This study was done to determine how a business can survive and thrive in the wake of increased business environmental challenges by developing suggestions and recommendations. The study would mainly focus on analysing the application of the customers’ expectation management of the service quality towards the e-commerce and globalisation – the 21st-century organisational strategic thinking to offer superior value to customers in the airline industry.
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The prime objective of this study is to examine service quality factors in the airline industry as they are perceived by consumers. The objectives are therefore broken down into three objectives which include; identifying service quality factors, in the airline industry, as perceived by consumers, prioritising service quality factors, in the airline industry, according to consumers’ perceptions. Examining whether there is any inconsistency between consumer’s perception on service quality as examined in the managerial strategy/approach, and written standards on service quality in the airline industry and lastly making recommendations to manage customer’ expectations of service quality.
Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources, whereby primary sources included customer perceptions on service quality obtained by interviewing customers through questionnaires that helped obtain customer’s perception. Secondary data were obtained from literature and academic reviews on service quality and European standards on service quality which gave an understanding of the written quality standards.
In choosing the research approach that is the appropriate methodology used to collect and analyse data that is important to the research, it would first involve determining the study sample. Therefore the sample of the study was to consist of customers who use the various airline companies that are based in Cyprus. The non-probability sampling technique was used to determine. This method of sampling was relevant to the study because it selected samples of the population that were judged to be a typical representation of this population.
In analysing the qualitative information that has been collected in the study, the most suitable data analysis method used to analyse the statistical measurements derived from the Likert scale was the SPSS computer program. It provided a descriptive analysis of the standard deviations and frequencies calculated for the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale, including airline tangibles, personnel, empathy, image and terminal tangibles. Through the research findings.
It was clear that the airlines’ consumer incentives and marketing activities were only done during high seasons. Consumers were not segmented, and hence services meant for one group were mistakably given to another. Workers were not adequately equipped and motivated to provide quality services to the clients; hence this contributed to poor services offered.
Out of the research findings, the researcher recommended the following. The airline firms should proactively seek to identify and satisfy consumer needs instead of reacting to external pressures of competition. The airline firms need to segment their customers according to their similarities based on their expectations and hence satisfaction. This will enable to clearly determine which group to provide with what service. To attain customer satisfaction, firms need to ensure that their employees are satisfied. This process starts with hiring quality personnel and providing incentives that drive them towards achieving customer satisfaction. Services offered can be effectively communicated to the consumers through tangibilising the services, which is done by associating the service being communicated with particular tangible evidence.
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The Cypress airline industry has peak and off-peak seasons whereby the peak seasons seem to be associated with the High Holiday seasons. However, this research was carried out during the off-peak period, which indicates that a large part of the research sample consisted of loyal customers who were on business trips, students or tourists. As a result, it can be deduced from the findings that most incentives and marketing activities are mostly done during the high seasons. Hence the remaining periods are largely characterised by poor qualities of service. This is quite dangerous because consumers who use the services during the off-peak season are loyal customers and their satisfaction is crucial for an airline firm to remain in business.
The quality of service seems to be quite low, which is depicted by consumers’ significant negative reactions. For instance, 49% of the interviewed clients were dissatisfied with the airlines’ reliability and dependability. This is almost half of the sample and hence shows a worrying trend bearing in mind that most clients in this period are either on business trips, students to schools or even low season tourists. The first two are the most important because they operate on fixed schedules hence constant rescheduling of flights, lack of prior or adequate communication of the reschedules will significantly affect how they rate the airline.
It is also evident that some clients are loyal to Cypress airlines whose main driving factors are not based on service quality but other factors like patriotism, culture and individual preferences. For example, such clients include the 4% who rate the services as superb and the 1.5% who said the services offered were excellent. However, the 2.5 per cent who rated the services as very poor seem to be first-timers who have been on other international flights; hence comparatively gave a low verdict for Cypress airlines (Brown, 1991).
When the respondents were asked to rank the services in line with their expectations, 70% of those interviewed disapproved the standards, however, with varying forms. These included flight delays, mishandling of luggage and flight cancellations. Of these, 32% thought that the conditions could not be salvaged. These represent the category of clients who have alternatives in other international flights. Hence they didn’t care whether there was an improvement for they would not be coming back.
On the other hand, 68% of those disapproving the services said that there could be an improvement through policy reforms. This group consists of those who have used other Cypress airlines apart and have been provided with quality services. Therefore their optimism is driven by the notion that if the other cypress airlines have comparatively good services than those that are low can improve as well. This is supported the fact that each one who showed disapproval or approval could identify a given airline concerned.
The research findings show that airlines in this industry serve different types of consumers, and each has different expectation as far as quality service is concerned. Majority of those who approved the services were women. They also formed a majority of those in the unofficial and tourist categories. On the other hand, men formed a majority of those who thought the services did not meet expectations. This group was also mostly comprised of those who were on business and official trip. This shows lack of touch between the customers’ expectations and airline management strategies. Particularly because those who are satisfied are most probably tourists, yet tourism is out of season. However, the business clients who currently form a major part of the clientele are not adequately served.
As concerning empathy to needs, the research was to find out whether there is a gap between customers’ expectations and managerial strategy/approach and standards on quality standards. Therefore customers were queried whether the airline handlers were responsive or showed some level of empathy. Out of those queried, 47% thought that there was a significant level of empathy from the personnel.
However, 36.5% said that there was little or no sympathy at all in handling consumers’ specific needs. There is a very small margin between positive and negative opinions, which can mostly be attributed to the industry’s lack of proactive finding and identifying customers’ specific needs. Particularly because external factors of competition push the firm to invest in customer relations and consumer satisfaction practices.
For instance of the 46.5 customers who attributed negative opinions on empathy levels, cited poor communication about some aspects of travel and inadequate pre-flight consumer service personnel. These are key areas dealing with consumer relations and response and therefore if the airline never addressed them. Yet, they invested heavily in the area. Then this clearly shows that they are not focusing on needs but are reacting to outside pressures. There was also poor communication of services offered as some customers claimed they were not aware of some services offered by the airlines (Williams & Buswell, 2003).
One thing that was evident about most airline firms in Cypress is that they were reacting to external pressures to serve their customers. However, the firms need to proactively find a way of meeting the specific needs of customers. This can be done by establishing a satisfaction relationship between airline firms and their customers. This includes the process of understanding the expectations of the customer concerning satisfaction and service quality, set clear expectations in the minds of consumers, strive to deliver the service in the way that is guaranteed to the customer and lastly ask the customers to be providing the feedback that is essential in the performance of service and its providers and how to improve it (Hernon & Whitman)
All customers in a given market cannot be the same. Therefore, this underlines the importance of segmentation. This refers to dividing customers according to their similarities which are based on their expectations and hence satisfaction. Like in Cypress airline industry, two categories came out which are tourist and unofficial trips on one side and business and official trips on the other hand.
For instance, majority of those who gave negative opinions were consumers on business and other official trips, and bearing in mind that most airline industries did aggressive marketing during the high seasons their products were basically focusing on tourists. Therefore, business travellers’ expectations will not be met. To solve this, the firms can market to and provide tourist services during the high seasons; however, during the low seasons, the focus should be on the business category.
In the airline industry, these are the staff. They need to be given as much attention as is given to the clients, especially the contact staff who interact directly with customers at every turn hence play a key role in attaining satisfaction. The attitude, motivation and role of the workers are very important in meeting customer satisfaction. This starts at the time of hiring. Therefore the airline firms should ensure that they hire staff that value customer service and is comfortable dealing with clients. The staff should be taken through an orientation program that enables them to understand the relationship between the company’s mission and service quality as well as customer satisfaction.
Staff motivation is also an important element, particularly because staff satisfaction is directly related to customer satisfaction. These focus on not only the workers but also the management. If the management is motivated, they will, in turn, work to see that there are also satisfied. This can be done through adequate remuneration and rewarding exemplary performance of the staff and also setting goals which ensure that performance is measured time to time (Kandampully, Mok & Spaks, 2001).
To monitor their progress compared to their competitors, firms need to come up with a plan. In this plan, the goals of the airline firms are determined, a description of the current firms’ current activities is done together with an evaluation of customer information needs, expectations and preferences. Contrast the services it is providing now with those they should be provided and those provided by international firms. This will provide them with a clear direction as well as a framework for airline services and a guide to their decision making. The firms should also set goals and objectives which will define their priorities-spelling out clearly what is important and what is not. For instance, a commitment can be written in the words of the customer, and each employee should be working towards that.
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Pricing in service industries is mostly influenced by the objectives of the firm as well as the response of consumers to price changes. For instance, during the peak periods, the firms should charge high prices that ensure they maximise on profit, particularly because at this period there is a high demand for airline services due to many tourists who are travelling to Cypress. However, the firms should ensure that as they charge high prices, they should also deliver value for money.
This means that the tourists should find comfort and convenience that they need during their holiday period because charging low prices can have a negative impact whereby the clients think that services offered are of low quality as the prices charged. On the other hand, during the off-peak period, the firms can charge prices that enable them to maximise their market share as well as meet customer needs of business and local travellers precisely because the local clientele is mostly comprised of lower-middle cost, who are highly sensitive to high costs and upper-middle-class who may as well do with high prices but prefer low prices (Ng, 2008).
Effective communication of services offered by a firm and the associated benefits is rather a difficult task for most businesses because one of the characteristics of services is that they are intangible, whereby the respondents said that they were not aware of some services in the Cypress airline industry and the services are being offered. Therefore one way to effectively communicate to the consumers is by tangibilising the service whereby the marketers try to make the service less abstract. One of the techniques that can be used during communication involves emphasising tangibles that are related with the service as if they were actually the service itself. For instance, pictures of Cypress Island as a tourist destination can be used to associate the enjoyment found in travelling with their airlines (Berry & Parasuraman).
The dissertation clearly defined the objectives of the research. The hypothesis helped in getting findings that actually met the objectives. Therefore, the research managed to identify the service quality factors which are categorised as quality with the personnel, in the aeroplane and at the airport. To show how the consumers prioritise the service qualities, they were asked to rank the service quality factors in the order of preference which helped in meeting the second objective.
It has also shown that there was an inconsistency between consumer perceptions on quality as viewed in the managerial strategy/approach and the written standards of service quality in the airline industry. The last objective was met by recommendations drawn from the research findings, which outlined ways in which customer’ expectations of service quality can be effectively managed. The research questions in the questionnaire were able to adequately provide answers from the respondents that helped to capture data which was relevant in meeting all the objectives. The qualitative type of research used was appropriate in bringing out the factors that influence customer perceptions as far as quality is concerned.
This was adequately achieved by asking the consumer to state their feelings and perceptions on various variables in the airline industry and also rank them in order of priority. The research was also well planned because the researcher first contacted secondary data sources and later collected data from primary sources on what could not be found in the secondary sources (Kothari, 2008).
The researcher used information from previous research to obtain a clear picture of the Cypress airline industry such determining peak and off-peak periods and operations of the airlines like their strategies, in addition, the demographic information about the Cypriots was also obtained from secondary data. Through this research management of airline companies, learnt of the existence of a gap between managerial strategies to meet consumer needs and consumer’s’ expectation and hence satisfaction.
There was also a contribution to management on ways of identifying and meeting specific customer needs. Suggestion on how to improve future dissertations would include research on international airline companies in order to be able to determine what makes consumers prefer them over those from Cypress. This is because without interviewing clients in from rival nationals, the researcher would only be left with one-sided data to make conclusions from.
Berry, L L and Parasuraman, A, (1991). Marketing services: competing through quality. New York, NY: FREE PRESS.
Brown, S W, (1991). Service quality: multidisciplinary and multinational perspectives. New York: Lexington Books. Print.
Hernon, P and Whitman, J R, (2001). Delivering satisfaction and service quality: a customer-based approach for libraries. Washington, DC: ALA Editions.
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Kothari, C R, (2008). Research Methodology : Methods And Techniques. New Delhi: New Age International.
Ng, I C L, 2008. The pricing and revenue management of services: a strategic approach. New York, NY: Routledge.
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