Understanding Service Failure: Root Causes of Inadequate Customer Service

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(Discussion of service failure) (300 words)

The term “service failure” examines the real reasons why employees struggle in order to deliver outstanding service. (Toister, Jeff, 2012) Service Failure refers to not being able to perform the service which has been therefore promised by a company. (Sambridhi, Shrestha, 2017) A service failure is a service performance or encounter that falls below a customer’s expectations, which eventually leads to dissatisfaction. (Zeithaml et al., 2009; Andreassen, 2001) In other words service failure can be defined as a service performance which therefore completely fails in order to meet the expectations of the customer.

Therefore in the scenario of Sydney Railway Meltdown the signal failures, tangled rail networks, an acute lack of staff (sick staff and planned annual leave), and significant delays to the service are considered as some of the service failures.

Evaluation of service quality based on the 5 dimensions of service quality (800 words)

Quality is an elusive and indistinct construct which is therefore often mistaken for imprecise adjectives such as “goodness”, “luxury” and “shininess”.

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(Crosby, 1979) Service Quality has been defined as a high standard of performance which therefore meets or exceeds the expectations of the customers consistently. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 54) Quality has been defined as “conformance to requirements”. (Crosby, 1979) According to (Garvin, 1983) the term quality has been defined as counting the incidence of internal failures (those observed before a product leaves the factory) and external failures (those incurred in the field after a unit has been installed. In other words service quality is defined as the way services are delivered to clients in order to meet their level of expectation.

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Service Quality refers to relatively stable attitudes and beliefs about a firm. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 55) Valarie A. Zeithaml, Leonard Berry and A. Parasuraman have identified five dimensions which can be used by the consumers which assists them in evaluating service quality which has been defined as a survey instrument called Servqual which is based on the premise that customer’s evaluate a firm’s service quality by comparing their perceptions of its service with their own expectations. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 55) The SERVQUAL model was developed as a tool to measure the service quality by comparing the customer’s perception of the service delivered with their desired expectations. (Adewoye, Dayo, 2014)

The five dimensions to evaluate service quality are:

Tangibles – Tangibles can be defined as an appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 56) Appearance does matter as service providers will still want to make certain their equipment’s, work-areas on site, uniform, employees appearance look good. (Arlen, Chris, 2008)

Reliability – The term reliability is therefore an ability to perform the promised service dependably, accurately and consistently over a period of time. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 56) Reliability is considered the most important dimension of service delivery as the customers expect the firms to deliver what they have promised when they promised to the standard they promised which is inclusive of performing services right the first time, looking after and handling customer’s service problems in a consistent as well as in a dependable way. (Castle, Scott, 2008)

Responsiveness – The term responsiveness is classified as a willingness to assist customer’s and provide prompt service. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 56)

Assurance – Assurance is another dimension to service quality which therefore comprises of credibility which is classified as trustworthiness, believability and honesty of the service provider, security which means freedom from danger, risk or doubt, competence which is described as possession of skills and knowledge required to perform the service, and, courtesy means politeness, respect, consideration and friendliness of contact personnel (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 56)

Empathy is the last dimension of service quality which is inclusive of access which means approachability and ease of contact, communication which is listening to customers and keeping them informed in a language which they can understand, and understanding the customer which is all about making an effort to know customers and their specific needs as well as wants. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 56) In other words empathy is classified as understanding the needs and wants of the customers as well as communicating with them in a considerable and respectful manner. (Law, Jonathan, 2016, p. 263)

Customer’s expectations within the public transport industry:

Customer Expectations can be defined as “predictions made by customers on what probably will occur during an imminent transaction”. (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry, 1988) The term customer satisfaction is an overall customer attitude towards a service provider which has different levels of specificity in various studies. (Lavesque & McDougall, 1996)

The customers have the following expectations when it comes to the public transport industry (Sydney Railways):

Reliable Service (Reliability) –

The Root Cause Analysis – Fishbone Model

The Fishbone diagram is an analysis tool that provides a systematic way of looking at the effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. (Watson, 2004) It is also known as the Ishikawa diagram which is therefore a tool for identifying the root causes of quality problems. Such a model was named after Kaoru Ishikawa a Japanese quality control statistician, the man who pioneered the use of this chart in 1960’s (Juran, 1999) The fishbone model is grouped into the five categories which are equipment, manpower (people – front stage personnel and back stage personnel), material, procedure and other causes. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 467)

Therefore, with the assistance of the Root Cause Analysis (fishbone model) the following factors have been identified which caused the Sydney Railway Meltdown:

Internal Factors –

People – Such a service failure took place due to the workers taking sick leave, lack of drivers, and staff taking planned annual leave. It can be said that such a service failure took place as the railway system were understaffed because of an excessive amount of approved leave. Sydney Trains also claimed that between 65 and 70 train drivers were off that day because of illness. (Blumer, C., & Cockburn, P, 2018) as there were no back up plan, there were no emergency staff which was available that time to cover up the staff who called in sick. (The front stage service problems are often experienced therefore directly by the customers. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 466) Such is a people processing industry which means if the majority of the train drivers call in sick it leads to a service failure and similarly in this case nobody saw this coming which led to significant delays, services being delayed. In other words it can be said that there was so much of demand but in order to meet the demand the demands of the customers the system failed miserably.

Information – Another internal factor which led to such a service failure is scheduling/ poor information. It can be seen that many service failures takes place due to information failures. (Wirtz, J., Chew, P., & Lovelock, C, 2017, p. 466) As majority of the train lines which were running through central were not displaying expected departure times. Majority of the information boards were unavailable or inaccurate, there were failures in the signal system, the timetables were changing. Majority of the platforms were closed because of overcrowding and there were announcements every two-three minutes telling the customers to be patient which is not very impressive.

Customers – It was the year of 2017 when the government came up with a new timetable which added 1500 train services every week as there was an 11% increase in patrons in the past year. (Mcnally, Lucy, 2018) The Sydney Railway System have not seen such numbers and said there was so much of customer demand and in order to provide additional services there were not enough drivers.

External Factor (Environmental Factor) –

Other Causes (Weather) – An external factor which led to such type of service failure was an “Act of God”. As the rail infrastructure was damaged because of the lightning strikes which led to the damage of signalling equipment on the T1 North Shore Line. (Mcnally, Lucy, 2018) Such a massive storm led to a power outage which therefore affected a number of trains going towards Bankstown, Lidcombe and Cabramatta. (Mcnally, Lucy, 2018)

SWOT Analysis of the Sydney Railway System –

Strengths –

One of the biggest strength is that the public transport system has been designed in such a way which makes it easier for the passengers to travel between or hook up with the services heading towards the northern, southern and western suburbs. Another strength is that the public transport services begin at 4.00 am until midnight which is very convenient for the passengers, ticket vending machines are 24 hours open on all the stations, cheap fares, easy to use, carries so many passengers on a daily basis. (NSW Government)

Weaknesses –

The relationship between the management and staff (drivers) is not good as it lacks real connection which therefore led to a driver publically criticising the management during the Sydney Railway Meltdown. Another weakness is the cost of operating which is considered to be very high and the drivers do not earn much in such a people processing industry, emergency staff is not available adding to the pressure and stress to the existing drivers.

Opportunities –

Increase in employment rate where they can bring in more workers as it is such a massive industry and for such industry more workers are required where they can manage the railway track, power lines, scheduling of train and managing overcrowded stations. Another opportunity is where the system can adapt to advanced level of technology which will not only benefit the workers but also the passengers.

Threats –

Competition/ Losing market share is a major threat which means other modes of transportation could rise and method of commuting could be cheaper for people living in Sydney as this would potentially affect the running cost of railways. Security is another threat


In order to make sure that such a service failure doesn’t happen again following are some of the recommendations:

More Workers/ Drivers – In order to avoid such a service failure the management needs to hire more workers for the back up to meet any catastrophic events. Workers should be provided more in depth training to handle such situations. There is also requirement for the frontline staff to be trained in customer service where after the appropriate training they are seen assisting customers on platforms, providing information and ensuring the amount of time trains wait at stations is properly managed. (Trembath, Murray, 2013) Having more employment in the industry will improve the pressure and stress on the existing workers, improving their physical and mental health. An increase in employment rate is also required here so the workers can spend more time on platforms helping the passengers by providing them every piece of information as the platforms are generally overcrowded with many and many passengers. In order to meet the demand of the customers the structure of the station staffing needs to be well organised as there should be more workers on stations assisting passengers, dealing with incidents and taking ownership for their respective stations and therefore needs to offer services in a flawless manner. (Trembath, Murray, 2013)

Advanced Technology/ Signal Technology – After looking at the Sydney Railway Meltdown it can be said that if no changes are made then such service failures will keep on repeating again and again and the passengers are going to suffer just like they did in 2018. In order to make sure that such failures don’t happen the railway system needs to be digitised. As such a digitisation will increase the frequency among the Sydney Trains rail network and therefore the services will then take place within every 90 seconds, will also help in adding additional services across the lines. “The signal technology has provided significant results in London where the capacity was improved by 30% and also helped the city cope with the growing number of train users”. (Collins, Howard, Sydney Trains Chief Executive) Digitisation will not only make sure that such service failures don’t occur again but also lead to an increase in the rail network’s efficiency. The population of Sydney is expected to rise and such an advanced technology will make sure that the railway system in Sydney assists in keeping the passengers moving.

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Understanding Service Failure: Root Causes of Inadequate Customer Service. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/service-failure-essay

Understanding Service Failure: Root Causes of Inadequate Customer Service
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