These days, consumers prefer service quality over product identity. Take the case of of an IndiGo airlines staffer who allegedly manhandled a customer at Delhi Airport. It created a buzz in the aviation industry.
The drama unfolded on October 15 when IndiGo 6E 487 flew into Delhi from Chennai. After alighting the Airbus A320, Rajiv Katyal, a passenger, got into an argument with some ground staffers and allegedly abused them. Following this, a few IndiGo ground staffers stopped Katyal from boarding the bus which was taking passengers to the terminal. The way the airline and its staff reacted to the situation was not in accordance with the standards of the aviation industry.
Could it have been managed better?
According to the case presented, the way IndiGo, known for its hospitality, responded to the situation, raises questions. It is unfair to blame the passenger and his bad behaviour because the way the matter was handled was not justifiable.
The code of conduct dictates that on misbehaviour by a passenger, the crew might ask them to stop, or lodge a complaint against the passenger.
The best possible way the airline staff could have handled the case would have been to ask the passenger to wait and ask their supervisor to intervene.
Katyal should have been asked to stay back and co-operate. He should have been informed in case he was proven innocent, he would be put on the next available flight.
The decision that the high-level management at IndiGo took was devastating; possibly a major reason behind the negative publicity. Instead of taking immediate action against the ground staffer who recorded the fight, Montu Karla , , the committee took too long to take any action.
Impact on IndiGo
IndiGo, which is arguably India’s biggest low-cost airline, found itself in the middle of a PR disaster but it doesn’t seem to have suffered commercially from the anger on social media.
According to BusinessLine , online travel agents said in the days since the video became public, bookings on the airline — which enjoys close to 40 per cent market share in the domestic circuit — remained strong as ever. They added that there had been no requests by passengers to cancel their IndiGo flights or chaneg to other airlines; neither has the airline had to drop fares to retain passengers.
But there are strategies that IndiGo can adopt to help fix its image. For example, word of mouth (WoM). Good public relations are essential to provide value to customers , and after what happened in Delhi, customers view the brand negatively. WoM, if it isn’t handled properly, can spread like forest fire, this harming the brand and giving the customers a bad ‘learning’.
Learning, in this case, refers to the customer’s attitude. As far as commercial impact goes, we foresee a downfall in the near future, as this incident is directly linked to PR.
In marketing, it is said that it is more expensive to get a new customer than to retain an old on. This incident directly affected the current, loyal customers of the carrier, and opens a door for a competitor.
What IndiGo can learn from this:
~ The company needs to improve their customer care service
~ There should me more transparency between the authorities and the customer
~ The staff’s training should be updated and upgraded regularly
~ Positive WoM is a must to attract newer customers. PR is directly linked to the saleability; the impact takes time, but it is significant.
Today, we sell an experience and the product is just the medium. Our recommendations to IndiGo to tackle what unfolded in New Delhi would be:
1. Strict action against the staff involved should be taken.
2. Katyal, the customer, should be compensated, even though he was partially at fault
3. The full video should be made public with the a note of the correct sequence of events
4. There will be backlash from the incident, so the company should be ready to re-market the brand
5. IndiGo should also focus on its value proposition
6. The most important thing that the carrier should do is to project a campaign through digital media that looks to rebuild the trust of the customer and project itself as an airline providing high quality services at a low cost
(The fourth runners-up are PGDM students of Institute for Technology and Management, Navi Mumbai.)