As the reading, “Re-Energizing the Mature Organization” (Jick and Peiperl, 2010) makes clear, the organizational culture at British Airways is in dire need of change. While British Airways is the largest and one of the most lucrative airlines in the United Kingdom, and the world, the carrier appears to have become overly confident in its own success, and it seems that customer service has suffered as a result. When reviewing the case study about British Airways, it appears that one of the major problems within the organizational culture was that, for much of its existence, it had been largely subsidized by the British government, and thus has felt little compunction to do whatever is necessary to compete in a consumer-driven market (Grundy & Moxon, 2013). After all, if ticket sales were to suddenly decline, along with sales revenue, the air carrier could ostensibly rely on the British taxpayers to come along and rescue them with a bailout. However, given the current state of affairs in the United Kingdom, precipitated by “Brexit,” it looks as though British Airways will be required to fend for itself in the near future.
According to Jick and Peiperl (2010), one of the greatest organizational weaknesses at British Airways is the abominable levels of customer service that are provided by the carrier. As some of the employees interviewed for the case study mention, they are often embarrassed to state that they are employed by British Airways, as they believe that new acquaintances will judge them negatively for their affiliation with the company, and this characterized life at the “old” British Airways. Indeed, almost everyone who has taken a British Airways flight has a horror story about rude or indifferent flight attendants, lost luggage, or overbooked flights. Clearly, British Airways needs to overhaul its organizational culture so that all employees understand that the customer comes first in any situation. However, transition can often be difficult, and this was the case at British Airways.
In any business, customer service should be one of the highest organizational values. After all, the customers provide the revenue that serves as the lifeblood of the organization, and if a business is to survive, they should work to ensure that existing customers wish to return to purchase more tickets, and that they will also recommend the airline to friends and family. Indeed, in the current global airline market, customer service does not seem to be highly valued at many organizations (Lange et al, 2015). Airlines the world over are doing whatever they can to “nickel and dime” passengers, and, given recent reports about passengers being violently attacked by security guards onboard United Airlines and American Airlines flights, the value of the customer in the airline industry seems to be at an all-time low. However, if British Airways is successful in changing their organizational culture to reflect a high awareness of the importance of customer service, they will gain a definite competitive edge in the industry.
With regards to changing the organizational culture at British Airways to instill a greater importance on the customer, this effort took several months, as current employees at the airline had grown accustomed to being able to treat passengers in a rude and brusque manner, and getting away with it. In order to change the organizational culture, executive leadership at British Airways required all employees to attend a day-long customer service workshop, which not only provided much needed training in client relations and the proper treatment of passengers, but will also signaled to all employees that the organizational expectations were to change. If I were to do anything differently, I would ask the executive management at British Airways to prominently post a toll-free customer complaint line in full view of all employees, so that they become more mindful of their behavior.
- Grundy, M., & Moxon, R. (2013). The effectiveness of airline crisis management on brand protection: A case study of British Airways. Journal of Air Transport Management, 28 (1), 55-61.
- Jick, T., & Peiperl, M. (2010). Managing Change: Cases and Concepts, 3rd. ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Education.
- Lange, K., Geppert, M., Saka-Helmhout, A., & Becker-Ritterspach, F. (2015). Changing Business Models and Employee Representation in the Airline Industry: A Comparison of British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa. British Journal of Management, 26(3), 388-407.