World Airlines, or Trans World Airlines, was one of the largest commercial airlines in the United States up until its merger with American Airlines in 2001. Preceding the 1980s, World Airlines maintained a strong position in both national and international markets, being the first to introduce in-flight movies in 1961. Following poor decisions and as a result of deregulation of the commercial aviation industry, World Airlines declared bankruptcy in 1992. After several reorganisations, World Airlines expanded its routes and flights through the largest acquisition in its history in 1998 (Siddiqi, 2003).
This essay will examine World Airlines will through a case study (Engdahl & Hoffman, 1993), in light of a complaint made by J. Q. Customer, regarding his connecting flights between Charlotte and Munich. After establishing key definitions, this essay will identify and evaluate each service failure expressed by J. Q. Customer, assess its attribution of blame and identify how they could have been prevented.
The service failures identified will be evaluated with the assistance of differing theories and models, including: attribution theory, the Gaps model, Total Service Product Concept, and the Zone of Tolerance. Each model will be defined within the context of each failure. Furthermore, each failure will be assessed in relation to the five service quality dimensions: reliability, assurance, responsiveness, empathy and tangibles.
This essay will then evaluate the service recovery strategy of World Airlines. The efforts of World Airlines in response to the complaint will be assessed based on distributive, procedural and interactional justice considerations; and it will be established whether these efforts would have restored the cust...
Service failures are defined as incidences when customer expectations are not met, when there is a breakdown in the service delivery (Hoffman, Bateson, Elliot & Birch, 2010). Service failures occur during actual interaction by the customer with the organisation, at critical incidents (Hoffman et al., 2010). Through voice behaviour, J. Q. Customer outlined the service failures that he experienced in a complaint letter, which gave World Airlines the opportunity to respond, retain the customer and avoid negative word-of mouth.
Service Failure 1:
The issues arise during J. Q. Customer and his wife’s first flight with World Airlines. A customer’s zone of tolerance refers to the difference that exists between adequate service, the quality of service a customer is willing to accept, and the desired service, the quality that the customer wants from the service (Hoffman et al., 2010). Having booked first class tickets for this flight, J .Q. Customer’s zone of tolerance would have been narrower due to the premium price, and therefore willing to accept minimal variation in the service required.
On Flight 3072, J. Q. Customer and his wife were served a seafood salad that was warm and following this, on their next flight with World Airlines, they both suffered food poisoning. The customer’s wife consequently passed out and hit her head, resulting in head and back injuries. The flight attendants immediately attempted to assist, but could do nothing but aid in cleaning up (Engdahl & Hoffman, 1993). This is the first service failure that occurred, falling below the customers’ expectations of an adequate service, resulting in dissatisfaction.
In order to identify
the type of service failure, the incident sorting process will be used, as seen in Figure 1 below (Bitner, Booms ; Tetreault, 1990).
Source: (Bitner et al., 2007). Incident Sorting Process, p. 76.
A service delivery system failure is one that is part of the core service provided, or an unexpected system failure (Bitner et al., 1990). Therefore as food poisoning can be considered a core service failure, following the incident sorting process, it will belong to Group 1C. In this circumstance the organisation demonstrated a lack of reliability and assurance, decreasing perceptions of service quality. The flight attendants’ failure to provide sufficient medical assistance, under the total service product concept falls under supporting services as an exception, problem solving. As a service worker failure, perhaps stemming back to insufficient training from the organisation, this service failure belongs to Group 2A as a ‘special’ need.
Attribution theory, or attribution of blame, refers to who is blamed or at fault when something goes wrong (Robbins, Millet & Waters-Marsh, 2007; Swanson & Kelley, 2001). Attribution of blame has been correlated to a customer’s propensity to complain, if blame is attributed externally, the more likely a customer is to complain. As J. Q. Customer did proceed to complain, it is clear that he attributes this service failure externally to the organisation. This can be seen as fair, as World Airlines is in control of the food they deliver, and the training they provide their staff. The customers’ participation in the service delivery was minimal, and this can be said to increase dissatisfaction, as the customer has no perceived control over the situation.
This service failure could have been prevented by ensuring the food was of a high standard and kept fresh (Burslem, Kelly and Preston, 1990). Despite the occurrence of the food poisoning, and the fall, had the organisation acknowledged the problem, provided immediate medical attention, and appropriate compensation, they may have prevented the complaint, and resulting dissatisfaction of J. Q. Customer (Bitner, et al., 1990).
Service Failure 2:
The second service failure brought up by J. Q. Customer was upon arrival at Munich, when both himself and his wife discovered that their baggage had been left in a rainstorm at Kennedy, thus ruining many items (Engdahl & Hoffman, 1993). As part of a core service failure, World Airlines again lacks reliability, failing to perform the promised service. Considering the incident sorting process, this failure falls under Group 1C, where the core service falls below basic standards for the industry (Bitner et al., 1990).
The attribution of blame would similarly fall on the organisation. This is due to the fact that it is World Airlines’ responsibility to set higher standards of their service delivery workers to ensure promises are kept. Therefore the organisation is in control, and the customer would attribute the failure externally to World Airlines.
To prevent this failure, instead of allowing the customers to find out their luggage was saturated upon arrival at Munich, World Airlines could have also immediately acknowledged the problem, apologised, and offered compensation for any ruined items.
Service Failure 3:
On the customers’ return flights the service quality did not improve. Flight 87 was delayed in
- London Gatwick Airport
- Low-Cost Carrier
- Southwest Airlines
- Fast Food
- Genetically Modified Food
- Organic Food
- fruits and vegetables
- Chewing gum