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Service Breakdowns: A Study of Critical Incidents in an Airline

International Journal of Service Industry Management

ISSN: 0956-4233

Article publication date: 1 December 1992



Presents the results of an empirical study of critical incidents in an airline. Describes and analyses service breakdowns from the customers′ point of view and thus creates a basis for “crisis management”. The discussion is based on interviews with 320 customers and 80 airline employees. Focuses on negative critical incidents in the relations between the service provider and business passengers. Provides a background as to why quality in services is an important aspect of management and a major research field. Discusses the typical features of service production and defines the term critical incident. Considers the strengths and weaknesses of the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) and describes the choice of method and model for the empirical study. Presents and discusses the results of the survey. Reveals, among other things, that there is a considerable difference between the way customers perceive critical incidents and the view of the airline employees as to what causes critical situations for the customer. This shows how important direct information from customers is. Further, it appears that many critical incidents can be explained by faults in the production system, primarily regarding information to and communication with customers.



Edvardsson, B. (1992), "Service Breakdowns: A Study of Critical Incidents in an Airline", International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 17-29.




Copyright © 1992, MCB UP Limited

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