Create a report that summarizes the current status customer service in the airline industry. As a marketer for a major airline, your company is facing difficulty providing acceptable service to the passengers and needs to find a way to emphasize the positive features of your airline’s service.
Successful Critical Thinking Exercise assignment length will be measure in Word Count rather than the number of pages, and incorporate the information and knowledge gained in the course addressing the areas defined in the Case and Rubric. Word count for this assignment is 1600 and normally acceptable to be 10% above or below. Therefore acceptable word count range would be 1440 to 1760.
Customer service in the airline industry has been deteriorating over the past few years, with the majority of the service providers receiving considerable criticism from consumers. This change can partly be associated with the rise in the prices of jet fuel, as evidenced by a report by the New York Times, which revealed that by 2017, the jet fuel price had risen by 50%, creating an increase in prices of air tickets (White). Moreover, besides worrying about the skyrocketing prices of transport, consumers have to face the associated outcomes of increased operating costs among airlines. Notably, as a result of the high costs of operations, airlines have been forced to cut back on spending on some acceptable ancillary services and, to a greater extent, lower the overall quality of services initially offered to consumers. Consequently, air-transport providers have been losing consumers and making huge losses, as the latter opts to utilize other modes of transport that have better travel experiences. Therefore, to prevent the damage associated with the deteriorating status of the customer services, airlines should emphasize their positive features such as reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibility, which would help retain and attract new customers.
This report addresses the primary issues in the airline industry, notably in the context of Spirit Airlines, with connection to the five variables of service quality and its implications on customers and transport providers. The report also discusses alternative solutions that the management of the airline can implement to mitigate the problems facing the industry and enhance the consumer experience.
Issues in the Airline Industry
One of the primary issues in the customer service segment of the airline industry is lack of empathy. Notably, a USA Today report shows that in July 2018, there were approximately 1,241 complains of poor customer service, ranging from rude and unsupportive employees to poor treatment of delayed passengers (Byrnes). A significant fraction of members of the customer service team in majority of the airlines today deliver services to consumers; still, they fail to exhibit a high degree of care, which can be misinterpreted by clients as rudeness. For example, a customer service agent in an airline may respond adequately to a client’s inquiry. However, during their interaction, the agent may fail to make eye contact with the customer or seek further questions that the client may have regarding the airline’s services. While the agent may consider having offered complete services, the customer may interpret the provider’s actions as a form of rudeness due to the lack of personalized care. As such, the lack of empathy during service provision is among the elements of quality service lacking in the current airline industry, which leads to a negative perception of providers among customers.
As one of the market participants, Spirit airlines remains one of the service providers mainly affected by the issue of empathy, an aspect that has continued to ruin the firm’s reputation. Notably, online reviews by customers detail the poor experience they have had with the flight attendants. According to some travelers, the airline’s employees do not show care and attention to customers. Some even report having encountered rude employees on several occasions (Landry). This issue has a significant implication on both the firm and consumers.
On the one hand, travelers who fail to receive the expected care from attendants may experience less-enjoyable flights. Also, consumers who have had an awful encounter with the airline’s customer service may be unwilling to seek the firm’s services in the future, leading to loss of customers, and subsequently, revenue losses in the organization. Besides, lack of empathy among employees is a leading cause of the firm’s poor reputation among potential consumers.
Besides the lack of empathy, customer service in the airline industry has proven to be unreliable over the past few years. Unreliability is characterized by the multiple complaints that travelers file regarding the loss of their luggage, delayed flights, and miscommunications. For example, a report by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) showed that in 2018, 27.5 percent of complaints filed by domestic air passengers were related to luggage mishandling (“Passenger Complaints”). Similarly, in 2013, approximately 21.8 million bags were reported to have been mishandled by the service providers (McCartney). While reliable sources argue that the complaints regarding delayed flights, damaged, and lost bags have dropped significantly over the years, the problem remains an area of concern as it creates a sense of unreliability about service providers among consumers.
The issue of unreliability in the customer service segment of the airline industry has been a significant problem in Spirit airline over the last five years. Notably, the firm has faced criticism over delayed and canceled flights, mishandling of bags, lost luggage, and even allegations of lack of records of purchased air tickets and transactions, which led to delayed flights among travelers (Landry). Undependability of the customer service in the organization has had negative implications on both the organization and consumers. Remarkably, it has led to damage of customer’s luggage, lateness of arrival to essential occasions due to delayed flights, and even costly travel expenses as a result of last-minute flight bookings. Consequently, the firm has been forced, on several occasions, to compensate travelers for damages, an aspect that leads to substantial financial losses and low revenue generation by the service provider.
Alternatives and Recommendations
From the above analysis, the significant issues affecting the airline industry, particularly Spirit Airline, are based on the elements of empathy and reliability of the firm’s services. Notably, the quality of services offered by the organization fails to satisfy and meet travelers’ expectations as there lacks care and attention among the firm’s employees when dealing with customers. Also, failure of the organization to deliver quality performance when dealing with passenger’s luggage and scheduling flights, as promised in their advertisements, is a primary issue of concern. The highlighted problems may have detrimental effects on the firm’s overall performance and reputation among current and potential consumers; as such, proper measures should be taken to facilitate consumer attraction and retention.
One of the measures that Spirit Airline should take with regards to customer services is to emphasize its tangibles in its marketing plan. Scholars define tangibles as the physical facilities, such as equipment, personnel, and communication materials, used in the provision of services (Pakurar et al 5). It is typical of consumers to assess the quality of services provided by a firm using the available tangibles. Thus, Spirit Airlines should capitalize on this element to attract and retain customers.
As evidenced, from the firm’s profile, there are multiple tangibles that Spirit Airlines could emphasize to offset some of the problems facing the organization. For example, Spirit Airlines could include its simple boarding process as a positive feature of its airline service in its marketing message. Particularly, the airline ranks among the few industrial participants with the simplest boarding procedures, from processing passengers, directing them to the correct aircraft, and ensuring that they occupy their respective seats. Adding this feature in its marketing messages would help the organization attract and retain consumers that are sensitive about airline boarding procedures. Subsequently, the firm would attract a broad customer base that would enhance the profitability of the organization.
Furthermore, Spirit Airlines should emphasize its low costs and refreshments as tangibles in its marketing strategy. For instance, the current rise in prices of oil has had an impact on services offered by airlines, forcing some providers to eliminate in-snack services for short flights. However, despite the high operational costs experienced in the industry, Spirit Airlines has managed to retain in-snack services and to ensure that the least possible time is spent in handing refreshments to its passengers. The in-snack services should be incorporated in the airline’s marketing strategy to foster a good image of the firm’s tangibility to current and potential consumers.
Besides tangibility, Spirit Airlines should emphasize its responsiveness in its marketing strategy to help enhance its image among current and potential customers. Scholars define responsiveness as the willingness of employees to inform customers when things are done, giving them undivided attention, promoting services, and responding per their requests (Pakurar et al 5). Regardless of the numerous consumers’ complaints that Spirit Airlines receives in its everyday operations, it manages to ensure that some of the issues are solved to the customer’s satisfaction. This responsiveness to the problems facing consumers should be emphasized as a positive feature of its services to assure current and potential travelers that their issues will always be handled promptly and in the best possible way.
Besides emphasizing the positive features of its customer services, Spirit Airlines should adopt strategic measures to correct the tainted perception about the reliability of its services. Notably, the firm should focus on improving the reliability of its services to ensure its viability and profitability in the industry. As opined by scholars, reliability is the first and most crucial aspect that consumers use to assess the quality of services (Pakurar et al 5). As such, this area should be prioritized during organizational reforms. Thus, Spirit Airline could enhance the reliability of its customer services by ensuring that accurate periodic schedules are kept regarding flights and anticipated delays. Furthermore, even though airlines are not obliged to guarantee passengers of their flight schedules, they should ensure that proper communication is done on time to inform customers about urgent changes in their flights. The proposed measures would enhance the quality of services in the airline, attract more customers, and subsequently enhance the firm’s profitability.
In summary, the status of customer services in the airline industry has been deteriorating over the years, and Spirit Airlines has been a victim of this trend. Notably, the firm has faced numerous complaints about flight delays, mishandling of luggage, and rude employees. To promote its viability and profitability in the industry, the organization should emphasize the positive features of its services, such as responsiveness and tangibles, in its marketing strategies. The firm should also pay attention to the reliability of its services, as it constitutes the most critical aspect that customers use to gauge the quality of an airline’s services.
Byrnes, Hristina. “The 13 Biggest Air Travel Complaints of 2018, from Flight Delays to Discrimination and More.” USA Today, 8 December 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2018/12/08/the-biggest-air-travel-complaints-of-2018/38691345/. Accessed 24 June 2020.
Landry, Kirstie. “20 Glaring Problems with Spirit Airlines.” The Travel, 18 December 2019, www.thetravel.com/20-glaring-problems-with-spirit-airlines/. Accessed 24 June 2020.
McCartney, Scott. “Baggage Claim: Airlines are Winning the War on Lost Luggage.” The Wall Street Journal, 4 June 2014, www.wsj.com/articles/baggage-claim-airlines-are-winning-the-war-on-lost-luggage-1401922595. Accessed 24 June 2020.
“Passenger Complaints about Baggage Mishandling on Rise: DGCA.” Economic Times, 22 July 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/passenger-complaints-about-baggage-mishandling-on-rise-dgca/articleshow/65091458.cms?from=mdr. Accessed 24 June 2020.
Pukarar, Miklos, et al. “The Service Quality Dimensions that Affect Customer Satisfaction in the Jordanian Banking Sector.” Sustainability, vol. 11, no. 1113, 2019, pp.1-24.
White, Martha. “As Fuel Prices Rise, Airlines Warn of Higher Fares.” The New York Times, 6 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/business/airlines-higher-fares-fuel.html. Accessed 24 June 2020.