This case (Medium is the message) illustrates the face-to-face nature of services along with its managerial implications. Fly Away Travel is known for providing stimulating holidays, and also for their personal attention and care. It is this high level of customer service that differentiates it from other travel providers.
To combat geography and to facilitate a growing service business, Fly Away routed all initial enquiries through an outsourced, independent call Centre. This, as a matter of course, did not permit the personal attention and care, that Fly Away employees were known for to come through to new customers, and complaints were received.
Managerial implications of the decisions taken by Max.
The decision taken by Max and Briony to outsource initial enquiries is certainly understandable given their goals of geographic expansion and the nature of providing travel service. What they want, however, is long term relationships with their customers, not brief service encounters.
Interestingly, whereas the call center may have been the cause of many of the complaints, the interpersonal nature of the communication may have allowed customers to feel more comfortable complaining, opening up an avenue for complaints that was not there previously.
The face-to-face nature of services
The face-to-face nature of travel consultancy may have inhibited complaints, and this may happen again when they move the customer enquiry function back in-house.
At this stage, it is recommended that Fly Away travel perform a customer service audit.
Steps in Conducting a Customer Service Audit
Suggested outline format:
- Detect customer interaction tasks
- Review standard procedures for each task
- Identify performance goals by task
- Specify performance measures by task
- Review/evaluate personnel elements
- Identify/evaluate support systems.
If Fly Away wants to expand geographically, it will need to implement an effective customer service program that takes into account the excellent service culture already present. This involves:
- Training and recruiting the relevant employees
- Educating their customers to know what to expect in terms of service
- Standardize the initial enquiry system within the firm to provide efficiency first
- Be proactive and receptive of customer complaints.
Responding to Competitive Pressures
Competitive differentiation on service must apply to both core product and supplementary services. CS activities need to be formalized and integrated into a professionally managed function:
- Research customer needs, wants, satisfaction levels for each service encounter
- Identify key sources of (dis)satisfaction for each service element
- Set service level standards for each element with reference to how relate to each other
- Design jobs and tech systems to meet these standards
- Revise standards periodically in light of changing circumstances.
The development of central location telecommunication Centers together with large computerized databases is enabling service organizations to expand their reach across time and geography.