Friday, March 8, 2019

Cost-Effective Service Excellence: Lessons from Singapore Airlines

fol natural depression-effective vertical worthiness slightons from capital of Singapore short letterlines Singapore Airlines is soundly known as a paragon of in- safety valve run. It is to a fault a sign all told(prenominal)y efficient and dinero adapted airline and has been for decades. Loizos Heracleous, Jochen Wirtz and Robert Johnston explain how it combines serve up integrity with comprise effectiveness. Singapore Airlines (SIA) has achieved the Holy Grail of strategic success sustainable militant reinforcement.It has consistently outperformed its competitors throughout its 30-year history. In addition, it has always achieved substantial returns in an manufacture plagued by intermittent periods of disastrous under- exploit (see Table 1). efficient run excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines SIA has done this by managing to navigate skilfully between poles that intimately companies think of as distinct delivering service excellence in a costeffective way. SIAs awards list is long and distinguished.In 2002 alone it won no less than 67 international awards and honours including stovepipe airline and most prize airline in the world in Fortunes spheric Most Admired Companies survey. Spring 2004 G mint 15 balance wheelnalise 1 condescension Strategy Review 33 Since Michael Porters influential suggestion that differentiation and cost leadership atomic number 18 inversely exclusive strategies and that an organisation must ultimately choose where its competitive advantage will lie, there has been fierce debate about whether a have strategy stick out be achieved and sustained over the longer term.SIA is proofread that the answer to both these questions is positive. So, how does it consistently deliver premium service to demanding clients in an industry where both price pressures and node expectations have been continually uprising? In common with some new(prenominal) organisations with a reputation for providing archetypa l-class service, SIA has top management commitment to service, customer-focused module and governing body of ruless, and a customer-oriented civilization. However, our research into SIA, spanning m either years and at all levels in the organisation, has uncovered a cocoa of insights into developing and nurseing a reputation for service excellence that is applicable to a wide range of service organisations. Ultimately, SIAs success is attri b arelyed to a customer-oriented culture, its light of the importance of its customers. Our riders argon our raison detre. If SIA is successful, it is largely because we have never allowed ourselves to occlude that important fact, verbalizes Dr Cheong Choong Kong, former CEO of SIA. However, what distinguishes SIAs culture is that these be non bonny abstract, motherhood statements.The assesss of efficient service excellence be enshrined in a unique, selfreinforcing activity strategy that removes the values real for all employees . We found that the five pillars of this activity system (see Figure 1) are G rigorous service excogitate and exploitation G total inception (integrating nonstop incremental improvements with discontinuous innovations) G salary and cost intelligence ingrained in all employees G holistic stave festering G reaping of strategic synergies through related variegation and world-class radix. harsh service design and development Twenty years ago Lyn Shostack complained that service design and development is usually characterised by trial and error. Unlike manufacturing organisations, where R&D departments and reaping engineers were routine, systematic testing of wait on, or service engineering, was non the norm. Things reckon to have changed little since then. SIA, however, has always regarded product design and development as a serious, structured, scientific issue. Performance metrics Revenues $m SIA United northwesterly Continental American DeltaBA Cathay KLM Quantas 5,133 16,138 9,905 8,969 18,963 13,879 12,103 3,903 5,788 5,207 Net income (loss) $m Net profit margin (%) Operational profit margin (%) Revenue / cost ratio Revenue per $1,000 labour cost Net income per Load Tonne Km $0. 001 343. 2 (2,145) (423. 0) (95. 0) (1,762) (1,027) (206. 1) 84. 2 (138. 2) 212. 3 6. 68 2. 16 4. 08 10. 4 0. 016 2. 73 6. 83 1. 12 5,310 0. 81 2,279 0. 92 2,499 1. 02 2,969 0. 88 2,361 0. 93 2,266 0. 99 3,581 1. 03 3,989 0. 9 3,739 1. 07 3,995 2. 73 (10. 53) (3. 06) (1. 02) (8. 64) (6. 27) (1. 55) 1. 03 (1. 35) 2. 54 Table 1 Singapore Airlines performance relative to competitors Sources Annual Reports for the airlines most repenny financial year. IATA World Air Transport Statistics 2001 www. exchangerate. com (past rates based on respective report dates). 34 Business Strategy Review Spring 2004 G Volume 15 Issue 1 Cost-effective service excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines Cost stiff Service Excellence Ingrained profit consciousness Rigorous service design Figure 1The five pillars supporting SIAs cost-efficient service excellence SIA has a service development department that hones and tests any change before it is introduced. This department undertakes research, trials, time and motion studies, mockups, assessing customer answer whatever is necessary to check out that a service innovation is back up by the right procedures. Underpinning continuous innovation and development is a culture that accepts change as a way of life. A trial that fails or an implemented innovation that is removed after a few months are non seen as problems.In some organisations ad hominem reputations can be at stake and so pilot tests have to work. At SIA a failed pilot test damages no-ones reputation. In some organisations, service, and thus product, innovations live beyond their useful years because of political pressure or lack of investment re acknowledgments. SIA expects that any innovation is likely to have a short shelf life. The airline recognises that to sustain its differentiation it must maintain continuous improvement and be able to kill programmes or services that no longer provide competitive differentiation.According to seaman Kim Wah, senior vice-president, product and service It is getting more and more difficult to differentiate ourselves because both airline is doing the same thingthe crucial fact is that we continue to say that we want to improve. That we have the will to do so. And that every time we carry out a goal, we always say that weve Cost-effective service excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines got to find a new mountain or hill to ariseyou must be able to give up what you love. Customers as well as competitors raise the stakes for SIA.A company with a senior high school gear reputation attracts customers with high expectations. SIAs research aggroup has found that SIA draws a disproportionately large number of very demanding customers. Customers adjust their expectations according to the grass image. When you fly on a good brand, like SIA, your expectations are already sky-high. And if SIA gives anything that is just OK, it is just not good enough, says Sim Kay Wee, senior vice-president, cabin clump SIA treats this as a fundamental resource for innovative ideas. Weak signals are amplified.Not only written comments moreover excessively verbal comments to the cluster are taken seriously and reported back to the relevant sections of the airline. An additional source of intelligence is SIAs rat flights, where advisors travel with competitors and report on their offerings. Finally, SIA recognises that its argument does not just come from deep down the industry. As a rule, SIA sets its sights high and instead of aiming to be the best airline its intention is to be the best service organisation. To achieve that, SIA employs broad benchmarking not just against its main competitors but against the best service companies.Spring 2004 G Volume 15 Issue 1 Busines s Strategy Review 35 Holistic staff development append innovation Strategic synergies youthfulsCast High flying but in addition outstanding service on the ground It is important to realise that our customers are not just comparing SIA with other airlines. They are comparing us against many industries, and on many factors. So when they pick up a phone and call up our reservations, for example, they are actually making a mental comparison, maybe subconsciously, to the last best experience they had.It could be a hotel it could be to a car lease company, says senior vice-president, product and service, Yap Kim Wah. If they had a very good experience with the hotel or car rental company and if the bordering call they make is to SIA, they will subconsciously make the comparison and say How come youre not as good as them? They do not say You have the best hollo service system out of all the other airlines Ive called. beingness excellent, our customers, albeit subconsciously, will b enchmark us against the best in almost everything. Total innovation integrating incremental development with unanticipated, discontinuous innovations An airline has a multitude of sub systems, such as reservations, catering, maintenance, in-flight services and entertainment systems. SIA does not aim to be a lot bump but just a bit better in every one of them than its competitors. This delegacy constant innovation but in any case total innovation in everything, all the time. Importantly, this also supports the notion of cost effectiveness.Continuous incremental development comes at a low cost but delivers that necessary margin of value to the customer. It is the totality that counts. This also means that it does not need to be overly expensive. If you want to provide the best food you stock leader decide to serve lobster on short haul flights between Singapore and Bangkok, for example however, you might go bankrupt. The point is that, on that 36 route, we just have to be better than our competitors in everything we do. Just a little bit better in everything.This allows us to make a small profit from the flight to enable us to innovate without pricing ourselves out of the market, says Yap Kim Wah. charm cost-effective, incremental improvements are an important basis for its competitive advantage, SIA also implements habitual major firsts that are firsts in its industry, both on the ground and in the air. One example is its Outstanding service on the ground programme. This initiative involved working with the many other organisations that impact on customer service before and after a flight to ensure a seamless, efficient and caring service.SIAs latest service excellence initiative, called Transforming customer service (TCS), involves staff in five key operational areas cabin crew, engineering, ground services, flight operations and sales support. The programme is about mental synthesis team looking among staff in key operational areas aimed at ensuri ng that the whole journey from the purchase of the ticket onwards is as winning and seamless as possible. SIA employs an innovation approach called the 40-30-30 rule. It focuses 40 per cent of the resources on training, 30 per cent on the review of process and procedures, and 30 per cent on creating new product and service ideas.In addition to continuous incremental innovations, SIAs reputation as a service trailblazer is also based on unanticipated, discontinuous innovations in the air. Examples of current innovations entangle the full-size space-bed and on-board email and Internet services in business and first class. In addition, SIA has do the strategic choice to Cost-effective service excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines Business Strategy Review Spring 2004 G Volume 15 Issue 1 be a leader and colleague at the same time. It is a pioneer on innovations that have high impact on customer service (for example in-flight entertainment, beds and on-board email).However, it i s also a fast follower in areas that are less visible from the customers point of view. In doing so, SIA relies on proven technology that can be implemented swiftly and cost-effectively. For example, SIAs revenue management and customer relationship management (CRM) systems use proven technology where its partners had the experience to ensure a smooth and costeffective implementation rather than going for the latest technology, which would not only be much more expensive but also carry a higher implementation risk.Profit-consciousness ingrained in all employees Though SIA is focused on the customer and providing continually improving service, managers and staff are well aware of the need for profit and cost-effectiveness. All staff are able to deal with the potentially conflicting objectives of excellence and profit. This is created by a cost and profit consciousness. Its drilled into us from the day we start working for SIA that if we dont make money, well be un somaly down. Singa pore doesnt need a national airline.Second, the company has made a very important visionary statement that We dont want to be the largest company. We want to be the most profitable. Thats very powerful, says senior vice-president Yap Kim Wah. Performance related reward system Team concept Peer pressure to perform Ingrained profit consciousness Related diversification High profitability Cost Effective Total innovation Service Excellence Strategic synergies Competitive intelligence, spy flights Extensive feedback mechanism Benchmarking against best-in-class Holistic staff development Supporting fundament Rigorous service designDemanding customers exploitation the Singapore girl Figure 2 Singapore Airlines self-reinforcing activity system for developing cost-effective service excellence. Cost-effective service excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines Spring 2004 G Volume 15 Issue 1 Business Strategy Review 37 As a result, any proposed innovation is analysed very carefully on the bal ance of expected customer benefits versus costs. Station managers and frontline staff constantly trade-off passenger satisfaction versus cost effectiveness the customer has to be delighted but in a costeffective manner.Second, and like many service organisations, SIA has a rewards system that pays bonuses according to the profitability of the company. The same formula is used throughout the company. As a result there is a lot of informal colleague pressure from individuals within the organisation staff and managers appear quite render in challenging any decisions or actions if they see resources being vitiated or money being inappropriately spent. SIA builds team spirit within its 6,600 crew members through its team concept, where small teams of 13 crew members are formed and then fly together as farthest as possible for at least two years.This leads to the development of team spirit and social bonds within the team that reinforces the culture of cost-effective service excellen ce and the peer pressure to deliver SIAs promise to customers. Developing staff holistically Senior managers say that training in SIA is almost next to godliness. Everyone, no matter how senior, has a training and development plan. New stewardesses undergo training for four months, longer than any other airline. This includes not only functional skills but also soft skills including personal interaction, personal poise and the emotional skills involved in dealing with demanding passengers.In addition to training, SIA also encourages and supports activities that might on the surface be seen as having nothing to do with service in the air. Crew employees have created groups such as the perform Arts Circle, staging full-length plays and musicals, the Wine Appreciation gathering and the Gourmet Circle. These activities help to develop camaraderie and team spirit as well as personal knowledge of the finer things in life, which feeds into the service the crew delivers in the air. Achiev ing strategic synergies through related diversification and world-class infrastructure SIA uses related diversification to achieve ost synergies and at the same time control quality and enable transfer of learning. Subsidiaries serve not only as the development ground for management skills and a embodied rather than a divisional outlook through job revolution but also as sources of learning. In addition, related operations (such as catering, aircraft maintenance, airport management) have healthier profit margins than 38 the airline business itself because competitive intensity is lower and the industry structure is more favourable.SIA Engineering, for example, ensures that SIA does not pay expensive aircraft maintenance fees to other airlines rather, it sells such services to other airlines at healthy margins. SIAs fleet, the youngest in the world, ensures low maintenance costs, low fuel expenses and high flight quality. SIAs Inflight Catering Centre produces SIAs own inflight cuisi ne, ensuring high quality, reliability and responsiveness to customer feedback, but also caters for other airlines at a healthy margin. SIAs SATS Group supplementary manages Changi Airport, which is regularly voted the best airport in the world.This airport management and infrastructure entices passengers who are travelling on to Australia, New Zealand or other countries in the region to pass through Changi and to choose SIA as their carrier. SIAs subsidiaries become under the same management philosophy and culture that emphasises cost-effective service excellence. Even though they are part of the group, they are quoted separately on the Singapore Stock Exchange and are subject to market watch with clear profit and loss expectations. In SIA the conventional wisdom of outsourcing (outsource circumferential activities and focus on what you do best) does not apply.External suppliers would not be able to offer the value that SIAs own subsidiaries can offer it. This kind of related d iversification within SIA leads to strategic synergy in legal injury of reliability of key inputs, high quality, transfer of learning and cost effectiveness. Loizos Heracleous (emailprotected edu. sg) is helper professor of strategic management at the National University of Singapore. Jochen Wirtz (emailprotected edu. s g) is link up professor of marketing, director of the APEX-MBA (Asia-Pacific Executive MBA) Program, codirector of the UCLA-NUSEMBA Program, and a member of the management charge of the NUS Business School, National University of Singapore. Robert Johnston (bob. emailprotected wick. ac. uk) is professor of operations management at Warwick Business School. Bringing it all together building a self-reinforcing activity system How, specifically, do these elements lead to costeffective service excellence? The five pillars of SIAs cost-effective service excellence are made real through a self-reinforcing activity system of virtuous circles (see Figure 2). The cultural values of cost-effective service excellence are more than just abstract ideas.They are ingrained into the minds of both employees and organisational processes. This may help to explain why SIAs competitive advantage has been sustained for so long. While it is easy to imitation single elements, it is much harder to reproduce an entire, self-reinforcing system. I Resources Porter M. , Competitive Advantage, clean-handed Press, New York, 1985 Shostack G. L. , Designing services that deliver, Harvard Business Review, vol 62, no 1, JanuaryFebruary 1984 Cost-effective service excellence lessons from Singapore Airlines Business Strategy Review Spring 2004 G Volume 15 Issue 1

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