Friday, 26 August 2016

Air India - In Need of Total Quality Management

The quality and timeliness of service delivery impacts the market performance of a business. Before the Indian government acquired the majority stake in Air India, it had created for itself a reputation of professionalism, reliability and cost-effectiveness. Thereafter, the government the acquired majority stake, and Air India was nationalized. It initially enjoyed a monopoly of the domestic commercial air transport market from early 1950s till early 1990s (Krishnan 2008). It was during this time that the quality of service delivery started to decline.
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The key issues that have led to a gradual decline in service quality in Air India are explained hereafter. To begin with, frequent strikes by the staff made Air India to miss some of its trips thus inconveniencing its customers. Secondly, maltreatment of junior employees and female air hostesses by the management of the company not only demotivated the junior staff but also spurred litigation which further tarnished the public image of the company. Thirdly, incompetence by the pilots caused accidents and laxity in flight operations. Finally, rudeness, ambivalence and arrogance of the staff to the customers of the airlines served to further tarnish the public image of the Airline Company (Archana & Subha 2012).
Service process breakdown that was witnessed in the operations of Air India was mainly due to the fact that it was a public sector organization. Usually, the mind-set of employees of a public sector organization is that of unaccountability and laxity since they know that even if the organization makes losses, the government would always bail it out and that their salaries would not be reduced or their jobs threatened. The employees of Air India had the mind-set of unaccountability, laxity and entitlement. They understood that the Indian government would always bail the Airlines if it fell into financial difficulties and therefore there would be no job cuts (Archana & Subha 2012). This sense of entitlement to job security made many employees, including the pilots, to be lax in their performance. Also, there was no objective performance appraisal done, and this made the employees to be unaccountable for their actions.
The specific (Total Quality Management) TQM sustainability concepts discussed hereafter can be applied to Air India so as to address its current challenges. The most important concept is customer satisfaction through quality improvement. This concept is closely tied to another concept - streamlining of the processes of the organization. The two dimensions that ensure the attainment of customer satisfaction are service features and freedom from deficiencies (Oakland 2014). Service features imply the quality of design that would ensure that the airline offers reliable services in a timely and courteous manner. Freedom from deficiencies implies the quality of conformance that would ensure that the services offered do conform to standard rules and regulations. This would eliminate laxity in the workforce as well as ensure that the services advertised by the company correspond to the real services offered.
The quality perspectives of the services offered by the airline would be determined by its speed of delivery, timeliness, elimination of waste, consistency, customer satisfaction, and compliance with procedures and policies. The concept of technical quality versus functional quality can also be applied to Air India. Technical quality defines the core element of the service offered by the airline, while the functional quality defines the perception of the customers concerning the utility of the services offered (Oakland 2014). Thus, it is evident that this concept does influence the expectations and perceptions of the customers. The degree of customer satisfaction is determined by how much the exceptions are perceived by the customer to have been met. Therefore, if the customers perceive that their expectations (of services) of Air India have been met, then the customers will be totally satisfied.
Archana, R. and Subha, M.V., 2012. A study on service quality and passenger satisfaction on
Indian airlines. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research2(2), pp.50-63.
Krishnan, R.T., 2008. The Indian Airline Industry in 2008. IIM Bangalore.
Oakland, J.S., 2014. Total Quality Management and Operational Excellence: Text with Cases.

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