Total Quality Management and Malaysia Airlines Paper

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VOLUME 4 NUMBER 6 1994 CELEBRATE ANDRECORD Malaysia Airlines’ Corporate Vision and Service Quality Strategy Abdullah Mat Zaid Malaysia Airlines’ vision is to become “An Airline of Excellence”, offering the very best to its passengers in terms of safety, comfort, service and punctuality. This vision was amplified by our chairman in the company’s 20th anniversary commemorations in October 1992. The mission has been stated in three main thrusts as follows: (1) To make Malaysia Airlines one of the leading standard bearers for the airline industry in terms of safety, efficiency and quality of service. ) To develop Kuala Lumpur as the preferred gateway into Malaysia and the South-East Asia region. (3) To make Kuala Lumpur a major cargo transhipment area for the Asia-Pacific rim. Among the key initiatives taken to meet our mission for the future are a fleet modernization and network expansion programme, an upgrading of our in-house maintenance and engineering facilities, development of modern infrastructure and computer systems and training and developing of personnel to meet the needs of the future.
In addition, top management has refocused its goal on creating a customer-driven and quality-oriented ulture in the launching of the company-wide Destination Service Excellence (DSE) programme in July 1991. (The DSE programme is an extension of Total Quality Management to provide a clear focus on customer requirements at the heart of Duslness processes In Malaysia Alrllnes ana to create a quality service culture through internal communications and human relations management practices which can firmly reflect the importance the company places on good customer service. At the second DSE Convention held by Malaysia Airlines in October last year, which carried the theme “Enhancing World Class Quality hrough Competitiveness”, our chairman Tan Sri Zain Azraai inspired the employees by reiterating top management’s commitment to the vision for Malaysia Airlines to become “An Airline of Excellence”.
Tan Sri Zain stressed that in any organization there are four areas within that paradigm of Total Quality which emphasize continuous improvement which need to be addressed: (1) The individual in an organization: it has been said that the key to creating a Total Quality organization is first to create a Total Quality person who uses a true-north compass that is objective. This compass is used to find and ocus on the organization’s future direction. 2) Managerial effectiveness: which is basically to nurture a win-win partnership between the individual and the organization, and between the organization and its customers. (3) Organizational productivity: for which quality should be seen to start from the top. The leadership of the organization must be intimately involved to see that the quality paradigm is planted into the minds and hearts of all staff. (4) The non-human side of the organization: in terms of equipment, facilities, processes and systems; these also contribute to the customers’ impression about the type of uality to expect of the company.
In the concluding part of his address, Tan Sri Zain said that the DSE programme is a philosophy, a paradigm of continuous improvement which is not the programme of the company but the philosophy and value of everyone in the company. He summed up: “It has been said that Quality will give an lnOlvlOual or organlzatlon a long-term competltlve advantage. And if it is in the character of the individual and in the culture of the organization, it cannot be duplicated by anyone. Our managing director, Dato’ Kamaruddin Ahmad also offered some pertinent directions to he participants at the convention with his statement of the challenges facing the company and the service quality strategy which has been developed. The Malaysia Airlines service quality strategy which he articulated is briefly as follows. The first step Malaysia Airlines took in developing a service strategy was the embarkation Managing Service Quality, Vol. 4 No. , 1994, pp. 11-15 MCB university press, 0960-4529 11 MANAGING SERVICE QUALITY on a company-wide thrust towards service excellence, when the DSE programme took off in July 1991 to position the airline as “An Airline of Excellence” in the Asia-Pacific region. This strategy has lately been reinforced by a comprehensive review of the company’s business processes so as to align the people and systems components of the business process with the customer-driven strategy.
The service quality strategy addresses two main thrusts. (1) To reinforce the Total Quality philosophy in the Malaysia Airlines service culture through the springboard of TQM. The philosophy embraces the concept of “quality in everything we do”, including decision-making, work processes, work environment, teamwork and so on. (2) To improve customers’ perceived quality of Malaysia Airlines. This covers both the technical and functional aspects of our service offerings. tlquette ana nanollng customer complalnts Employees have also passed through the Quality Improvement Team (QIT) training programmes under the DSE project, and employees have taken the initiative to form cross-functional action teams to identify specific problems in quality or service in their working environment and to propose solutions to management. These action teams help to promote a quality culture in the company by inculcating cross-functional improvement processes which make quality customer service an ngoing agenda in the company.
We believe that the more that service quality is discussed within the company, the greater the understanding will be of what it means in the dayto-day working environment of the employees and the better the company will be in achieving it. We are still a long way from saying that the DSE quality customer service approach has been completely integrated into the company, but what we are clearly seeing is a significant transformation of the corporate culture that is becoming more customer driven and quality oriented.
Reinforcing the Corporate Culture to Foster Change Communicating Externally with Customers While setting the right corporate culture is crucial to achieving good service quality through internal communication processes to motivate employees and to ensure that the company’s aspirations are well understood by everyone, we have also to communicate externally to ensure that customers understand what the company is offering in terms of service, to manage their expectations and to persuade them to buy our service.
This external communication process forms an important part of managing the evidence by providing tangible clues to help customers, as well as employees, form the ight mental picture of the intangible service offered by Malaysia Airlines. An example is in advertisements which feature employees to show to customers the importance of service through people, but advertising is only one of the ways in which external communications can help to Improve tne customers perception 0T quall Conscious efforts are being made to reinforce the customer-driven focus and quality-orientation conveyed in top management’s vision for excellence to all employees.
The DSE programme forms the main vehicle for company-wide definition and understanding of the shared values hrough top-down communication as exemplified in the management speeches at DSE conventions, as well as bottom-up communication of departmental missions and quality improvement projects to the DSE Council chaired by the managing director from time to time. Values are also shared through other internal communications processes such as the in-house newsletter (Berita MAS), by way of reports on the progress of service initiatives and to publicize the achievements of employees who have provided excellent service to customers.
The in-house newsletter also features a column called “From the MD’s Desk” which serves as a regular reminder to all employees on examples regarding the right way to satisfy customers and to provide top-quality service. External speakers have also been invited from top-quality organizations such as IBM and Shell to share their experiences on service quality with our employees at Saturday Encounters held from time to time.
To help employees understand better what is expected of them in terms of serving customers, training programmes have been conducted for employees at all levels to educate them on what quality customer service is at Malaysia Airlines nd on basic service standards such as telephone Malaysia Airlines’ Advertisements The advertising medium plays a major role in Malaysia Airlines’ communication strategy but other media are also used such as press releases, the in-flight magazine Wings of Gold, familiarization tours of Malaysia Airlines’ facilities for travel agents, Journalists and the general public, and so on.
Malaysla Alrllnes launcnea two major advertising campaigns in October last year for both the domestic and international markets. 12 enhance the recall value of the commercial as well as to create an airline advertisement that is clearly ifferentiated from others. The 9()-second commercial has received overwhelming praise from both industry sources as well as the public at large since it was launched last September.
It is said to be the most ambitious television commercial ever undertaken by an advertiser in Asia, using state-ofthe-art visual effects developed by a company owned by George Lucas and Lucas Film Ltd, which won 12 Oscar awards for block-buster films such as Star Wars and ET and is also responsible for the box-office success Jurassic Park. The “Care” commercial was aimed at the local Malaysian market reinforcing a promise Malaysia
Airlines has always nurtured since the company was incepted in 1971. The “Care” positioning theme promised the level of caring that goes into every aspect of handling the diverse needs and expectations of our passengers. A woman is seen anguishing over her pet budgerigars that are being carted into cargo, a pregnant woman needs help with her luggage, an old woman is rather bewildered and a child is separated from her parents in the mad rush to catch the flight.
As usual, with ease and sincerity, the calm and caring staff from Malaysia Airlines sort and iron out all the problems captured at the moments of truth. Staff involvement is crucial towards underlining the credibility of the advertising message – which is why, for the first time, more than 60 staff participated in the first of the series titled “Care”. In addition to the “Care” commercial, three other commercials have been developed on the themes of “Reunion”, “Mulu” and “Special Fares”. The “Reunion” commercial shares happy moments 0T Tamlly reunions among Malayslans. q The “Mulu” commercial demonstrates the extensive network served by Malaysia Airlines domestically. q The “Special Fares” features some 40 different choices available for Malaysians to fly around he country on economical value-added fares. The underlying promise conveyed in these commercials is to show that Malaysia Airlines cares, and that the new advertisements are not cosmetic, in line with the company’s “Destination Service Excellence” strategy.
The main thrust of the international advertising campaign titled Vision” was to project the size and stature of Malaysia Airlines in a futuristic sense which reflects a modern, global and futuristic mental picture of the airline in the minds of the target consumers. The futuristic strataport is in the aerodynamic shape of Malaysia Airlines’ kite logo to symbolize he modernity and expansion of the airline and this vision is used as the springboard to convey a thousand dream flights.
The Nision” commercial also conveys the message that Malaysia Airlines has made great leaps forward from its previous stature as a relatively young airline, in that it now carries more passengers than any other airline from South-East Asia on some of todays most advanced aircraft, and spans a truly international network of 90 destinations across five continents. Also, to reflect the Malaysian character of the Vision” commercial, a large number of Malaysia Airlines in-flight crew and Malaysian actors were nvolved in the lead roles for the advertisement.
The computer-generated visual presentation of Malaysia Airlines as a futuristic airline helps to New Uniforms for Front-line Employees By managing the tangibles associated with the service experience, marketers have the opportunity to reinforce other service quality dimensions with a quality look – not necessarily by looking expensive or elegant but by paying attention to basics such as cleanliness, orderliness and customer-friendly systems to the extent that such tangible evidence is approprlate to tne target market ana overall service strategy.
This means attention to the smallest detail that competitors might consider trivial and unworthy of investment. Yet, it is the visible details that can add up for customers and signal a strong message of caring and competence.
Malaysia Airlines’ experience in presenting a quality look as a component of its service quality strategy extends through many areas in the physical environment of the airline, including the decor of its front-office ticketing counters, its Golden Lounges at the airports, the cabin interior of its aircraft, the uniforms of its cabin crew and other frontline staff, he presentation of in-flight meals, the appearance of our check-in counters, and so on.
Besides modernizing the aircraft fleet with the latest new generation 8747-400, A330 and 8737400/500 aircraft, Malaysia Airlines has implemented a new quality appearance for all frontliners since last year by introducing a collection of new uniforms for cabin crew and counter staff designed by Gherardini of Italy. While the timeless sarung kebaya with batik motifs has been retained for female staff, uniforms for the male staff have for the first time in 17 years seen a visible change to a style that is more in vogue.
Quality Meals In the many other little things that we do that present a quality look to our passengers, I can draw from the example of the award Malaysia Airlines received from Inflight Research Services of London last year ranking Malaysia Airlines top in First Class service from a survey of 31 international airlines. 13 Malaysia Airlines scored highest in three service dimensions of cabin crew courtesy, meal presentation and quality of meals served. In the area of meal presentation, Malaysia Airlines excelled mainly because of the great attention given to the Tlner eta a 11S 0T tne meal presentatlon, e. . : Presentation of the bar service, with a good selection of internationally known liqueurs, wines and champagnes served by experienced and capable cabin staff. q Branded quality glasses, plates, bowls and cutlery which carried a good and consistent corporate image, presenting a pleasing and exclusive feel to the First-class cabin. In particular, Malaysia Airlines uses cut glass for its First-class drink service, and it was revealed that less than 25 per cent of the airlines surveyed offer this extra touch of exclusivity. Presentation of salt, pepper and butter is of a very good standard and appearance – unlike everal airlines which make use of plastic cartons for butter and paper sachets for salt and pepper. In the case of the quality of meals served, this pertained mainly to the condition and appearance of the food at the point of service rather than the type of food served on board. Malaysia Airlines was ranked top on quality of meals served in terms of the meals being served in the best condition, that is the food served was fresh and appealing and retained a good flavour and appearance. Kuala Lumpur and London since last October.
This is basically a standard tray set-up service which is vailable to those passengers who do not wish to go through the standard full-course supper service for First Class, which is otherwise delivered on a service trolley. The quick meal option is timed especially for flights departing around midnight to cater to those passengers who wish to have a quick supper and go to sleep. This meal service alternative was introduced based on feedback obtained from Malaysia Airlines Esteemed Travellers (MET) who attend special MET luncheons and food-tasting sessions organized by the airline.
In view of the favourable response from passengers, this quick meal option was extended to ther flights in our menu change for the summer 1994 season. Prompt Meal servlce Tor en u Class Passengers We have also made improvements to service procedures for those passengers travelling in Golden Club Class. This has resulted in a reduction of the service delivery time by more than 25 per cent to about 1. 5 hours, without affecting the quality of service. Beverage Service on Cart for Economy Class Passengers This is another improvement we have made for the Economy Class passengers which was implemented in the summer 1994 season.
Previously, our cabin crew offered Juice and beer s standard choices for after-take-off beverages in the Economy Class while passenger requests for other drinks were entertained separately. The new service for beverages to be delivered on the cart will offer passengers the drink of their choice on the cart without their having to wait for a separate Flexible Menu Policy Continuous improvements are being made to the in-flight menu, in keeping with the new menu policy (started last year) to increase the cycle of change to meet the changing needs and expectations of customers, based on feedback from voyage reports and passengers.
This new policy reates better flexibility in customizing to the different tastes and preferences of the passengers by offering a greater variety of meal combinations, a more extensive range of appetizers, and creative food preparations with the aim of being on par with the cuisine served in excellent hotels. The new menus for international flights feature a variety of tastes and flavours of Malay, Chinese, Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisines. The health aspect of travellers has also not been ignored, due attention being given to low-fat content, calorie count and cholesterol levels in the menu preparation. Cabin Crew Proficiency in Foreign

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