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Aeroflot works to end service with a snarl

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(photo - airline service)

In preparation for the Winter Olympic Games, the Russian airlines Aeroflot hired an American consulting firm to teach service with a smile. You can read the details and the entertaining comments in this November 1, 2013 article in the New York Times titled "Russian Service, and With Please and Thank You" by Andrew Kramer.

Much of the article expounds that flight attendants need to be friendly, and includes management support for better training, food, and beverages. The issue raised is that "friendliness" is culture-nuanced and that what goes for friendly in Russia may not fly for visitors. And vice versa.

The part of the article that really triggered my QFD thinking was this:

"The new training proposed by McKinsey focused on providing a sense of personal attention without taxing the attendant's time. For example, they teach that the flight attendant should tell a passenger, 'I hope you are comfortable,' but not ask, 'Are you comfortable?'  The first signals concern, but the latter might elicit an actual, and unwanted, response."

Service QFD

In Service QFD, we try to go beyond just "problem solving" and enter the domain of "value creating." Nothing wrong does not mean anything is right. Value creation includes understanding key customer needs - before they and your competitors do, and designing innovative solutions, then operationalizing a quality delivery.

What the above passage suggests is that if the customer need of "I am comfortable" cannot be innovatively addressed or quality assured, then don't allow the customer a chance to respond. This is short-term thinking, and if post-Olympics service is out of scope, then it may be the best that can be achieved. If Aeroflot wants to maintain its heightened service, however, than a long-term approach may be necessary.HOQ image by QFDI

QFD could help them immensely. Readers not familiar with Modern QFD should note that the following steps may not require a "House of Quality" (the picture on the right). But the simplicity of Modern QFD is often attractive to service providers since it focuses quickly on high priority actions.

1.  What is the long-term goal of the Aeroflot? Is it to become the carrier of choice for any traveler to/from Europe? Is it to increase BIS (butt in seat) % since revenue and profit are tied to fill?

2. Which customers are most critical to achieve these goals? Russians, non-Russian Eastern Europeans, non-Russian Western Europeans, Asians, Middle East/Africans? Business, leisure, or group travelers?

3. Who are the preferred competitors and what do they do well (that can be emulated or exceeded) and poorly (that can be improved)?

4. What needs do these preferred competitors address? Customer needs are product/service independent, such as "I am respected" "I am comfortable" "My belongings are safe" "I enjoy my meal" etc. These needs can be prioritized by key customers to indicate where redesign efforts should focus.

5.  Customers can also be asked how good is "good enough" or "no longer makes a difference." This can help designers determine minimum and maximum improvement levels as measured by the customer.

6.  Innovation to exceed preferred competitors can now be narrowed to the critical few needs. Copying Asian airlines whose flight attendants kneel to eye level (as reported in this article) may not be the best solution for the key customers Aeroflot wishes to attract. Personally, that is how I might talk to a child, which is how I feel when I am kneeled to.

7. Operationalize the innovations with human, mechanical, and information support. Determine service quality metrics and set targets that relate to the customer metrics cited above. Find the transfer function y=f(x) between the customer metric (y) and the service metrics (x) and monitor both.

8. Repeat above every 12 month to continuously improve beyond preferred competitors.

These steps are easy for any service provider to follow. Of course there are supporting tools and techniques that make the process easier. Please join us in the next QFD Green Belt® course and learn more.

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