service Survey

Service survey is important for three reasons

Measuring customers’ expectations of quality of services

Measuring customers satisfaction and dissatisfaction to device a service marketing plan

Measuring customers’ perceptions and brand image and identify problem areas that require improvement

Service providers may put in place various dimensions t increase sales by improving customer experience. However, the right plan begins by identifying the dimensions that have a positive influence on the customer, and dimensions that do not have any influence on the customer.

According to a research conducted by Archana and Subha (2012), three key dimensions affect customers’ perceptions and satisfaction especially in international travels as indicated by the respondents. The dimensions consist of in-flight-service, back office operations and in-flight digital service. According to the research, the three dimensions have positive influence on customer perception of service quality in international travel. Service quality in terms of in-flight service includes cuisine of food provided, safety and comfort ability of the seats, as the most important dimensions. For in-flight digital service, passengers perceive personal entertainment as the most important dimension. For back-office operations, passengers’ satisfaction is highly influenced ticket booking especially online booking. More so, according to the findings, services delivered by the airline were also an important factor influencing their satisfaction.

Although findings may differ slightly from one customer to another depending on origin, class and cultural norms, these are the general dimensions that Qantas should work. In addition, coincidentally, these dimensions are clearly lacking in their service delivery.

References

Archana, R. & Subha, M, 2012, ‘A Study on Service Quality and Passenger Satisfaction on Indian Airlines’, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 2, 2 pp. 50-63, http://osinb.com/assets/client_files/pdf/jd.pdf (accessed 5 September 2013)

Bitner, M., Booms, B. H., & Tetreault, M. (1990). The service encounter: Diagnosing Favorable and Unfavorable Incidents.Journal Of Marketing, 54(1), 71-84.

Dehghan, A, Shahin, A, & Zenouzi, B 2012, ‘Service Quality Gaps & Six Sigma’, Journal Of Management Research, 4, 1, pp. 1-11, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.

Ekinci, Y, & Dawes, P 2009, ‘Consumer perceptions of frontline service employee personality traits, interaction quality, and consumer satisfaction’, Service Industries Journal, 29, 4, pp. 503-521, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.

Laws, E 2001, ‘Managing Airline Passenger Satisfaction During a Delay: A Case Study Applying Consumerist Gap Concepts’,Journal Of Quality Assurance In Hospitality & Tourism, 1, 4, p. 61, Hospitality & Tourism Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.

Marinova, D, Ye, J, & Singh, J 2008, ‘Do Frontline Mechanisms Matter? Impact of Quality and Productivity Orientations on Unit Revenue, Efficiency, and Customer Satisfaction’, Journal Of Marketing, 72, 2, pp. 28-45, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.

Noe, F, Uysal, M, & Magnini, V 2010, Tourist Customer Service Satisfaction : An Encounter Approach, London: Routledge, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.