Marketing campaigns cannot be successful without a comprehensive and consumer based marketing mix. Customer service is the heart of the marketing mix. The aspects of the marketing mix are designed to improve the quality of a firm’s products to its customers. The service industry companies have to make tradeoffs between the elements of the marketing mix to determine what best suites their clients. Emirates Airlines is one such company. The airline strives to achieve customer satisfaction by addresses the different elements of the marketing mix in a consumer oriented manner; that is, its promotion, place, price, process, physical environment, people and products are all tailored to meet the expectations of its customers. Emirates airlines, however, has some flaws in its marketing mix elements that should be addressed to ensure that it improves service provision to its customers. Therefore, it is recommended that the airline upgrades or replaces its current ticket booking system, include the cabin crew in its training and development programs, balance products between the economy and business class and fix entertainment gadgets for every seat.
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This paper analyses the marketing mix of emirates airlines and provides recommendations on how it can improve some of the aspects in the mix so as to meet the needs and expectations of the customers.
- Emirates Airlines’ background
Established in 1985, Emirates Airlines is the national carrier of Dubai. The airline is owned and operated by the government of Dubai and has Dubai’s international airport terminal three as its hub. The airline is one of the leading companies in the industry as evidenced by the numerous awards it has won in the past years and the largest in the Middle East. It currently flies to over 125 destinations spread throughout the six continents. It has recently rebranded itself by changing its strapline from ‘keep discovering’ to ‘hello tomorrow’ (Emirates Airlines website).
- Target market
Through its rebranding, the airline is targeting more youthful clients and those with previous flight experience that are seeking unfamiliar experiences; that is, those looking for lifestyle and adventure in flights. It also targets those markets that are underserved by airline companies especially potential markets in Africa (Emirates Airlines website).
- Product theory and application
Emirates Airlines is purely a service industry providing its consumers with flight services to their preferred destinations. Flight services being key are supported by complimentary services to improve its quality and satisfaction.
In the service marketing mix, marketers and companies have to think through various levels of a product. For a service company to fulfill the expectations of its customers in terms of products, it should define its five levels (Keller, 2001). Each of these levels adds value to the customer through the benefits that they achieve due to buying the product. The product levels are discussed below. The first level is the core product, which is the destination. Destination is the main reason why people buy a tourism product. Emirates Airlines flies to many destinations throughout the world including major cities in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. It makes direct flights to some destinations while offering connection flights to other cities. Connection flights inconvenience customers as they have to transfer to another airplane before reaching their destination (Vrontis, 2003). Secondly, the tourism service industry offers basic products. Emirates airlines basic products include transport and ticket booking. These products’ delivery processes are tailored to ensure that the consumer gets the value for his money while saving time in the process. However, the company depends on agents when it comes to ticket booking meaning that the company is not committed to providing this product. Thirdly, a service company should ensure that it provides expected products. Expected products are those that the customers anticipate a firm to provide (Goi, 2005). Emirates airlines expected services include information on various packages that it offers, authentic information, seat availability and different routes leading to a certain destination. Quick check in is one of the expected products that the airline does not provide to its customers as they have to go through long and numerous stages before checking in and boarding the plane. Augmented products in comprises the fourth level of service firm products. This level should be present for a successful marketing campaign. These are those products that companies offer in an effort to differentiate or distinguish themselves from other similar companies (Zineldin & Philipson, 2007). These products turn into expected products in the future if the company remains consistent in their provision. The airline offers these products to its customers including customized meals on board, flat beds in first class flights especially business class and on board Wi-Fi connection in business class. The airline does not offer free food to its customers as they are required to book during their ticket reservation; thus, it is another source of income. Apart from the aforementioned products, it also provides in-flight entertainment in all its classes. Emirates Airlines has concentrated most of the augmented products in its business class flights leaving the economy class with few offerings of such services. The fifth level of products that successful marketing campaigns should offer is potential products. This covers all the future products that the firm will offer to its clients (Michael, 1996). Including a casino is the only potential product that emirates airlines has. This product is necessary in terms of potential customers’ attraction.
The pricing decision is crucial in the marketing mix of a service company. Companies have to set prices based on the quality of services that they will make available to the consumers (Ivy & Fattal, 2010). This is practiced by Emirates Airlines though differentiated prices in the economy class and business class flights. Moreover, the pricing decisions in the service industry should be in line with the type of consumers the firms are targeting. In addition, internal factors including pricing policy of the firm and external factors such as destination influence the pricing decisions (Shikha, 2010). Emirates Airlines mostly utilizes its pricing policy when setting rates for its prices, which is mainly based on the destination. Mostly frequented destinations have high rates when compared to those with low frequencies. What is more, value and reputation of a destination plays a role in setting fares (Miri, 2009). For instance, rates to Dubai are higher when compared to a similar distance such as Yaounde, Cameroon. Some service companies employ favors in setting its products such as discounting prices (Kanso & Kitchen, 2004). Emirates Airlines offers discounted prices for its customers especially for advanced bookings and during special seasons such as the Christmas season. While offering discounts may be commendable, it should not be forgotten that the move may create image problems in value sensitive customers as they may doubt its quality.
This includes any site that consumers can purchase the service. It also refers to anywhere that facilitates how the service arrives to these places. It is one of the key factors when implementing a marketing strategy; thus, a service firm must locate them in strategic positions or locations (Ivy & Fattal 2010). This is to ensure that consumers can easily have access to the place. However, the firm must see to it that he considers related costs in different locations so that it does not lead to losses. Emirates Airlines has an extensive distribution channel that ensures that customers acquire flight tickets. Customers can buy their tickets through contracted travel agencies located all over the globe provided the firm has a route there. People can also book for their tickets online through the airline’s website, and all they have to do is to print the tickets. This process can, however, expose both the firm and customers to online fraud incidences (Vrontis, 2003). Moreover, the website experiences a lot of delays due to the high number of persons using the service. This is attributed to technical problems as a result of utilizing software and hardware that are not equal to the task. In addition, a firm should locate these places in areas that are themselves potential markets so that it can be easier and feasible to market its services (Alkis, 2007). Consequently, the airline has only contracted travel agents in areas that it operates. Emirates Airlines has an excellent customer service center that is well equipped with resources, but it is located in Dubai, which disadvantages overseas clients. They have to make calls to this center, or send emails that may take time to be replied.
This includes all the mechanisms used by the firm to inform the consumers on what it offers and what it does. It includes activities such as branding, advertisement, exhibitions, corporate identity and public relations. Promotion must tell a consistent message, be appealing and gain attention (Keller, 2001). More importantly, it must show the consumer why he has to choose a firm’s product instead of another firm’s product (Harris & Attour, 2003). In addition, a more effective promotion should be multidirectional in that it presents a chance of communication between the company and consumers. Furthermore, it should focus on the benefits of using its products rather than the feature (Goi, 2005). This is where the airline has failed as its promotional messages are more inclined to the features of its services leaving the consumers to guess what they may benefit from them. Additionally, the promotional messages should be precise, easily read and understood by potential customers, and the airline has ensured that it translates its messages to the local dialect in different markets. In the marketing mix, a service firm must ensure that it employs a relevant tool in promoting its products; that is, use only means that can effectively pass the message (Kanso & Kitchen, 2004). Emirates Airlines employs the following dimensions in its promotional strategy. First, it ensures good public relationships by creating rapport with customers and media people including travel editors and regular publicity narrations to print media houses. This allows the firm to gets their personalized support in promoting their services. Secondly, the firm advertises its services through radio and television channels all over the world especially in areas along its travel network. The intangibility of the advertised television message in usually compensated with the assistance of visual presentation of events and scenes to entice customers (Harris & Attour, 2003). These scenes are usually of the services offered and their features. This strengthens the content of the transmitted information. In addition, Emirates Airlines result to sales promotions in peak demand seasons, which involves short term activities aimed at increasing the number of passengers to certain destinations, and this is one of the methods used to pass specific information to a target market; hence, improved promotional efficiency. Also, the firm uses the word of mouth as a promotional tool. However, promotion through this hidden sales force is not usually taken seriously (Michael, 1998). Travel agents are also used in a personal selling strategy since they function as information carriers. The problem with using tour operators is that they may fail to emphasize the service of the firm (Ivy & Fattal 2010). This is because they may present different companies to potential customers leaving them to choose among them as they have nothing to lose. As a state carrier, it utilizes the national tourism board to promote its services in other countries especially during international trade fares. Lastly, emirates airlines promotes its services through exhibitions that attract tourism and hospitality learning institutions, resorts and hotels, tour operators and holiday financiers. Even though exhibitions may be expensive to arrange, its benefits are far reaching as it encourages communication between the firm and customers (Miri, 2009). Moreover, most of those who attend these exhibitions act as secondary promotional tools (Vrontis, 2005). The company also does direct marketing through the internet and its own website where it allows people an opportunity to air their views and experiences of the company.
People are very important in any marketing mix campaign, and they include employees, consumers and every stakeholder involved in the operations of the company. The reputation and success of the brand rests on the type of people engaged with the firm. The most crucial among them are the employees (Shikha, 2010). Thus, a service industry should hire the right people so as to guarantee quality service to consumers. The firm should only employ employees with the right qualification and desired characteristics as doing the contrary will leave the company with employees that only harm the reputation of the company (Goi, 2005). The airline engages the services of an external company to recruit and employ technical staff including pilots and cabin crew. In as much as the recruiting agency may provide unbiased results, it may at the same time lack the exact qualities that the firm is seeking for or expecting in an employee. Experience should also be factored in during employment. Emirates Airlines depends mostly on employees of other airline companies where it entices them with superior terms of engagement relative to their present employers. The airline management may board other airlines just to recruit airhostesses, or it may only recruit employees from certain airlines especially the most successful ones. In addition, strong relations with intermediaries and training, and development of the staff should be considered more often (Michael, 1996). Key employees of emirates attend annual 14 days training in USA and Germany including pilots, but the cabin crew fund their own retraining and development. Again, it is better for the service industry to understand its customers well so as to develop appropriate products that satisfy the needs of consumers (Kanso & Kitchen, 2004). The airline does not have an elaborate mechanism to ensure that it understands the needs of its customers as it depends entirely on the actions of the competitors to structure its services. Any person who comes into contact with the client will leave an impression of the company on him, which can have far reaching impacts both negative and positive. As a result, the employees must be of the right attitude and well motivated. On this note, Emirates Airlines offers competitive salaries and benefits to its employees in an effort to retain and attract more skilled employees. Its packages are one of the best in the industry. Further on, the activities of the firm should be staffed with the appropriate size of employees to ensure efficiency in service delivery (Michael, 1996). Emirates Airlines utilizes the services of travel agents in almost all the routes it plies its trade in an effort to ensure that its booking services are not understaffed while at the same time saving costs that would have been used for hiring employees in such routes. However, since the contracted companies are external to the company, they may fail to provide services in line with the desire and culture of the airline such as courtesy.
There are different processes involved in operating a service tourism industry. These processes include training, service delivery, administration, recruitment, planning and strategizing. The customers’ processes with Emirates Airlines begin when they make their bookings and continue to the reservation of their seats and so forth. This process is carried out through an online transaction system and is auctioned at anytime and from anywhere in the world provided the airline operates there. Firms should see to it that these processes are conclusively planned and implemented well to ensure that their activities run smoothly (Kaynak Kucukemiroglu & Hyder 2008). The airline lays emphasis on channels, travel agency offices and front line staff as the key operators of its processes. This will also ensure that problems and deviations are rectified promptly. Ways of supplying information, providing the service and undertaking transactions in ways that are acceptable to customers and effective to the firm is critical in the achievement of marketing strategies (Michael, 1998). The airline depends mostly on its website and travel agents to supply information in potential markets. Moreover, most of its transactions are done online; hence, limited personal contacts with consumers. Further on, blueprinting should be introduced in the processes in an effort to recognizing what are the critical moments (Goi, 2005). It is used to portray the present situation of the service and offers a useful mechanism to identify and evaluate service evidence opportunities. Companies should employ this process to provide create a visual representation of the service’s structure and to provide a greater attention in the interaction with their customers (Zineldin M. & Philipson, 2007). Emirates Airlines does not utilize this tool as it depends on the activities of each process department rather than one service map for all process departments.
- Physical Environment
This is the environment where the service company delivers its products, and where the consumers and the service industry interact; that is, the material part of the service, which is required in performing the service. It may also mean the experience of consumers as a result of using a product. Thus, it is crucial that the service industry firms help the consumers to recognize what they are buying and what they are not (Kanso & Kitchen, 2004). In addition, it determines if the company can offer quality service or otherwise (Vrontis, 2003). More often a good physical environment guarantees better service, and it also affects the perception of the consumers towards the company (Michael, 1996). Therefore, the service delivery must be carried out in a stable formal setting; that is, an environment where the consumer will feel free to enjoy the service as opposed to a changing environment (Vrontis, 2005). The physical environment must also be well maintained to ensure safety and comfort (Miri, 2009). Emirates Airlines has the airplane as its main physical environment where the main aim of their interaction with customers is carried out. Most of its airplanes belong to the Airbus and Boeing brands. The airplanes have an average life of six years due to two key reasons namely, to create a sense of safety and to minimize the maintenance costs. However, this eats into the owners equity, which reduces the overall profits. What is more, the environment must be well decorated, clean and tidy. Emirates airlines planes are clean, spacious and neatly decorated including the seats that are spacious and comfortable. Its ticket counters and booking offices are spaciously designed with unique decorations that will always remind someone of Emirates Airlines. Also, the environment must confirm all the assumptions of clients by making available expected products (Alkis, 2007). The airline has a wide selection of in-flight food making it easier for passengers to have what they wish to eat. In the same vein, the planes are fitted with sleeper seats that are electronically controlled for leg rest extension, seat back height extension and reclining lumbar support. In the business class flights, the in flight lounges are enhanced with wonderful custom made interiors together with basic amenities; hence, transforming them into ideal sites to relax and conduct business.
- The firm should consider the inclusion of the cabin crew in its training and development programs. The cabin crew employees are very crucial in ensuring safety of the passengers and this highlights the significant role they play in customer satisfaction. The company, therefore, must ensure that they have relevant training relative to the operations of its activities by organizing tailored training to them. Apart from organizing training for the cabin crew, emirates airlines can provide incentives to those presently funding their training and development studies as this will act as a source of motivation and commitment to the company (Michael, 1998). As a result, it will translate to better and improved customer service.
- Emirates airlines needs to upgrade its ticket booking system’s software and hardware to get rid of the frequent delays experienced by consumers using the online tool. It can also replace the existing system with a more superior system from the same or different manufacturer. This will speed up the booking process, which would leave the users more satisfied as they will be able to save time (Kanso & Kitchen, 2004). What is more, the airline should consider spreading its customer care center to more locations in the world to cater for those customers who want a face to face interaction kind of help. This will also reduce traffic on the existing center (Alkis, 2007).
- The company should balance the types of products between the economy class and business class flights. It is evident that the airline has concentrated most of its products types to the business class; hence, giving an impression that business class passengers are more valued than economy class passengers. This created image may result to few sales in its economy class flights, which account for the majority of its sales especially in emerging developing countries markets. Including some of these products will improve the customers’ satisfaction, and leave a lasting positive impression of the service on their minds (Miri, 2009). In terms of the core product, the airline should do away or limit connection flights as they inconvenience customers, and often result to loss of the clients’ luggage (Vrontis, 2003).
- The airline should also look into its physical environment in terms of in flight entertainment. Instead of offering a one entertainment mode and channel for all passengers, it should see to it that every seat or passengers has access to his own gadget including a radio so as they can tune to whatever they want to listen. Moreover, it will be convenient for those who wish for a quite environment (Goi, 2005).
A conclusive and more customer oriented marketing mix is vital for the accomplishment of any service firm marketing strategy. The integration of the product, people, place, physical environment, promotion, process and price into one marketing model ensures that a company focuses on working towards the bottom line of meeting the needs of consumers. Emirates Airlines is a service company offering flights and cargo transit services to different route throughout the world. Emirates Airlines has strived to ensure that it implements a successful marketing mix, which it has achieved to a greater percentage. The airline has invested so much in an effort to guarantee consumer satisfaction. In as much as it has managed to satisfy the needs and expectation of its customers, there are certain aspects of its marketing mix that it has to improve or put in place to ensure improved customer service namely; provision of in flight entertainment gadgets for every seat, improve its ticket booking system, introduce more products in the economy class relative to the business class flights and, lastly, include the cabin crew in its training and development programs.
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