Is social contact with the customer either necessary or profitable to a service industry? Does the salesgirl sell? Or, is she just a packaging‐and‐money‐taking component in a selling organisation? We have had the self‐service restaurant with us for several years, why not the self‐service pub? And in transportation, the Victoria Line is almost fully automated. Need an airline provide more than comfortable seats and a convenient schedule of flights? Just how important is it to have a pleasing social relationship with the customer? Obviously, the answers to these questions depend on a variety of factors in any given situation; and, inevitably a prime factor is the economic one. The situation for the airlines is an unusual one: market competition is constrained by the international regulation of fares and schedules and even of the type of meal service on particular routes. As a result the airlines compete in such narrow areas as the ambience of the passengers' surroundings and the social skills of their customer contact staffs.
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