Dr. Jaeger is not just any Air France traveler – he is a privileged member of the airline’s most elite loyalty program: Club 2000. By virtue of this membership, he is to expect the utmost in superior service quality standards from Air France. But after a horrible experience with the airline that left him “standing in the rain,” literally, he is not only incensed from his travels gone awry, but even more from the inferior service encounters he faces after the fact. After several months of frustrating, useless attempts to secure compensation for his lost luggage, and after having been ignored and given the “run-around” by many Air France service employees, Dr. Jaeger is obviously no longer an Air France customer. Yet the question remains: Who is responsible, and what should be done?
ISSUES / ANALYSIS:
Based on the Inséad case study, the following are some of the problem areas which are contaminating the Air France-KLM customers’ vision of “best service” and which need to be addressed:
1)Leadership: A company’s philosophy is undoubtedly shaped by its leaders. Sincere leaders who lead with integrity truly inspire employees to do the same. Thus, in order for a leader to come across as genuine or “authentic,” that leader needs to lead his/her organization with purpose, meaning and personal values which are not only communicated verbally, but also communicated through the leader’s own actions. The authentic leader needs to “walk the talk.” With this value-driven leadership also comes the ability to build enduring relationships with people – first, with his/her own employees and, secondly, with his/her customers. Unfortunately, Jean-Cyril Spinetta’s (CEO, Air France) behavior in the case study is not an exemplary model of leadership. If Spinetta will not respect and respond to his best customers, then why should his employees?
2) Corporate Culture: It is no secret that with regard to Air France’s marketing efforts, service-related issues have historically been underemphasized, most notably those dealing with service quality. In this area, Air France’s endeavors have noticeably lagged behind those of other comparable traditional airlines. What Air France has been slow to realize is that, due to the deregulation of the airline industry in Europe, their battle for competitive advantage can longer be fought on either price (because price moves are too easily copied) nor on “loyalty” based on company legacy, since these levers will no longer be enough to keep customers coming back. What should be obvious is that, in this new environment where all airline companies now have comparable fares and matching frequent flyer programs, the airline with the better (or the best) perceived service will draw passengers from other carriers.
3) National Culture: Unlike the United States, France is not particularly well-known for its focus on customer service. Certainly some of this has to do with its national history and the fact that, even today, the class system in France is far from dead. One could make a strong argument that customer service in France may be viewed as a lessening of oneself to become subservient in a given context. This seems to be an indication of a cultural-specific issue, since service in the United States, for example, tends to be regarded more often as a service of “equals”: a salesperson or customer representative tends to act as a partner in a transaction, neither currying favor (although friendliness is always appreciated), nor pushing the customer (hopefully) into decisions s/he does not want to make.
4) Consistency of Competence: “Perhaps more than anything, a successful program depends on competent and consistent execution.” The problem that is apparent from Dr. Jaeger’s dilemma is that there is no consistency of competent behavior from one airline to the other, and neither is taking...