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a.) In what ways did the shuttle company fail to provide the promised service?
From the author’s experience of the “priority service” which turned out to be an unhappy ending, we can see that actually there were several major failures that all together led to the final customer dissatisfaction and the loss of customer loyalty as the author like many customers in the similar situations had made up in his or her mind that he or she would never use the services provided by the company.
First of all, the shuttle company did not get in contact with the customer in the first place. If there should be any reasons that stopped the driver from getting the airport on time, the controller should have known this, or else there was a lack of communication between the dri ri and the controller. In the first place, if the controller told the customer that there might be delayed because of the specific reason that stopped the normal schedule, and after knowing the possible delay the customer would not expect the driver to come on time.
Secondly, because of the promotion information that the customer saw, he or she had high expectation for the service that he or she would expect. Therefore, the company failed to manage the expectation of the customer when it got to know that there could be a possible delay. According to M. Rosita Schiller, Karen Miller-Kovach and Mary Angela Miller (1994, p. 29), the expectations of the customer which are subject to the promotion efforts have a strong bearing on the overall degree of customer satisfaction. If the company in the very beginning added the statement in the ads saying that the service could be affected by uncontrollable factor such as weather and natural disasters. Hence the failure to manage the customer expectation had finally contributed to the customer dissatisfaction.
Thirdly, even we assume that there was a lack of timely communication between the driver who had been assigned to pick the author, another failure belonged to the company was that when the controller received the report of the lateness of the driver through the report from the driver who came across the author, the controller failed to make appropriate follow up on this case. There could be two major alternative that the company could turn to. On one hand, the company could inform the customer that due to some specific reasons (explain with details and honesty) and apologized for the inconvenience caused and offer the customer the option to join another van that was available; on the other hand, the company could measure the expected time that it took for the driver to come to the customer and inform the customer regarding this time period, if the customer was willing to wait, the result should not be this bad. Because the company had given a seemingly perfect rapid and humanized pickup service in the ads, the failure to make appropriate dealings and handlings when unexpected situation happened had made the company unable to deliver the promise.
b.) Were the dispatcher’s decisions appropriate? Why?
At the very beginning, let us review the decisions made by the dispatcher during the whole event as described in the case study:
(1). After 20 minutes from the arrival of the customer, the dispatcher was radioed by one of the drivers who came across the the author, but the dispatcher told the driver that the van assigned to pick up the author will soon arrive and asked the driver to tell the customer to wait for a minute.
(2). After another 15 minutes, when another of the company vans came across the author which was also not the correct one, and the driver pitied the author’s experience and sent a request to the dispatcher to change the route and send the author to the hotel as an exceptional handling. The dispatcher granted the request.
(3). When the driver sent an additional request to drive the author to the hotel directly, the dispatcher denied the request and ordering the driver to wait for the couple that she was supposed to pick up. Only after picking up the couple which was 10 minutes after the picking up of the author.
In my understanding, the dispatcher’s decisions were not appropriate for four major reasons:
First of all, the dispatcher should send a driver that was familiar with the route to the destination. As mentioned in the case, the driver who took over this transportation mission in an unexpected situation was actually not familiar with the route to the destination, if it had not been an coincidence that the couple knew a shortcut to the hotel, it could be a worse experience to the customer. But it seemed that that dispatcher did not consider this issue and just granted the driver to pick up the customer who had been waiting there for 35 minutes who were supposed to receive priority service.
Secondly, the dispatcher should have asked the driver to send to customer directly to the hotel as a compensation made to the customer who had already been disappointed about the service delivered. Since the delay had been done, the dispatcher’s decision to ask the driver to wait until the couple were picked up was not appropriate in that situation because the author was really annoyed with 35 minutes wasted in the waiting.
Thirdly, the dispatcher did not provide any guidance to the driver who took over the transportation mission regarding how the customer should be handled and what compensation should be offered to the customer. Speaking from the result of the case, the customer did not call and manager through the contact number provided by the driver but instead decided not to be the customer of the company any more, we can see that the dispatcher’s decisions did not assist the goodwill recovery and lead to the business failure.
Last but not least, as seen from the case the dispatcher finally let alone the case and did not send the case to the relative department to follow up which could make it possible to recover the customer confidence or at least try to salvage the customer by providing some offers.
c.) How would you change the company’s policies to improve its service?
Set up a manager call back team to salvage unhappy customers
As just mentioned, the final handling of the case is that the driver gave a telephone number of the manager for the customer to call to complain, this is actually a very negative solution to this case. One possible change that could be implemented to avoid this unhappy ending is to set up a manager call back team to salvage the unhappy customers. In the end of case that involved unhappy customers, the dispatcher or the driver could report the case to this manager call back team to ask them to give a call back to the customer to make some offers to them and try to make them come back again to buy the services and products offered by the company. The manager call back team should have the power to make sufficient and attractive offers to the customers to make them feel that the company is doing enough to bring them back. Though such manager call back team usually would not actually have all the manager level staffs to hand the unhappy customers, the company should pick up those who are patient and have good communication skills to make up this team.
Provide sufficient empowerment to the dispatcher to make exceptional handlings
Though in the answers to the last question we have come to the conclusion that the dispatcher’s three major decisions were not appropriate and he or she should have done a better job following our answers, but here we all assume that the dispatcher could make this decision without limitations, the actual scenario could be like this: the dispatcher could not order a driver to leave his mission and help with another mission. Therefore, it could be the problem of the company policy in term of limited empowerment given to the driver rather than the mere problem belonging to the dispatcher. Hence, we should change the company policy to provide more empowerment and authorization to the dispatcher to make decision based on the needs of the individual case and the dispatcher’s judgement.
d.) What are the lessons about customer focus, empowerment and leadership from this case?
First of all, let us define the three terms: customer focus, empowerment and leadership.
Customer focus is the commitment to putting customers first and ability to deliver a consistently high quality service (Evans 2010). Empowerment could be defined as the extension in people’s power to make selections in a context where this ability was previously denied to them (Wegener 2010). And leadership could be referred as the interpersonal processes, through which some individuals assist and direct the group toward the completion of collective group objectives (Rost 1993).
From the analysis into this case, there are lessons learnt from this case in these three topics. We will elaborate them in the following three parts:
In term of the customer focus, customers who pay to enjoy priority service should be given more attention. But unluckily in this case, the priority customer had not been treated like a VIP (very important person) but like a stranger. We talk about customer focus, it means that we should give design the company policy and operational procedures based on the perspective that the customer satisfaction should be maximized. In addition, leaving alone the unhappy customer without further salvaging them is obviously not an advisable strategy when we talk about customer focus. And this is the lesson that should be learnt from this case.
In term of the topic of empowerment, if the customer satisfaction could be increased with more powerment given to the operational level staffs, such empowerment should be encouraged. As we can see from this case, employees in two different positions are not given enough of power to provide good service to the customer. On one hand, the drivers who came across the waiting customers were not having the rights to decide on site how the customer could be handled and what they can do is to inform the dispatcher and wait for the guidance, if they were allowed to provide the option to customer to join their van provided the customer agree with the offer, then the result could be changed at the very beginning; on the other hand the lack of empowerment majorly happened in the position of the controller, the dispatcher whose decisions actually directly contribute and influence the result of this case. As mentioned above, the controller with sufficient empowerment should have better alternative to handle this case to avoid the loss of customer confidence as well as restoring the customer confidence when the damage was done.
In term of the leadership, though not directly mentioned and discussed in this case, we can see that in this company, leadership behaviors are majorly in the style of telling as the drivers and also the controller could had been asked to following the decision of the higher management and the interaction between the employees and the leaders were not enough. The lack of empowerment in the company’s leadership practices actually indirectly contributed to the business failure as indicated in the case. Hence our lesson learnt in this case is that the leaders should provide enough of empowerment to the operational staffs if such empowerment would not be easily abused and at the same time could help provide better customer experience.
Evans, J. R. 2010. Quality & Performance Excellence. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Rost, J. C. 1993. Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Schiller, M. R., Miller-Kovach, K. & Miller, M. A. 1994, Total Quality Management for Hospital Nutrition Services. , London: Jones & Bartlett Learning, p. 29
Wegener, L. 2010. Empowerment as a Guideline for Development Policy. Germany: GRIN Verlag.