Hill (1993, p. 117) in his book, ‘The essence of operations management’ states that “A service comprises four distinct facets, separating out these different parts will help check specifications, set standards and ensure control takes place” The product service bundle for Southwest Airlines include supporting facilities, the physical goods, information, the sensual service and the physiological service I will now discuss each and show how customers can evaluate each segment
Supporting Facilities – These consist of the main physical resources within the company and they must be in place before any service can be offered, features to be determined within Southwest Airlines include exterior design, interior appointment, layout, supporting equipment, the airport the planes are using and also the planes themselves.
The customer can easily evaluate how good these are as they when they are flying with Southwest Airlines they will know for themselves how good of a condition the plane is internally and they can also see quickly if the exterior of the plane looks in good condition, they will also know how well the layout of the plane is. The Physical Goods (facilitating goods) – This is the materials and goods purchased and consumed as part of the service provided and can be assessed on the ground of quality, quantity and choice, so the main physical good would be the flight and their seat on the plane.
Customers can evaluate this as they will be on the flight and use observations to analyze if there’s enough space between the seats for adequate leg room, they will also be sitting in the seats so the customers can rate this based on how comfy the seats are and making sure all the products worked well e. g. recliner in chair. Ways of customers evaluating how well Southwest Airlines has used the information is that if it has been used successfully then there shouldn’t be any delays with problems of names on boarding passes, flight numbers on the tickets and times of the flight.
If this happens then the customers will be rightfully annoyed at having to wait if the flight is delayed. Sensual Service (Explicit) – This refers to the perceivable benefits which comprise of the essential feature of the service assessed on factors such as availability, consistency of provision and the range of choice on offer. It is also based on the senses of the customers, and this can be evaluated by whether the customers experience good sensual feelings.
The Psychological Service (Implicit) – These comprise the psychological benefits which a customer may perceive or experience and these are supplementary to the service itself. Relevant features relating to this include server attitudes, atmosphere and convenience of entering the service delivery system, this also deals with how the customers feels the flight went, was there any disruptions during it and whether they have arrived at the time which they had previously been told prior to take off.
Southwest Airlines is one of the cheapest major airline companies, one of the reasons they can offer this service is that they believe customers are willing to sacrifice some of the luxury services they receive from other major airlines in order to have cheaper flights, these include in-flight meals, luxury seats and there is no business or first class option, just coach class.
Southwest Airlines use Boeing 737’s as their main planes and this means that all their pilots and mechanics are all trained to fly the same airplanes so that if someone is unable to fly then they can get another pilot to fly it knowing that the stand in pilot will be more than capable of carrying out his duties, cost wise to Southwest Airlines it reduces their training cost as it means that all pilots and mechanics can be trained together and no individual training has to be carried out for each pilot on each separate plane.
Southwest Airlines have a wide and frequent range of flights, and even has flights from Dallas – Houston every two hours. With their extremely large base of airplanes they can offer a lot of flights and also do this at times which will suit the consumers best.
Also their pilots aren’t part of the USA national union which means that they aren’t restricted to only flying for a certain number of hours per week if they don’t want too, this gives Southwest Airlines more flexibility with getting extra flights run as the pilots can always be called upon to carry out a few extra flights per week. If one of their aircraft was to break down or suffer a technical fault then as they use the point to point system it can be fixed there and then sane as they will have the equipment, maintenance workers and also any spare parts which might be needed.
This reduces the amount of time that the plane is grounded and means that it can be put back in use and flying customers again far quicker than if they had to fly back to their hub and carry out the technical checks on it there, and this would mean that the time being used to carry out the checks would reduce the amount of flights Southwest Airlines can carry out and could also cause a rise in congestion with the consumers who were meant to be flying on that plane, this overall will mean angry customers and a loss in profit and reptutationSchroeder (2004, p.
23) in his book ‘Operations Management’ states that “policies should indicate how the operations objectives will be achieved” Processes -This contains various policy areas including span of process, job specialization and supervision. The span of process involves whether the product needs to be made or bought, for Southwest Airlines they would buy their planes and equipment in from suppliers.
The job specialization involves Southwest Airlines investing time and money into meeting customer specifications, ways of gathering this data would be a quick in-flight questionnaire asking the customers how they think Southwest Airlines could improve the service they offer.
Ways of improving Southwest Airlines processes would be to ensure that they invest in new and advanced technology and equipment to fix any airplanes which might break down in the future, however with any new technology training would also need to be provided to the maintenance staff so they are up to date on any new technology which is being introduced as they will most likely have to deal with it when an airplane does incur a minor technical fault.
An alternative to this would be to invest in new airplanes if older versions are becoming too outdated or are constantly suffering from faults, but in Southwest Airlines case there is no need to invest in new aircraft as they already have 400 of the newest gets in the USA with an average age of 9. 6 years
Quality – The quality of Southwest Airlines is already very high with them being the first airline to win the coveted Triple Crown for a month which included best on time record, best baggage handling and fewest customer complaints. They also have their Reservation Sales Agents (RSA’s) and to become one you need master technical skills and learn most aspects of the airlines operations, know ticketing and fare rules, working knowledge of the company website functions and know the whole travel process in depth e.
g. Ticket sales – check in procedures. This means that if a consumer rings up and whether their looking for help on how to navigate their way through the Southwest Airlines website or if they just need to ask a general ticket enquiry question then the RSA’s will be able to answer these questions so this gives the consumer a very high sense of staff knowledge so there is no need to improve customer relations quality.
Ways in which Southwest Airlines could improve is in the visual sense and this could involve the quality of the interior inside the aircraft and making sure the plane is always cleaned thoroughly and also that the quality of staff uniform is always kept in good condition and presented well. Ways of testing the quality of Southwest Airlines would be to constantly have inspectors analyzing if there’s any way that Southwest Airlines can improve the quality of their airline.
Capacity – This is essentially the maximum output a business can achieve; Southwest Airlines currently have a high frequency of flights with more than 2008 flights per day. Possible ways of improving their capacity would be too increase the amount of airplanes they have but this would be a costly investment, a cheaper alternative would be to try and increase check-in service even further so that everyone is checked in and ready to board the plane as soon as it has been cleaned from the previous flight, this is also known as reducing the turnaround time.
Inventory – Southwest Airlines currently use the point to point method which means that they are having to hold their stock such as spare parts, snacks and fuel at various airports where as if they were to adopt the “Hub and Spoke” they could hold all their inventory in the one place, this would mean less distribution costs as they wouldn’t have to ship out their snacks to various airports and if they held their stock at their “Hub” then they could possibly use economies of scale and buy in bulk.
However with the “Hub” system if stock runs out then it would affect all spokes, the only way I feel that Southwest Airlines could improve their inventory operations system would be to switch to the “Hub and Spoke” system, although I do feel that overall throughout the operations system the “point to point” method is the best.