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Classic Airlines Marketing Concepts

Classic Airlines Marketing Solution
University of Phoenix
MKT/571-Marketing

Summary
???Every company knows that it costs far less to hold on to a customer than to acquire a new one??? (Gokey, 2002). As the commercial airline industry is changing at a rapid pace, Classic Airlines (CA) is faced with the challenge of delivering increased value within leaner consumer budgets. According to Plunkett Research Online, travel industry expenditures are decreasing and e-commerce is gradually replacing many jobs. The analysis of the current situation of CA is to use this pivot point as an opportunity to leverage proven techniques while improving the existing CRM system, and introducing a transparent planning process to increase customer loyalty.
Internal Pressures and External Pressures
External pressures of overexpansion and rising costs have been challenging CA. Some of the internal pressures are approximately 32,000 employees, 19% decrease in Rewards members and 20% decrease in flights, the firm is due for a significant change (UOP Portal, Classic Airlines). Added pressure has been experienced following the Board of Directors 18 months/15% cost reduction mandate. These Internal and External pressures have developed into a crisis that resulted in a 10% decrease in stock price. Amanda Miller (current CEO) was hired in 2000 to prepare for her promotion in 2002, following the retirement of Jack Broadway (former CEO). This transition happened at a critical time, and has unfortunately set back the company. Mrs. Miller believes in operational excellence as a number one priority, which has left the firm vulnerable in a time when consumers need to be valued and competitors are learning more of continuous improvement.

Objective of the Marketing Department
CA must create a sustainable strategized marketing model that evolves through time, and provides communication links to inform internal decision-makers of necessary adjustments. A firm must have a vision in order to establish an underlying construct to function from and increase awareness. As mentioned in the problem statement section, management should focus on customer needs, identify market segment criteria, understand value drivers, build retention, and leverage important customer feedback. These goals will be possible when CA proactively structures an EWRM approach (enterprise wide risk management). The EWRM philosophy is meant to suggest the presence of a continuous assessment platform, which should ideally function with relationship marketing wiring. Balancing risk with customer focus will help the firm develop into a growing entity.
Obstacles of the Marketing Department
The primary reason that CA has experienced difficulty is that efficiency emphasis overshadowed the strategic thinking. ???Services need to ensure that employees have the attitude, skills, and commitment needed to meet customer expectations and sustain customer loyalty??? (Kerin et al., 2006). Employees must be charged with the responsibility of maintaining a vision that lives through a combination of strategy and efficiency. In addition, realistic marketing strategy should delight stakeholders, and exhibit qualities of sustainability and marketability.
Marketing Resources
Stakeholder alignment is an important marketing resource available to CA and part of marketing planning and implementation. CA has been able to increase efficiency by hedging fuel costs, and restructuring. Trade-offs exist at every level and are balanced according to consumer needs/wants. ???Organizations must connect not just with their consumers but with all the stakeholders, for the people affected by what the company does and how well it performs??? (Kerin et al., 2006). Relationships that contain conflicting interests will be mediated and eventually optimized according to new improvement philosophies. Management has been careful to maintain a high level of efficiency. Employees are encouraged to know the consumer, which will help shape a clear picture of how the target market will be met. Developing a cross functional communication framework has become a marketing resource and an important part of the improved Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and should assist in closing the stakeholder communication gap.
Problem Solution
Classic Airlines (CA) earned $8.7 billion in sales, however, has battled within an ineffective CRM system and reduced yields from consumers. The problem is that the firm suffers from a lack of CRM integration, a rudderless data mining focus, unclear customer relationships and minimal enterprise wide thinking. New priorities need to be developed such as highlighting important consumer needs, establishing realistic criteria for finding market segments, unearthing value drivers, focusing on proven customer retention approaches and leveraging stakeholder feedback.
The objectives and obstacles that CA??™s marketing department struggles with is a lack of consumer value focus. The marketing objectives need to be developed such as highlighting important consumer needs, establishing realistic criteria for finding market segments, unearthing value drivers, focusing on proven customer retention approaches and leveraging stakeholder feedback. A CRM program was implemented in 1989 with the hope of identifying the voice of the customer, however, rewards membership continues to decline.
Identifying market resources available to resolve this crisis requires knowledge of the most important groups demanding the product and should be accompanied by specific strategies to satisfy this consumer. According to Plunkett research, next years airline industry revenues are decreasing. With that said, commercial airlines need to prepare by offering accommodating products/services which address budget restrictions, and e-commerce capabilities. Due to the success of online registration systems, all airlines are planning for a potential transition into mostly e-ticketing services. These pressures are causing conflict within firms, which can are best remedied with refreshed cross functional applications. This kind of solution is the only way to combat employee turnover and morale fluctuations.
Discovery of primary consumer needs/wants should be an ongoing effort. Industry climates change fast in the present global economy, and can be best prepared for by establishing links to provide immediate data. The best way to understand the customer is by asking them. This is far more effective than wasteful Research and Development spending. ???Firms spend billions of dollars annually on marketing and technical research that significantly reduces, but doesnt eliminate, new product failure??? (Kerin et al., 2006). Certain factors shape the demand for any commercial airline product/service, and the firm is planning to update the CRM system to keep pace with industry changes.
???It is marketing??™s job to make these departments understand that without happy, satisfied customers who buy the organizations product, there is no company and there are no jobs??? (Kerin et al., 2006). Similar statements about consumer happiness should be considered the new mantra for organizational decisions. Though the previous CRM system focused on greater efficiency, stock prices decreased by 10% and rewards members are down by 19%. Regardless of the companys ability to save 12% on fuel costs, CA is having trouble increasing value in other areas. The target consumer must become the leveraging area, and efficiency should increase yet not at the expense of stakeholder satisfaction.
One of the first ways to develop a new CRM system will be to announce an overarching theme to CA employees. Tremendous opportunity exists within the industry if management can take control of leadership roles while introducing transparent governing techniques. When employees feel more included, the transformation will take place easier. Value is ultimately built on the improved relational variables cultivated between business units. CA is experiencing difficulty in understanding how the enterprise can function as an entity as opposed to a collection of divided groups. An enterprise wide continuous improvement plan will hopefully, invigorate all stakeholders from consumers all the way up to the Board of Directors.
???As power shifts with suppliers and consumers, innovative companies are altering the competitive balance in their respective industries to revolutionary business models built on relationships and innovative uses of technology??? (DeLoach, pg 2). Although new risks are involved within the transitioning airline industry, CA must develop proactive models to address the challenges/trends that consumer inquiries reveal. Catherine Simpson, CFO, will have to update her thinking that has been primarily focused on increased efficiency. Strategy and efficiency should always exist alongside each other.
Just as sophisticated Internet technologies are impacting the airline industry and replacing traditional platforms, internal processes are changing as well. CA will have to restructure an internal CRM system that introduces cross functionality and aligns with the consumer. Success for CA will depend on how well the organization can leverage the right areas consistently.
Alternative Solutions
Benchmarking is a part of any successful company transition. In this case our discussion will include points derived from Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and GE. Southwest has been able to deliver consistently high regard for consumers and employees, which as of February 2009 reported a record-breaking 36th consecutive year of profitability. Research attributes this success to realistic revenue growth initiatives, strong liquidity, fuel hedging, , and the relationship of consumers. From actual flights to consumer experiences with the website, the firm values relationship marketing concepts. This approach has set a high standard within the airline industry. CA can learn from the Southwest consumer focused philosophy, which should be perfected in the new CRM system.
United Airlines has carved a niche for itself through an emphasis of onboard sophisticated technology. Some of the services offered are in-flight Wi-Fi, DC power outlet ports, a liberal cell phone policy (on ground), in-flight satellite phones, and updated entertainment options. The services are supported by a website to communicate the importance of consumer loyalty, and reflect firm efforts of providing convenience and affordability.
GE is a famous story of how cross functionality revolutionized a firm, thus increasing consumer value and profitability. The fact is that through customer focus, the company grew from a market value of $12 billion in 1981 to $280 billion in 1998. This achievement was attributed to an overarching philosophy that traditional emphasis on efficiency must be married to continuous strategy supported by target market value assessments. CA needs to be adaptable enough to evolve along with the industry.
Analysis of Alternatives
In order to optimize the CRM system, management must prioritize the alternatives using appropriate weights. The most important element of the marketing plan is a cross functional/consumer focus emphasis that combines concepts. For the sake of prioritization, consumer focus will receive the highest weight, and cross functionality receives the second most important. Even without cross functionality, consumer focus should remain a priority throughout the life of the company.
This paper attempts to expand on the alternatives mentioned by presenting an enlightened perspective on how to implement a sustainable marketing philosophy. The EWRM approach is an important concept that should be communicated in a friendly/accessible way, along with pertinent customer relationship strategic points, retention elements, and the importance of transparency. A marketing plan should also be balanced with performance measures that consider the shift occurring within the industry, while setting guidelines to ensure that management is showing the best effort possible.
Risk Assessment and Mitigation
As the industry changes, the company will be challenged by trade off choices that do not add value. Implementing risk mitigation techniques will help prepare the firm for contingencies, and build a stronger structure. Introducing EWRM is a wise choice. ???Your organization needs an enterprise wide process to bring risk into balance as a strategic imperative in a complex and changing world??? (DeLoach, pg 1). The firm will want to improve continuously, and EWRM will help this occur by creating a more unified environment.
Finding true sources of value is one of the first phases of EWRM, and management should approach this part with an open mind. Changes often produce new drivers, and surprise decision makers. Therefore, the CA analysis team should recognize potential power shifts, assess risk, and categorize elements as tangible or intangible. Often a source of value has gone unnoticed, which could upset the balance. Companies must take risks; however, a proactive/inquisitive mindset can help avoid risks beyond traditional risk models. Risk can be best repaired for by embracing it.
The previously excessively efficient CRM system has proven to cause more harm than help. As mentioned, consumer loyalty has declined as well as the stock price. Along with these facts, the firm can usually expect other areas to suffer as well. An issue such as employee morale is a concern (with the pressure to lower costs) and the Board of Directors should know this.
By developing efficiency guidelines, senior leaders will mitigate risk by communicating the need to control costs without sacrificing stakeholder value. Every airline company is hedging fuel costs, yet a company such as Southwest is well balanced by maintaining customer focus. This model should become the new approach for CA.
???The ability to define a companys future in terms of its opportunities-not to mention its ability to manage its destiny in an uncertain environment-is a powerful driver of share price??? (DeLoach, pg 1). Risk management should be structured in a way that addresses the organization through realism and optimism. By implementing EWRM processes, functional barriers will be minimized thus clearing paths for risk management communication. Objectives should be aligned with consumer value and relevant to the evolving industry. Succeeding with this integrated system requires ongoing assessments done by employees who value the entire firm, not just segments.
Optimal Solution
A new organization must balance value building elements, integrate optimal cycles of consumer feedback; include target market segment identification, relative evaluative criteria, relationship marketing practices and retention techniques. These points should be continuously addressed within the CRM system, while management consistently emphasizes how the previously unsuccessful system will improve according to specific guidelines. Designing the new CRM is a complex process that involves customer focused assessments of core material, and it should be supported by the entire organization. ???CRM strategies are only effective if they deliver positive outcomes. It is no longer good enough just to say that you are customer focused, but it matters what you do??? (Bull, pg 8).
Creating a new CA will entail a shift of perspective in order to leverage marketing planning, prioritize product/services to satisfy the consumer, assess customer behavior consistently, which should ultimately increase market share and sustainability. Traditional fragmented approaches created a CA that was eventually top-heavy with efficiency, and lost contact with the customer voice. The new strategic marketing plan will use the improved CRM as a focal point to align functionalities through integration and communication. In addition, management will have to rise above the familiar solutions by acknowledging current industry risks as critical challenges. Transparent responsibilities will become visible within the CRM and senior leaders will be allowed to invite multilevel input. This kind of accountability has been missing from the firm, and should reorient the thinking processes of all departments.
Communication within the CRM will receive new carefully targeted attention. ???During the transformation the primary task of the leadership team is a clear, consistent, and unambiguous transmission of their vision to others in the organization??? (Pyzdek, pg 100). When the enterprise has made every attempt to link the CRM to activity maintenance, transition should be felt within departments. Customer response/behavior should help shape changes, as management continues to emphasize the importance of internalizing critical success indicators within the market. The process can be perceived as a translation of consumer value that involves a metamorphosis into employee proactivity. This is a complex challenge that management should meet with open minds, while remembering that the decision will require optimal trade-off decisions.
Implementation
The strategic CRM implementation for CA will succeed according to how well senior leaders can restructure the holistic consumer voice into the existing system. Information Technology personnel will have to help guide employees on how to reengineer the platform according to industry success models. The greatest challenge of implementation will be in dealing with change resistance. This will be addressed at information sessions geared to communicate the relationship marketing emphasis. Increased consumer use of the Internet is signaling the company to accelerate the CRM transition.
???Another implementation issue is that of sourcing. Many organizations have few alternatives but to outsource a significant portion of their CRM solution as they lack the resources to develop CRM software??? (Bull, pg 2). According to industry experts, the majority of CRM systems fail due to process conflicts and loss of consumer focus. Maintaining an awareness of these facts will help CA maintain growth and strengthen relationships.
Conclusion/Evaluation of Results
CA is planning on a new balanced approach to help company plant long term seeds that will reap sustainable rewards. In order to achieve exceptional quality levels, management will have to put metrics in place to ensure that the CRM system is performing according to specifications. One of the ways to communicate the status of a project is to display dashboards that report scorecards on each element. This is a way that all employees will have access to updated information to base adjustments on. The scorecard should commit to transparency regarding performance, consumer response, internal insight, and overall stakeholder information. Senior leaders should refer to this function of the CRM, and develop an obligation to perform according to organizational goals. Scorecards are to continuously improve and show that the staff is accessing and processing information.
Causation is an important concept for management to share. Root causes create results, which will be displayed on the scorecards. Within the CRM, employees should be encouraged to offer input on how to identify root causes of lost rewards members and how to remedy the situation. By drilling down to causes of the results, CA will begin to take more control of processes. Scorecards are placed to help define components of the organization, and to provide a comprehensive view on the structure of events. These metrics should be visible at every level, and no employee is exempt from performance measurement.
???These goals must be operationalized by designing metrics to act as surrogates for the goals. Think of the goals themselves as latent or hidden constructs. The objective is to identify observable things directly related to the goals that can be measured??? (Pyzdek, pg 66). Retention will become an emphasis, which will balance the over efficiency focus. A good way to assess this measurement is to calculate the financial value of each consumer. After the CRM system is in place to track behavior/response, the finance department should display time periods, segments, and customer net present value. In this way, the target customer will be viewed qualitatively and quantitatively.
Consumers are the pulse of the company, and the organization should be reminded of this on a consistent basis. Retaining employees and customers requires an enlightened perspective focused on sustainability and high value. Management will have to make mental shifts to realize the importance of an integrated CRM to align the company. The future of CA relies upon a concerted effort infused with productivity.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation
|Risk Assessment and Mitigation |
|Alternative |Risks and Probability |Consequence and Severity |Mitigation Techniques and Strategies |
|Integrated CRM |New Issues |Re-structuring |Transparency |
| | | |Information sessions |
| |High |Unclear linkages |Incentives |
|Website aligned with CRM |Resistance |Coalitions |Required training |
| | | |Sourcing focus groups |
| |Medium |Fragmentation |Employee input |
|Scorecards |Employee conflict |Turnover |Transparency |
| | | |Comprehensive rewards |
| |High |Loss of alignment |Communicate positive results |

Pros and Cons of Alternative Market Solutions
|Alternative |Pros |Cons |
|Integrated CRM |Improved communication |Resistance |
| |Alignment |Traditional barriers |
| |Better morale |Cost |
|Website aligned with CRM |Consumer input |Over efficiency |
| |Employee input |Complacency |
| |Leveraged points of contact |Potential hackers |
|Scorecards |Clearer goals |Pressure to change |
| |Risk identification |Potentially offensive to leaders |
| |Quantitative approach |Resistance |

Optimal Solution Implementation Plan
|Action Item Deliverable |Timeline |Who is Responsible |
|Overarching CRM plan |3 weeks |CEO |
|Responsibilities Plan |1 month |Management |
|Information session |1 month |All department heads |
|CRM overhaul |5 weeks |Sourcing/IT dept. |
|Tests on CRM integration |1 ? months |Sourcing/IT dept. |
|Final scorecard criteria |1 ? months |Management |
|Post scorecards |2 months |All departments |

Evaluation of Results
|End-State Goals |Metrics |Target |
|Strategize Marketing Model |Surveys |30% increase in consumer response |
|Improved communication |CRM login |80% employee involvement |
|Identify consumer needs |Consumer response |20% increase in Rewards members |
|Increase retention rate |Scorecards |25% improved retention |
|Introduce cross functionality |CRM communication |100% alignment |

References

Bull, Christopher. (2003). Strategic Issues in Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Implementation. Business Process Management Journal. Retrieved June 28, 2009 from

Emerald.

Byrne, John A. (1998) How Jack Welch Runs GE. Business Week. Retrieved from

Businessweek.com June 28, 2009.

Coyles, Stephanie. Gokey, Timothy. C. (2005). Customer Retention is Not enough. Journal of

Consumer Marketing. Vol. 22, number 2, pp 101-105. Retrieved June 28, 2009 from

Emerald.

DeLoach, James. (2004). The New Risk Imperative-An Enterprise Wide Approach. Handbook of

Business Strategy. Vol. 5, Number 1, pp 29-34. Retrieved June 28, 2009 from Emerald.

Kelly, Gary. C. (2008). Southwest Annual Report-To Our Shareholders. Retrieved June 28, 2009

from Southwest.com

Kerin, Roger A., Hartley, Steven W., Barkowitz, Eric N., Rudelius, William. (2006). Marketing,

8e. New York. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Pyzdek, Thomas. (2003) The Six Sigma Handbook. McGraw-Hill Companies. New York

Senge, Peter M., (1990). The Fifth Discipline. New York, New York. Bantam Doubleday
? ? ? ? ? ? ?  Dell Publishing Group.

United Airlines. (2009). United Airlines Business Travel Tools-Travel Info on the Go.

Retrieved June 28, 2009 from Unitedairlines.com

University of Phoenix Simulation Portal (2009). Classic Airlines. rEsource MBA570
website.

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