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This report sets to provide an extensive analysis of customers care plan by using the Edinburgh as the case study to discuss the suitability of the various customer care standards that have been set by Edinburgh Airport. It will also examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the current customer care strategy of the Edinburgh Airport and a recommendation of the various ways that can be employed in this company to ensure continued improvement of its customer care.
Customer Care Plan
Most of the companies consider customer care as one of the crucial factors that contribute to the creation of an extensive and loyal customer base. It is therefore vital to organisations especially those in the air transport and tourism industry establish an effective and reliable customer care plan. A customer care plan tends to extensively examine the expectations of a company and the perceptions of its customers (Buhalis and Amaranggana, 2015, pp.378). An effective customer care plan provides guidelines to the organization on how it can effectively bring the various customer care activities it undertakes in line with the numerous needs of its customers hence enabling it to offer highly competitive customer experience. There exists a very close relationship between customer care and the travel and tourism industry.
In every part of the tourism sector be it restaurant, travel, agency, hotel and flight among others, excellent customer care is essential without effective customer relationship, companies within the travel and tourism sector cannot manage to make a profit (Buhalis and Amaranggana, 2015, pp.379). An effective customer care plan enables an airline company to develop excellent customer relationships, enhance its customer experience of the travel services that it provides and boost its customer base loyalty. Research shows that majority of the customers who get excellent customer services in a given travel or tourism company always end up considering such an organization first whenever they get to travel again and even recommend it to their friends who are within their social circles (Mahrous and Hassan, 2017, pp.1053). Excellent customer care always acts as the backbone of the travel and tourism industries and significantly contribute to their growth both in the short and long run.
Background of Edinburgh Airport
Edinburgh Airport was established and opened in 1916, and it is located in Edinburgh which is the capital city of Scotland. It is owned by the Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) with its chief executive officer being Gordon Dewar who took over the leadership of the company in 2012. Since its opening in 1916, Edinburgh Airport has significantly grown over the years with its travel destinations expanding from local to international countries such as United Kingdom, Palma, Dublin, Malaga, Amsterdam, Paris CDG, Geneva, Frankfurt and Alicante (O'Leary, 2014, pp.37). Currently, Edinburgh Airport has 37 airlines that fly in approximately 222 routes to more than 152 destinations worldwide and has been handling more than 13.4 million passengers in the past two years with about 121800 aircraft movements as per the end of 2016 (O'Leary, 2014, pp.38). Today. By operating 24 hours in a day for 365 days in every year, Edinburgh Airport has been ranked as the 6th busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the busiest airport within Scotland (O'Leary, 2014, pp.39).
Edinburgh Airport has one runway whose length is about 2560 meters long and one terminal. It has played a significant role in enhancing the economic growth of Scotland since its establishment. For instance, in the last ten years, Edinburgh Airport generated revenue amounting to £219 million in the economy, and there are very high expectations that this amount will increase to about £250 by the end of 2028 (O'Leary, 2014, pp.44). Moreover, the current growth of the Edinburgh Airport can be attributed to the enormous amount of money that has been spent on it by both its owners and the government in the attempt of enhancing its service delivery to the people. For instance, in 2017, a five-year investment program worth £125 million was implemented in this airport with the aim of building additional retail in landside terminal and departure lounge and also for improving immigration and check-in facilities (O'Leary, 2014, pp.49). Additionally, in November 2013, there was the construction of a new terminal extension that was worth £25 million while the £1.3 million investment in the year 2014 led to the opening of the first biggest fire training simulator at Edinburgh Airport (O'Leary, 2014, pp.57).
Step One: An Evaluation of Suitability of the Customer Care Standards and Strategy in Edinburgh Airport
Recently, the Edinburgh Airport set new standards for its existing customer care plan with the goal of improving the quality of the customer experience of its clients when they travel through this airport. As part of its strategy of delivering a new customer experience to its clients, Edinburgh Airport launched new passenger commitments which contained a detailed outline of the various pledges or objectives that it aims at accomplishing (Halpern, 2018, pp.158). The four key objectives of the Edinburgh Airport new passenger commitments initiative include providing a seamless journey to its customers at all times and ensuring that the customers have multiple choices regarding the kinds of travel experience that they desire by the end of 2019 (Karou and Hull, 2014, pp.3). The rest include delivering excellent or outstanding customer service and facilitating quick security clearance of its customers within the airport by the end of 2020 by reducing the time spent from 30 minutes to 10 minutes (Karou and Hull, 2014, pp.7).
In 2013, David Wilson who is the Chief Operating Officer of Edinburgh Airport showed the company's commitment to enhancing the travel experience of its customers by establishing a reliable and effective customer care plan. For instance, in his speech during the company's general meeting, David Wilson stated that, "Providing first-class passenger experience is at the very heart of what we do here at Edinburgh Airport and our new Passenger Commitments will cement the assurances we want to make to our customers in 2013 and beyond" (Halpern, 2018, pp.162). Since then, Edinburgh Airport has shown its commitment to meeting this standard and most of its customer care objectives even up to date.
Following the various challenges that Edinburgh Airport encountered in 2012, the establishment of new passenger service commitment strategy or initiative has enabled the company significantly refocus its efforts on creating and setting into place a new standard for its customer care delivery. Edinburgh Airport aims at ensuring that it has reinforced its position as one of the best airports in Scotland and across the world when it comes to delivering an outstanding passenger experience (Halpern, 2018, pp.168).
Critical Elements of Customer Care of Edinburgh Airport
As part of its strategy of keeping its customer loyal to its services, there are several key elements that Edinburgh Airport has ensured that they are nailed down as part of its customer care plan. For instance, it has ensured that its customer care plan incorporates employee training on how to deliver a high-quality customer experience (Schultz, Barnes, Schultz and Azzaro, 2015, pp.56). This company has established a dedicated internal training department which focuses on promoting the career development of its existing staff hence ensuring that they can provide improved performance. The second primary element of its customer care plan is embracing illicit feedback from its customers (Schultz, Barnes, Schultz and Azzaro, 2015, pp.59). It has managed to do this by creating various reliable platforms in which the customers can use to provide their feedback regarding the quality of the customer service that they have received and also air their complaints if any. Examples of these platforms include its easily accessible website and a mobile phone App which makes it possible for the clients to efficiently provide their feedbacks to the ever available support system hence enabling the company to quickly respond to any of the existing challenges swiftly (Schultz, Barnes, Schultz and Azzaro, 2015, pp.63).
However, there are other major elements of the customer care that the current customer care plan of Edinburgh Airport is yet to cover as part of its efforts of attaining its goals and objectives. For instance, Edinburgh Airport has failed to incorporate the aspect of rewarding its loyal customers through gifts and discounts. Setting aside a loyalty program for its best customers can assist Edinburgh Airport to enhance its passengers' experience and keep them coming back for more whenever they think about having a remarkable travel experience. Such a program should be such that it cannot easily be copied by its rivals (Schultz, Barnes, Schultz and Azzaro, 2015, pp.68).
Additionally, Edinburgh Airport should consider enhancing its Ethics Policy to ensure that its staff exercise the best and expected ethical behaviour while handling the clients given the fact that Edinburgh Airport mainly deals with services which results to continued customer contact with its staff. Excellent customer relations can only be achieved when the employees exhibit outstanding ethical behaviours while dealing with the clients (Schultz, Barnes, Schultz and Azzaro, 2015, pp.73).
Discussion about Conformation of Edinburgh Airport's Customer Care Plan with the SMART Criteria
The current customer care plan of the Edinburgh Airport since to extensively conform with the SMART criteria as reflected in its objectives. Almost all of its objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.125). For instance, the objectives about providing a seamless journey to its customers at all times and ensuring that the customers have multiple choices regarding the kinds of travel experience that they desire by the end of 2019 adhere to the SMART criteria. They do so in the sense that they are specific since they are not too broad nor general, measurable regarding feedback provided by the customers, achievable and realistic since when adequate and desired resources are put together, these objectives become easy to achieve. Lastly, they are time-bound since they are set to be attained within a given time limit (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.125). The same case applies to the objective of facilitating quick security clearance of its customers within the airport by the end of 2020 by reducing the time spent from 30 minutes to 10 minutes.
However, Edinburgh Airport should consider adjusting its goal of delivering excellent or outstanding customer service through redesigning it to make it conform with the SMART criteria since it lacks the time and specific elements. Moreover, unlike Glasgow Airport which has managed to align its objectives within the boundaries of its vision and mission statements which are, "To provide a pleasurable airport experience by enhancing our facilities and offering professional services in a safe and secure environment", Edinburgh Airport has failed to keep its objectives aligned with its vision and mission statements (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.126). The current vision statement of Edinburgh Airport entails delivering outstanding returns to its stakeholders while its vision statement involves being the primary stand out the business of Scotland (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.127).
Comparison of the Customer Care Plan of Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports
There exists a very significant difference between the customer care plan of Edinburgh Airport and that of Glasgow Airport (David Mc, 2013, pp.69). For instance, the customer care plan of Edinburgh Airport has more and detailed objectives than that of the Glasgow Airport. Moreover, the objectives in the customer care plan of the Edinburgh Airport seem to significantly adhere to the SMART criteria when compared to that of the Glasgow (David Mc, 2013, pp.72). For instance, the objectives of the Glasgow Airport lack the time-bound aspect and are hard to measure their success unlike those of the Edinburg Airport with the exemption of the goal about delivering an excellent or outstanding customer service which also lacks the time element (David Mc, 2013, pp.73).
Step 2: Effectiveness and Efficiency of the Customer Care Strategy of Edinburgh Airport
Since the launch of the new customer care commitment initiative in 2013, Edinburgh Airport has in the last five years been employing numerous resources towards achieving its objectives. Although this airline company has not attained all of its objectives, it has made significant strides towards accomplishing the majority of them (Lawton, 2017, pp.35). For instance, in its efforts of delivering an excellent or outstanding customer service, Edinburgh Airport is one of the few companies within the Airline Industry that listens to its customers' feedback, provides customer services on the basis of the feedback provided to them by its customers and even goes ahead to meet personal needs of its clients (Lawton, 2017, pp.38). For instance, Edinburgh Airport provides medical services and equipment to its customers in the effort of meeting their personal needs keeping in mind that some clients are adversely affected by the travelling environment present in the aeroplanes such as the high noise while taking off and landing. The well-trained air hostesses that accompany the passengers in the planes of this company always ensure that all the needs of its passengers are comprehensively addressed (Lawton, 2017, pp.42).
Secondly, in the effort of meeting its other objective which entails providing a seamless journey to its clients, the Edinburgh Airport has been ensuring that the customers get a quick check-in process in the airport with limited delays. It has also been facilitating fast security clearance of its clients unlike most of its competitors in the airline industry such as Virgin and Brussels Airline and Turkish Airlines (Belobaba, Odoni and Barnhart, 2015, pp.47). Moreover, Edinburgh Airport has been working round the clock to ensure that its clients have an easy and fast passport issue and approval. It has also managed to reduce significantly the total amount of time that its customers have to experience while queuing at the restaurants and shops available within the airport as they wait to board or be picked by their relatives and friends on arrival in the airport (Belobaba, Odoni and Barnhart, 2015, pp.66).
Thirdly, as stipulated by Lee and Yu (2018) in their recent journal article, named, "Assessment of airport service quality: A complementary approach to measure perceived service quality based on Google reviews, Journal of Air Transport Management" it is reasonable to assume that Edinburgh Airport has managed to achieve to a great extent its goal of ensuring that the customers have multiple choices regarding the kind of travel experiences that they desire (Lee and Yu 2018, pp.32). For instance, this company has used a lot of resources in the attempt of ensuring that there exists a variety of destinations from Edinburgh Airport and that variety of retail offerings are readily available to the customers. Moreover, the company has always ensured that it has provided various options for its onward journey for its clients hence enabling them to encounter with an outstanding travel experience (Lee and Yu 2018, pp.34).
However, a lot of efforts need to be allocated on the aim of facilitating quick security clearance of its customers within the airport. According to some recent customer care reviews obtained from Skytrax about the quality of the customer service provided by Edinburgh Airport, a significant number of the customers are not happy about the current delays in the airport during security clearance (Albers, Baum, Auerbach and Delfmann, 2017, pp.24). As stipulated in their article entitled," Effecting Factors of Profitability: A Panel Data Analysis on the Best Airline Companies in Europe Ranked by the SKYTRAX" by İyi, Etki, Hodsk and Uygulaması, (2018), Edinburgh Airport was ranked in the fourth position for failing to eradicate the challenge of prolonged stay time of the customers as they wait to complete the numerous security clearance processes present in the airport (İyi, Etki, Hodsk and Uygulaması, 2018, pp. 32).
Some customer has complained about the tedious process that they have to follow during passport controls. There have been numerous protests about the tedious process that they have to follow, long queues on the stairs which even at times extend past the passport hallway. The dramatic increase in the number of passengers that the airport is handling has significantly contributed to this increase in traffic within the passport hall, and this calls for immediate action if the company does not want to start losing the majority of its customers (Albers, Baum, Auerbach and Delfmann, 2017, pp.34).
The below image shows customers in long queues within Edinburgh Airport as they wait to have their passport checked and process and their luggage cleared by the security department.
Source: (Albers, Baum, Auerbach and Delfmann, 2017, pp.47).
Step 3: Proposals on Some of the Possible Ways of Improving Customer Care in Edinburgh Airport
Several initiatives can be undertaken by the management of Edinburgh Airport in the effort of ensuring that substantial customer care is provided to the customers. There are several strategies that I would propose to be implemented in the Edinburgh Airport in the attempt of catering for the current shortcomings that are associated with the objective of facilitating quick security clearance of its customers within the airport from the current 30 minutes to about ten minutes (Soltani and Navimipour, 2016, pp.673). For instance, establishing a training program for its staff especially those in the front line since they physically engage with the customers in the airport can significantly play a pivotal role in reducing the total time that the customers have to experience during their security clearance process.
Training the staff helps in equipping them with the much-required skills to efficiently deal with the customers hence enabling them to gain the expertise to swiftly work and serve the customers within the shortest time possible (Dhar, 2015, pp.421). Presence of staff members primarily in the customer care desk that have undergone enough training on how to effectively and diligently serve the customers are capable of delivering high-quality services within very few minutes hence increasing the total number of customers that they can serve per hour from two to about five or six (Dhar, 2015, pp.426).
Secondly, I would suggest that the management of Edinburgh Airport through its research and development department consider inventing and employing technologically advanced techniques of providing customer care (Pate and Adegbija, 2018, pp.1). The use of digital methods such as computers to record customer data, the internet of things (IoT) to store and retrieve and share customer data that is stored in cloud and use of technologically advanced methods of security checkup can significantly help in facilitating fast customer service delivery within the airport. That is by eliminating most of the manual process used within Edinburgh Airport (Pate and Adegbija, 2018, pp.2). The use of advanced equipment such as body scanners, X-ray machines and walk through metal detectors can help in reducing the total time used by the security guards in Edinburgh Airport to screen the customers together with their luggage (Pate and Adegbija, 2018, pp.3).
Moreover, there is the need for further improving the quality of the customer care commitment plan or document of the Edinburgh Airport through re-writing any of the existing objectives that have not conformed with the SMART criteria. For instance, the aim of delivering an excellent or outstanding customer service does not conform to the SMART criteria (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.126). I would recommend that the Edinburgh Airport re-writes this objective as aiming at delivering excellent customer service to its customers by reducing the total number of cases of weekly customer complaints from approximately fifteen to about three within the next one year. This objective will then have fully conformed with the SMART criteria (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.126). Moreover, the Edinburgh Airport should consider introducing a new key objective in its customer care plan. This objective should be increasing its customer base by about 30% by the end of 2020 which will see it gain a leading position in the airline industry within Scotland and across Britain (Bjerke and Renger, 2017, pp.127).
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