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To achieve competitive advantage is not the every business in the current era is looking, but it should be sustainable for long term. The major component of the sustainable competitive advantage is satisfied customers, organisations strive to improve there services and get hold of satisfied customers. Kotler et al., (1999) discuss that it is five times more economical to hold old customer rather than acquired new one. Therefore companies are in tense pressure to meet customer expectations. Managing customer expectations and perceptions is duty of today's manager (Gronroos, 2007) which in turn trigger the need of tools which can be facilitate to measure expectation and perception.
Service quality is important to marketers because a customer's evaluations of the service quality and the resulting level of satisfaction are thought to determine the likelihood of repurchase and ultimately affect bottom line measure of business success.( Lacobucci et al 1994)
In the last decade, due to technological advancement world becoming global market and airline industry plays important part in expansion of market in the country. Pakistan International Airline founded in 1952 and it was the only domestic air line in the country until late 90s, when civil aviation authority open skies for other airlines to operates in domestic routes.
Pakistan Airline which is national flag carrier airline, servicing more than 37 destinations around the world and 24 destinations in the country. It employed 18043 people as of May 2008, major share holder is Government of Pakistan (87%) and other shareholders (13%).
PIA holds market share of 48% for its global passengers other worldwide operators like Gulf Air, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad Airways are other players in the country. Domestic competitors includes Air Blue which was started its services for UK Manchester, also first airline to introduced E - Ticketing, E - Check In and Shaheen Air try to win passengers for Middle East routes.
Funding Universe (2009) symbolise the Pakistan Airline as an "Ethnic Carrier" which lose its competitive edge in the global market and only carry expatriates to home. Pakistan Airline also faces hard time in the region due to on going war against terrorism that is why, travelling from world wide passengers also on its lowest level. "PIA Challenges For 2000" also indicates that Financial Times mention poor service quality from Pakistan Airline.
Financial Express March 3, 2007 reported that The European Aviation Safety Agency enforce banned on Pakistan Airline due to poor safety standard in aircraft. This effect the company reputation in the global market and competitors took this opportunity to take business from PIA. This scenario represents the need an investigation of customer's expectation from PIA service quality and what they are actually receiving i.e. perception.
Existing literature of service quality will help researcher to understand the different dimensions of the service quality. Many authors (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry 1985, Teas 1993, Brown et al 1993, Cronin and Taylor 1992) debated and study this area and researcher will have chance to contribute his thoughts in this debate. Literature review also helps to find the best possible tool to measure service quality of PIA.
In this section researcher critical review the two important constructs of this study i.e "service" and "quality". This will assist to understand the concept the study and furthermore its measurement tools will be discussed. In this literature review customer expectations theory and how they formed also explored, customer and customer needs are discussed. Parasuraman, Zeeithaml and Berry (1985) SERVQUAL Model which is most common model use in different industries, suggests that gap between customer expectations and performance is emerge as a perception of customer service quality. Gap 5 of this model will illustrate in this section to measure service quality gap.
Services are intangible and customer did not in position to predict how the service look like it is entirely on service delivering staff how they deliver service at that specific time. It is also not necessary that person can interact at such and such time to deliver service (Kotler 2000). Like in PIA e-ticketing service has no interaction of any staff and it is completely automated, onboard staff deliver catering service for PIA but customer not interact same staff every time when they use PIA. If the service with or without person was good at specific time of delivering that's it. Company has created good overall image and encourage customer for repurchase or vice versa. Characteristics of services are as follows:
Any interaction that occurs between a service provider and a customer is initiated and maintained because of the existence of expectations. Customer expect from organisations such as, quality of service outcome, prices, quality staff interaction and appearance of the service location (Gronoos 1990; Zeithmel 1981; Kurtz and Clow 1991). On the other hand, service provider tries to meeting customer expectation and expecting on time payment, repurchase of service and good "word of mouth" promotion. Customer expectations are important for service provider and manage these expectations with their services. Managers consistently working to find out their service level and improves accordingly.
Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) developed a comprehensive representation of service quality which is called SEVQUAL Model. In this model Parasuraman et al (1985) identify five gaps in delivering the service from organisation to customers. In Pakistan Airline case, Gap 5 is the gap between customer expectations of service from organisation and what actual service they received i.e "perception". However, this model contradicts by many authors (Teas 1993, Brown et al 1993, Cronin and Taylor 1992) but still extensively use in different industries.
First four gaps in this model dictate the management practice and mainly focus in the inside of the organisation. First gaps arise when top management failed to understand the customer needs and launch new service without any concern with customer. Second gap link with service quality delivery commitment from management and different service standard acquired .Third when employees are not take customer centric approach and fourth gap arise when wrong massage communicate with customers or make high expectations with organisation.
Cooper and Emory (1995) define methodology as "research as systematic inquiry aimed at providing information to solve problems". In this definition, authors stress the importance of systematic inquiry and mention that to achieve the objectives of research project the methods should be justifiable and meet the researcher needs.
3.1 Research Strategy
McMillan et al (2007) stated that "qualitative and quantitative research methods are not mutually exclusive and may be used in the same investigations". In this project both methods will use, qualitative method use to explore the service quality problems and designing questionnaires. Quantitative method will use to collect data regarding PIA passenger's problem and give them chance to address the issues which they think is important to this research.
3.2 Secondary Research
Secondary research will conduct through internet, books, marketing journals and other published material. Secondary research will help in this project to explore the theories and models of the service quality. This research method also facilitate to understand the topic and will give chance to add thoughts with reference to literature review. Research objective will achieve through this method is critically review the literature and search for appropriate model for PIA.
3.3 Primary Research
To acquire qualitative data, pilot study will design to understand the problems of PIA service quality with the help of (PIA passengers) focus group discussions. Second part of the primary research consists of quantitative data. The questionnaire will design for collection of quantitative data, demographic questions will introduce in the beginning to analyse the nationality, age, professional and how frequent they fly. Three types of scales induct to save time and avoided the repetition of the same questions. PIA passenger also in hurry too and if the questionnaire will to long, that will lead respondent to refuse to complete survey forms.
1-Interval scale: This will use as indication and give respondent freedom to choose options in which questions are mostly controversial and respondent mostly ignore the specific answer like age, income. Researcher have idea that instead of asking age this will divide into groups (like 18 to 26 or 27 to 36 years) which will safe time and this will not effect the actual outcome of research.
The quantitative data gathered with the help of survey, some of the survey techniques include face to face survey, mail survey telephone survey and email survey. Survey techniques depend on the research objectives, time and also cost consideration of the research. (Saunders et al 2007). The different writers also stress the importance of survey (Saunders et al 2007, Zikmond 2000) in the business study.
Telephone survey also considers for this survey but due to cost consideration it is not feasible for researcher. Postal survey takes time and especially in UK there is disruption in postal service in October 2009 because of postal strike, time constraint considered. Also postal survey considered as a junk mail therefore response rate is very low. I have used Email and Face to Face survey to collect quantitative data.
Email survey is the most cost effective method for survey and this method bring good response from respondents, especially when researcher have access to inbox of the respondents and not chance to send email in junk box. Cost and time also favourable in terms geographical constraints because, PIA passengers are in Pakistan as well so the researcher have chance to contact PIA passengers not only from London also from Pakistan who are frequent flyers to and from Heathrow Airport.
Face to face survey is very helpful to get instant response and also if the respondents are in one place there is much less cost than sending survey by mail or making telephone calls. This survey will carried out at Heathrow Airport for gathering quantitative data. However, passengers at Heathrow Airport is in rush and tired therefore may avoid to fill any survey forms. Researcher also has planned to collect qualitative data to analyse dimensions of SERVQUAL and at researcher convenient place with this method. This will help to understand main problems of service delivery and to design questionnaire.
Ethical issues in this study will also consider avoiding any misunderstanding among the respondents. Confidentiality and anonymity of the respondents will be upheld at any level of this study and not to disclose to anyone. Guide lines regarding survey from professional bodies like ESOMAR and MRS will be adhere and researcher already visited websites to find out best practise in the industry to comply ethical issues in this study.
There are also issues to conduct survey on Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 for Pakistan International Airline passengers because of current security environment; research work is not easy at Heathrow Airport because of security concerns. Researcher will be request letter from University to mention the researcher's position and this will add credibility of the work which will facilitates to undertaking this study.