Singapore Airlines

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The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0960-4529.htm

MSQ 15,3

A case study of service failure and recovery within an international airline David Bamford
Manchester School of Management, UMIST, Manchester, UK, and

306

Tatiana Xystouri
Ministry of Finance, Nicosia, Cyprus
Abstract
Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the effectiveness of internal processes of service quality recovery for an international airline. Design/methodology/approach – An action research methodology was adopted. The research involved: a review of available service quality literature; the identification of causes of failure/errors within the host company; the development of key lessons and management guidelines. Findings – It is argued that, for service recovery to be effective, it must be external (to the customer) as well as internal (to the organisation). The need to incorporate employees and not overlook their significance, power and influence on the delivery of quality service is highlighted. Through comparison with another airline the findings re-assert that service quality excellence can only be achieved through employee satisfaction, commitment and loyalty as a result of senior management commitment, focus and drive. Research limitations/implications – The methodology applied was appropriate, generating data to facilitate discussion and from which to draw specific conclusions. A perceived limitation is the single case approach; however, Remenyi argues that this can be enough to add to the body of knowledge. For further investigation, there is an ongoing opportunity for future research in the area of service quality, failure and recovery, as well as the service quality gaps within the airline. Practical implications – Key lessons and management guidelines for improving service quality are presented. Originality/value – The paper describes how an international airline has tangible service quality failure and recovery systems in place, but fails to capitalise on the data and information generated. Keywords Customer services quality, Service failures, Service improvements, International travel, Airlines Paper type Research paper

Managing Service Quality Vol. 15 No. 3, 2005 pp. 306-322 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0960-4529 DOI 10.1108/09604520510597845

Introduction Services marketing and management literature widely acknowledge that keeping current customers and developing relationships with new ones is a key business strategy (Piercy, 1995). The growing sophistication of consumers does represent an ongoing challenge to all manner of service organisations. According to Zemke and Bell (1989) nothing is as common as the organisation committed more to lip service than customer service; more interested in advertising than action. This is not helped in the link between customer satisfaction and profits being neither straightforward nor simple. Zeithaml (2000) highlights three major problems in measuring relationships as: (1) the time-lag between measuring customer satisfaction and measuring profit improvements;

(2) the number of other variables influencing company profits such as price, distribution; (3) that other variables (such as behavioural issues) should be included in the relationship as they explain causality between satisfaction and results. However, a number of studies have demonstrated a clearly positive relationship between organisation performance and customer satisfaction/service excellence. Wirtz and Johnston (2003) highlight the positive correlation between the profits and service excellence of Singapore Airlines (SIA). Commenting on the competitive nature of the airline industry, one of their interviewees states: [. . .] it is important to realise that they (customers) are not just comparing SIA with other airlines. They are comparing us against many...
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