Enhancing an airline’s internal marketing to improve service quality and customer loyalty : A qualitative study expanding the Internal Marketing Model based on the case of Germania.
Abstract: Background: Due to the deregulation of the European airline industry within the 1980’s, competition between airlines has intensified greatly. The emergence of low-cost carriers has given rise to the competition on price. However, meeting customer demands and delivering high-quality service, beyond the mere price factor, is still crucial for an airline’s survival. Previous literature has focused on the interactive marketing aspect between employees and passengers when it comes to service quality and customer satisfaction. Today, there is a gap between what management does to satisfy its employees. This research will evaluate what should be done by management in order to meet customer expectations and perform an excellent service. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to determine how Germania’s management inhibited its employees in delivering superior service quality and how distributed communication within the Service Marketing Triangle negatively affects the Internal Marketing Model. The study’s empirical findings contribute to existing internal marketing literature and result in an extension of the Internal Marketing Model according to Ahmed and Rafiq (2002). Method: A qualitative method consisting of semi-structured interviews with four former airline employees and two focus groups of 13 students was applied. This setup gives insight into both the consumer and employee perspective. Additionally, to handle the great amount of data, a thematic analysis was applied. Conclusion: This study shows how Germania inhibited its employees from performing their work and deliver the service quality that was expected by customers. These inhibitions were mainly found in the tools that the company provided. The shortcomings can be found within the Service Marketing Triangle and an extension of the Internal Marketing Model is concluded from these. The findings and existing theory prove, that employee motivation, job satisfaction and employee empowerment are crucial aspects when it comes to meeting customer expectations and hence, delivering excellent service. The degree of the employees’ empathy, competence, and professionalism determine, whether the customer is satisfied and whether they are loyal to the airline.
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