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WORLD CLASS COMPETITIVE AIRLINES

by Rene T. Domingo (email comments to rtd@aim.edu)

In order to survive and grow, airlines, regardless of place of operation, have to be both internationally competitive and must continuously improve their competitiveness.

Passengers expect the same high standards of service from all airlines -- standards which are set by the world-class airlines they have flown. Those airlines which do not strive to reach these new world standards of customer service and efficiency run the risk of losing -- sooner or later -- both their local and international market shares to more competent competitors.

Thus, airlines have to continuously work to understand and cope with two moving targets: changing expectations of customers and ever-improving service of competitors. Because both customer and competitors determine the criteria for service in a dynamic fashion, airlines have to adapt their organizations and strategies to these new realities and be more proactive in their strategic outlook.

In general, there are three areas where excellence must be achieved to stay competitive, as perceived by customers.

1. Customer Service Quality (pre-flight, in-flight, post-flight)

a) safety;
b) efficiency;
c) consistency;
d) completeness; and,
e) convenience.

2. Customer Service Delivery

a) staff attitude;
b) timeliness -- e.g., departure/ arrival times, ticket processing, baggage retrieval
c) timely and accurate passenger information systems.

3. Customer-oriented Corporate Culture

a) corporate-wide commitment to quality and safety
b) customer-focused organization and networks
c) cooperation with stakeholders, suppliers, and other business partners.

To achieve excellence in these areas, airline management must:

a) constantly and continuously improve al aspects of operations to improve all aspects of operations to improve customer service; analyze present systems and determine their effectiveness in delivering competitive customer service quality, enhance systems accordingly, and get customer feedback on the changes, and repeat the cycle of analysis/improvement/feedback continuously (kaizen process);
b) institute a corporate-wide effort to initiate change and sustain improvements
c) stay close to the customer, understanding and anticipating his needs; use the total quality approach and institute effective feedback information systems;
d) learn what the best competitors or even-competing airlines are doing and emulate them if not surpass them in quality of overall service and efficiency; this process is called competitive benchmarking.

Making an airline world class requires drastic and even painful shifts in paradigms:

a) From flying planes to serving passengers
b) From transporting people to serving people
c) From treating passengers like baggage to treating baggage like passengers
d) From in-flight service to complete service (pre-flight to post flight)
e) From the transportation business to the service business.

Airlines should go beyond satisfying passengers-by delighting, better yet, surprising passengers with exceptional, prompt, unforgettable service. The ultimate benchmark that indicates if an airline has reached world-class status is when its passengers cease acting like customers and begin serving the airline as its salespersons- spreading the good word around and convincing their friends to fly the airline. Indeed, the best advertisement is not a satisfied customer, but a delighted one.


 

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