Definition of a Service
A service refers to an intangible product that is made available for sale by an individual or organization to potential consumers. A person or organization that provides services to customers is called the service provider. Examples of services include transportation of goods and people from one place to another, banking activities, consultancy and advices from professionals or experts such as medical doctors, delivery of mails and hairdressing among others. According to Kotler and Armstrong, sometimes it is difficult to identify services, because they may possess characteristics which are similar to those of goods (2012). However, services differ from goods in various ways, for example, they are intangible, i.e. that they cannot be touched, seen or felt. Additionally, provision of services does not involve transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. Cowell (2008) asserts that the benefits derived from the provision of services are the major determinants of the quality of services as well as the willingness and ability of the buyer to purchase a given type of service. Consumers usually grade or value services based on the benefits they derived from purchasing them and the experiences obtained from consuming a particular service.
Characteristics of Services
Generally, services are characterized by intangibility, high perishability, inseparability, variability and simultaneity. Intangibility refers to the inability of services to be touched, seen, smelled, felt or tasted. Services cannot be felt using five common senses. High perishability refers to the ability of services to expire within a very short time. The resources used in delivery of services often expire after a given period of time. Services also perish immediately after they have been rendered and the actual act of providing the service cannot be reversed after the service has been rendered to a customer, for example, transporting goods from town A to town B cannot be reversed after the goods have been moved.
Inseparability refers to the lack of the ability to separate the service provider from the service provided. In this case, the service provider must be at the exact location where the service is being provided. Similarly, the consumer is also inseparable from the service during its provision. Both the service provider and consumer must be at a designated location for effective provision of the service. Kotler and Armstrong (2012) define variability of services as the uniqueness of each service rendered. In my opinion, every service is generated in its own way. Two or more services will never be rendered in a similar manner, hence they are said to be heterogeneous. Lastly, simultaneity refers to the ability of services to be rendered or consumed at the time. Services, unlike goods, cannot be stored and thus must be generated and rendered by the service providers at the same time as it is demanded by the consumers.
Characteristics of a Quality Service
Given the above mentioned general characteristics of services, a high quality service may be presumed to have the following attributes. First and foremost, high quality services must possess professionalism. Professionalism refers to the use of specialized skills and knowledge in provision of services. Professionalism helps in building the confidence of customers in proving the service. It entails the industry players having adequate knowledge about the services they offer. Adequate understanding of the services provided helps in presenting the services in an appealing manner that would easily attract potential consumers as well as meeting and exceeding their expectations. This helps in ensuring that the consumers are fully satisfied. According to Evans and Evans (2011), professionalism encompasses personal presentation and appearance. They further argue that professionalism is very essential in provision of services, because consumers usually make decisions to purchase or consume a given service based on the physical appearance and presentability of the service provider (Evans & Evans, 2011). In addition, further training enhances learning of more skills and basics, which help in the overall development and provision of high quality services.
Secondly, provision of high quality services requires adequate communication between the consumer and the service provider. Efficient communication skills, both oral and written, are vital in service delivery. Good communication helps in building the confidence of customers in the services provided. Good communication also helps in identifying various needs, tastes and preferences of consumers, which may change from time to time and determining the most appropriate ways to satisfy such needs and wants. Information gathered from consumers may also be used for future references and development of high quality services. Similarly, effective listening skills can be used to institute the needs of customers, and hence the delivery of high quality services is enhanced.
Thirdly, high quality services are those services that are developed with the consumer in focus. The consumer focus can be achieved through good customer relations. Heilbrum and American Marketing Association (2007), assert that, when service providers provide services that are customer focused, the customer feels important and well satisfied and is most likely to make repeat purchases Good customer relations and customer-focused services also help in reducing consumer dissonance.
Analysis of Quality of Services in the Airline Industry
Generally, the air transport industry is characterized by stiff competitions between the industry players. The industry has numerous air transport firms that provide almost similarly services. This has led to increased need to differentiate services that an organization offers so that it could maintain a competitive advantage over other firms in the industry. The quality of services varies from one firm to another.
Analysis of the Quality of Services Offered by Emirates Airlines
Emirates Airlines, also known as Fly Emirates, is an international air transport firm based in Dubai. The Emirates Airlines have rapidly grown to more than eighty eight cities across the globe. It currently has subsidiaries in more than sixty countries worldwide. According to O’Connell and Williams (2011), Fly Emirates is the ninth largest passenger airline in the world. It also has the largest cargo carriers.
Fly Emirates has well diversified investments in various sectors of the air transport industry. It provides airport services, on-board catering services, airplane repairs and maintenances and airport operation services. This diversification provides it with a strong basis for competition against its rivals in the industry.
In my opinion, Fly Emirates provides high quality air transport services to its customers in a variety of ways. Firstly, it provides a reliable online booking system that requires passengers to pay only twenty-five percent of the total cost of the flights during booking and the remaining cost can be cleared later. Payment of costs of flights can also be made using credit cards from various organizations such as Citibank and Visa Electron. This further increases convenience to passengers.
Secondly, Emirates Airlines has large passengers` fleets that can carry more than four hundred passengers, for example, Wilson (2008), estimates that B777-300, which is one of the largest fleets owned by Emirates airline, can carry a total of four hundred and thirty-five passengers with nearly fifty seats for the first class passengers In my opinion, this makes the fleet the most convenient for business persons who would like to travel together in groups, for instance, business executives going for a retreat or official trip aboard. Emirates Airlines also has large airbuses that can easily ferry passengers from one destination to another.
Thirdly, fleets of Fly Emirates go to more than one hundred and fifty destinations worldwide. The key destinations include major cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, Australia and United Arab Emirates. This is further increasing the ease of travelling from one city to another, for example, a passenger from Toronto can easily travel to Mumbai or Amman using fleets of Fly Emirates. Furthermore, increased number of destinations also increases conveniences to passengers who would not otherwise have access to such places.
Fourthly, Fly Emirates offers a variety of fleet classes such as First Class, Business Class and Economy Class. In my view, this intends to suit all passengers depending on their economic capability. Passengers can thus book their flight reservations based on their choices and budgets. Fifthly, Fly Emirates provides convenient online booking systems for its passengers. Through the Fly Emirates’ online booking system dubbed MakeMyTrip, passengers can easily book for their reservations from wherever they are without necessarily visiting the offices of Emirates or their agents (O’Connell & Williams, 2011). Additionally, Fly Emirates have numerous travel agents who can assist its customers who cannot access the main offices.
Moreover, all passengers on board in flights of Fly Emirates have adequate access to entrainment services such as music, video as well as playing video games during their journeys. Mitra (2008), asserts that most, if not all, flights of Emirates Airlines have fixed information communication entertainment (ICE) systems that provide more than one thousand entertainment options for passengers on board The ICE also provides passengers on flights with direct link to BBC News. Passengers can also access their e-mails while on board. In my opinion, such additional or auxiliary services make flights of Emirates Airlines more appealing to most passengers. Such auxiliary services are intended to improve the services of Emirates Airlines through product differentiation. According to Hartman (2009), at Fly Emirates, service value is consistently improved through persistent innovations and inventions. Fly Emirates also offers baggage allowances for passengers who have oversized baggage. This ensures that those passengers with huge luggage do not incur too much cost whenever they travel. The baggage allowance also entices more passengers to use flights of Emirates Airlines.
Adhami (2010) suggests that Emirates Airlines creates value for its passengers through the use of highly trained staff who provide exceptional services to the passengers, for example, handling of baggage and provision of high quality foods and drinks to passengers on board at low costs. Furthermore, Fly Emirates also owns a big airport, which is well maintained and its operations well coordinated. This further increases the quality of its air transport services.
Shortfalls of Quality of Services at Emirates Airlines
However, despite many attempts of Fly Emirates to provide quality services to its passengers, most people have complained of poor customer treatment by some of its staff and customer support agents. Sometimes, some customer assistants provide inadequate feedback or unreliable information to passengers. This greatly inconveniences the passengers. Additionally, some flight crews are not very helpful and may dismiss requests for assistance from passengers on board. This often results into dissatisfaction of passengers.
Moreover, Fly Emirates have also been accused of false advertisements of its flights, for example, Mitra (2008) argues that some seats in Economy Class are not as flat as advertized in the media. Finally, Fly Emirates do not have spacious waiting lounges. The few waiting lounges and rooms available are usually crowded. This hinders ease of movement of passengers within the firm’s premises as well as within the airports.
Service Improvement Tools and Strategies and Possible Solutions
In my opinion, the above mentioned shortfalls of Fly Emirates may be addressed through adequate and quick response to customers’ demands and requests for assistance. Emirates Airlines should ensure that all employees are well trained on customer care techniques. This can be achieved through selective recruitment of personnel and continuous training and development of the employees to ensure that they remain at top edge with respect to dynamic changes and advancements in the air transport industry. Furthermore, Fly Emirates should adequately address all complaints that may arise from the customers and develop and implement adequate responses to prevent, monitor and control future occurrences of similarly mistakes or incidents. It should also avoid decisive adverting as this may greatly discourage customers.
Passengers, who realize that the firm’s advertisements are false, may lose trust in it and thus opt for other airlines. A few passengers have complained of rude staff and crew members. One passenger was heard describing some crew members as racist and discriminative, especially towards Indians. In my opinion, such staff and crew members should be given further training or be completely dismissed from the organization. Crew members should be well mannered, friendly and helpful. They should treat all passengers as well as other potential customers with great respect and honor (Ahmed, Rafiq & Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2010). The firm should also avoid the layovers at Dubai Airport. Although some passengers may appreciate such layover, it may be inconvenient to some of them, such as businesspersons.
Fly Emirates may deploy a variety of strategies and tools for improving the quality of their services. This can be achieved through service differentiation, cost leadership, continuous improvement of already existing services as well as development of new and innovative services. The organization should also ensure the safety of passengers on board, it can also improve its services through adoption of advanced technology to facilitate service delivery, for example, electronic booking and service (e-booking and e-service) systems and online travel agents. The employees should also be empowered so as to deliver quality services that are customer-oriented.
Formulation of adequate strategies to match demand and supply of travel services such as use of part-time employees during peak hours and promotional campaigns during low peaks seasons, outsourcing of certain services to reliable clients and development of strong customer relations is also essential. Additionally, the quality of services offered by the firm can also be improved by selecting appropriate locations for service facilities. This will ensure customers that the services are readily accessible by the consumers.
In order to achieve reasonable success in the competitive air transport industry, Fly Emirates should also ensure reliable time schedule for its flights, for example, well scheduled departure and arrival times. It should also design services that embrace the cultural diversity amongst its target customers, for example, passengers who do not use alcohol should not be served any alcoholic food.
The Emirates Lounges are only available to passengers in the First and Business Classes. This implies that other passengers who are not in the First and Business Classes cannot access services in the lounges. In my view, this can be considered to be discriminative marketing or provision of services. All customers are supposed to have equal access to basic facilities such as the lounges.
Last but not least, Fly Emirates must ensure its clients that it provides air travel services at competitive prices that is affordable to most people. For the firm to remain the cost leader in the air transport industry, it must develop and implement adequate financial strategies that would enable it cut down operational costs.
In conclusion, I would argue that Fly Emirates has always focused on providing high quality and excellent airline services. It strives to serve its passengers as effectively and efficiently as possible. It makes use of both quality services and efficiency in their operations. Through adoption of advanced technologies such as Database Management Systems (DBMS) for storing details of passengers and secure online booking systems, it has dearly met the needs and wants of most passengers. Fly Emirates is also quick to adapt new changes in the air transport industry, thus giving it additional competitive advantage over its competitors such as Royal Dutch Airlines, Saudi Airlines and Air Arabia. The auxiliary services such as options to choose the type of meals that a passenger would take and wider television screens easily attract more passengers. Travelling with flights of Fly Emirates thus provides passengers with exceptional experiences that they often long for. Similarly, the flights have more leg spaces that ensure adequate comfort to passengers during the air travels.
However, the firm still requires continuous improvement of its services so as to remain competitive in the ever changing market. It should design new services in accordance to the changing needs and wants of customers. It should offer special deals to attract more potential customers.