Analysis of Consumer Perceptions in Cyprus

Introduction

Explorative questionnaires were administered to a sample of 200 respondents representing consumers of Cyprus airline services. All respondents were passengers across the different airlines in Cyprus. Their opinions were sought in regard to the specific objectives of the study. These four main objectives were:

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  1. To identify service quality factors in the industry, as perceived by consumers.
  2. Prioritize service quality factors in the industry, according to consumer perceptions.
  3. Examine whether there is any inconsistency between consumers’ perception of service quality as examined in the managerial strategy/approach and written standards in the service quality in the airline industry.
  4. Make recommendations to manage customer expectations on service quality.

Reliability and Dependability

In line with the first objective respondents were sought regarding the factor reliability and the dependability of the airline industry in Cyprus. From the responses, a slight majority of the respondents numbering 98 passengers out of the 200 sampled customers expressed their displeasure at the level of reliability and dependability of the factor of the Cyprus airline industry. This represents 49% of the sample.

This percentage is significant enough to indicate that the level of quality service of the Cyprus airline industry needs revamping. Respondents who opined that the service quality of the Cyprus airline industry was in good order were 96, representing 48% of the sample. About 6 respondents were not committal on their opinions about the aspect of dependability and reliability. From these results, it can be deduced that technical hitches in the organizational structures of the airline industry have attracted significant negative reactions from consumers.

Reliability and Dependability

Related to the question of reliability were other aspects of quality service as relates to consumer privilege and comfort. Respondents, displeasure seemed to be anchored on the reason for poor communication about schedule alterations and adjustments. The near balance between the respondents who endorsed the reliability factor of Cyprus airlines and those who expressed their displeasure shows that the public reactions to the quality situation have not yet gained a decidedly significant opinion.

Quality of Service

In line with the second objective, the study sought the respondents’ opinions on whether they thought service quality factors of the Cyprus airline industry were in line with the consumer expectations. On this score, respondents were asked to give their views on the question of service quality. A slight population of the respondents representing 1.5 percent of the sample thought the services were of excellent quality. Respondents who thought the services were poorly formed 3.5 percent of the entire sample. Another 2.5 percent of the respondents replied that the services were very poor. Those who rated the service quality as superb represented 4 percent of the entire population. However, 88.5 percent of these respondents argued that the quality of services of the Cyprus airline industry was moderately good.

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Quality of Service

The general deduction from these results is that the majority of the consumers of the Cyprus airlines industry express an average approval of the services they receive. Specifically, however, it might be argued that this majority is the loyalists and the optimistic ones who might have developed some form of a cultural attachment to the dominant brands that operate in the industry. Their support could originate from the many positive attributes they experience and some consumer retention services that the airlines might have extended to them in the past.

The loyalty factor of a specific cadre of clientele is sometimes situated in reasons and objectives other than the commercial value of the product on which they become attached. This might therefore mean that factors of patriotism, culture, and individual preferences might have overcome any possible misgivings that they might hold against the Cyprus airline industry.

From the same respondents, the study found out that 40 percent of the sample consisting of 80 respondents thought that the state of the airline industry in Cyprus was still in good order. Another 30 percent representing 60 respondents said the aircraft was fairly good, while 20 percent of the remaining respondents thought that many of the planes could fall into disrepair in the span of a few years. Only a slim 6 percent of the sampled population rated the services as very good. The remaining 4 percent of the respondents could not arrive at any definite opinion about the quality of services of the airlines of Cyprus.

The few who rated the airline’s services as very good gave reasons of comfort, cost, and convenience as their reasons for approval. Most of these were domestic travelers especially holidaymakers who tour the country. This group mostly consisted of elderly couples and pensioners who use the services mostly during the festive seasons around the year. A majority of the respondents 70 percent, who indicated varying forms of disapproval with the system cited flight delays, flight cancellations, and mishandling of luggage as their reasons for disapproval.

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This category comprised mostly of the working class, foreign tourists, business travelers, and students. Many in this category, comprising 68 percent of the group, thought that the situation might be improved through policy reforms while others, representing 32 percent of the sample thought that the situation was beyond salvage. The groups showed a tendency of gender preferences with males forming the majority of the respondents who thought the services did not meet expectations.

The explanation across the gender divide might be that more male respondents than their female counterparts were in the business and official classes of travel. Most of the female respondents fell in the unofficial and tourist categories and therefore used the airline services less frequently. The difference, therefore, was more a matter of frequency of use than of some essential gender biases, preferences, or prejudice. It was also found out that a majority of the women who fell into the official categories of travelers expressed a significant degree of dissatisfaction with a select type of airline services.

However, it is worthy of note that the study found out variations across all the categories of responses. Those who showed either approval or disapproval said so with their opinions being conditioned by the type of services and the type of airline companies. In their responses, the clients cited specific airlines where they had received either standard services or substandard treatment. The implication, therefore, is that the airline industry in Cyprus is diverse and achieves varying levels of satisfaction for its clientele.

From the results on the opinions, it might be concluded that the airline industry of Cyprus falls slightly below the expectation of the consumers. The industry, it might seem, has not responded with good speed to the dynamic needs of its clientele. The respondents who showed their disapproval were the ones most likely to use other international airlines. This means that their opinions must have been governed by some sense of comparative analysis. The airline industry in Cyprus, by this indication, lags behind the product improvement and quality assurance practices that have continued to drive the industry in the recent past. In matters of opinion, therefore, the foreign airline owners have an edge over the local Cyprus airlines. But this analysis should be examined in the sense that the disapproval margin was significantly narrow. The industry players might want to put in place systems that shall reassure the clientele on matters of quality and efficiency. Studies have found out that in the face of fierce competition, companies that do not come up with quick consumer-friendly initiatives usually get an advantage over those that stagnate in this area of performance reforms.

Empathy with Consumer Needs

The third objective of this study was to examine whether there is any inconsistency between consumers’ perception of service quality as examined in the managerial strategy/approach and written standards in the service quality in the airline industry. Towards these objective consumer responses were sought on various questions that relate to the nature of the relationship between the airline industry personnel and the clients. Specifically, the responses sought clarifications on whether the policies, activities, and endeavors of the airline industry have any resonance with the specific needs and expectations of the consumers.

On this score for instance the study sought the consumers’ opinions on the level of empathy extended to them by the airline’s industry handlers. The results of this query showed that a majority of 47 percent of the sample agreed that there was a significant aspect of empathy from the airline’s personnel in their handling of the consumers’ concerns. The reason for this might be located in the fact that years of aggressive marketing have occasioned tendencies towards rapid response to consumer sensibilities. The phenomena of globalization, liberalization and have occasioned increased competition that might have forced firms to invest significantly in customer relations and consumer satisfaction practices. The external factors are more at play in this aspect than some form of inbuilt organizational resolve to improve their handling of consumers.

Empathy with Consumer Needs

However, another significant sample of the respondents 46.5 percent felt that there was little or no empathy at all on the score of handling consumers’ specific needs. Some of the respondents in this category argued that poor communication about some aspects of travel and inadequate pre-flight consumer service personnel in some of the airlines showed a certain lack of priority in the sector. Some respondents alleged slow response by the cabin crew to medical emergencies or specialized care during flights. They suggested that the airlines carry out some structured realignments in their cabin personnel to moderate luxury provision with specialized care systems. Another 1.5 percent of the respondents could not offer any definite opinions on the matter of empathy. This might be because of relatively low experience of travel, or lesser schedules of travel throughout the year.

The performance of the airlines in Cyprus according to past studies is seasonal. It has its peak and off-peak seasons. During the peak seasons, the airline industry adopts various promotional services and discounts. Service delivery and efficiency are equally improved in this window of the period. The assessments of this study were done at a time when the industry was at an off-peak season with the explanation that the adverse responses were only time-specific. However, it might be argued that the provision of services as a matter of policy should not be anchored on seasons. Other respondents blamed inflationary pressures and the prices of oil as factors that have also contributed to the dismal performance of Cyprus airlines.

The global recession has also been cited as a defense. The need to cut on costs and adjust to the realities of obsessions has caused many airlines to cut down on their promotional services in a bid to salvage the profits line. This means that it will be some while before the airlines of Cyprus resume stability and regain the lost confidence of their consumers. Some of the consumers who responded to the questionnaire hinted that they have considered switching their loyalties to alternative airlines in the region. The loss of the local clientele which is usually considered as a primary source of goodwill might be symptomatic of a significant fall of confidence.

For the long term, the major Cyprus airlines dominated the stocks markets in the country but have come under increasing competitive pressure from other blue-chip companies in the country. The closing of the competitive gap is symptomatic of the gradual erosion of its market premium and the apparent predictability of its seasons of low performance. The fluctuations of the stocks of major airline companies in Cyprus are another clear indicator that the industry is fighting the declining public and investor approval ratings. Nevertheless, the airlines have continued to enjoy support due to other external factors that aid the airlines market. The aggressive sale of Cyprus as an ideal tourist destination by tour promoters has remained one of the strongest points that have rescued the airlines from the possible crisis.

The tourist potential of Cyprus has continued to attract and enjoy international appeal earning the country significant sums of foreign exchange with much of the collateral benefits spilling over to the airline’s sector. The branding of some of the major airline firms has been couched in terms that denote this great potential of tourism. The names of the airlines, therefore, become synonymous with the beautiful topographies and other vistas that are captured in the brands.

The respondents cited poor or inadequate marketing as one reason that explains the diminishing value of service delivery. There are those who defended the industry who argued that the industry has a broad reach of clientele and that it has concentrated on opening up new routes to areas where she never operated before. This expansionist program, they say has meant some looseness of touch with the local clientele but that the future plan of the industry is all geared towards satisfying both the local and international clientele.

The question of costs surfaced prominently in this study. Respondents were asked to express their opinions on the amount they spent on the airline’s services versus the treatment they found in return. The reactions showed that a slight majority, 54 percent, of the respondents, thought that the services were charged fairly affordable. 16 percent of the respondents argued that the prices charged were very expensive. 28 percent of the respondents said that the charges that the airline companies levied were average, the remaining 2 percent thought that the fairs levied were very cheap.

This response reflects the actual reality on the ground which shows that a majority of Cyprus citizens belong to either the upper middle class or the lower middle class. The way they respond to matters of prices will therefore reflect this demographic distribution. The slim minority of 2 percent who thought that the prices were very cheap might belong to the few upper classes on Cyprus’ demographic strata. The 16 percent who argued that the prices levied were very expensive might belong to the lower class that use the airline’s services rarely on account of costs involved.

Prices as a factor have a strong influence on the market conditions and play a significant role in predicting the outcome of situations. From the answers given by the respondents, the airlines across Cyprus charge varying prices mostly in form of incentives, discounts, and other related objectives. The margin of difference in costs across most airlines does not show significant variations. This means that the price bracket remains the same so that the discourse of competition is transacted through other forms. The prices of airline services in Cypress do not vary much from the international rates. The implication here is that the challenges in costs and the reactions thereof as expressed in the opinions of the respondents are not localized. They are basically a reflection of the price forces on the global airlines market.

The distinction in prices is ordinarily made to reflect on the matters of class, privilege, and utility. There is little consequence whether neither positive nor negative in minor price fluctuations which affect the airline’s industries across the world. The perceptions of prices of consumers in relation to prices are therefore made in reference to the services obtained in return. Some of the respondents who argued that the prices are relatively expensive fall in the upper-middle class and upper-class category. The meaning of this is that comfort and service delivery are inextricably tied to the factor of pricing. The consumers who pay to use the airline services expect that in return they shall find value for their money.

The forces that determine the prices of airline services are beyond the reach and influence of local players. The prices charged by airlines in Cyprus are not a factor that should determine consumer trends and preferences. The field of alternatives does not have much variety to offer. It is presumably because of this reason that the disgruntled consumers must attach the factor of quality to their argument. Another factor is that high prices have always been presumed to maintain some form of direct proportionality with high quality of services. This high-quality service is assumed to imply a low-risk factor. The question of safety has, therefore come to condition the question of pricing so that by paying highly for a service the consumers usually assume that their safety is guaranteed. This has been made more so by the fact that airlines that charge highly also bill themselves as the safest on the market. Some consumers who responded to the questionnaire argued that they have always preferred to pay highly as a guarantee for better services.

Personnel Attitude

Personnel Attitude

Opinions were sought from the respondents regarding the question of the attitude of personnel towards consumers. A majority of the sampled respondents representing 55.5 percent of the sample argued that the attitude of the personnel was moderately good. Another 2.5 percent and 3 percent of the respondents opined that attitudes of the personnel were excellent and superb respectively. Comparatively, 15 percent of the respondents argued that the attitude of the personnel was very poor, while 24 percent of them said that the attitude was poor. Although the majority seems to give a positive commendation to the question of attitude, the significant percentages that oppose them mean there might be some human resource dimension to the apparent dissatisfaction of the personnel.

The disgruntled personnel are likely to develop burnout because their attitude towards work and clients is entirely dependent on the level of job satisfaction that they experience. This might suggest some absence of incentives to work up the morale and attitudes of the workers. This will in turn translate into their positive attitude towards work and prod them into warming up to the clientele.

The Corporate Social Responsibility program was another terrain that defined the opinions of consumers on the airline industry in Cyprus. About 45 percent of the people interviewed said that they thought the airline industry did not respond sufficiently to the course of corporate social responsibility. Another 13 percent of the respondents thought that the airline sector in Cyprus did not have a CSR program at all. A portion of the respondents reaching up to 27 percent of the respondents argued that the CSR programs that the airlines operated did not align with the wishes of the majority. Another 8 percent of the respondents argued that the CSR programs were meaningless. The remaining minority adding up to 5 percent of the respondents said that the CSR programs as conducted by the Cyprus airlines industry are very much adequate.

The responses on the CSR programs are important in determining the relationship between the airline’s industry and the stakeholders. This relationship when analyzed from the point of view of consumers hints at the degree of acceptance and the place of the sector in the eyes of the consumers. From these results, it can be observed that a significant majority of the people interviewed were dissatisfied with the scheme as relates to the airline’s sector of Cyprus. This group illustrates the basic assumptions that consumer satisfaction must be multi-sectional and for the industry to earn the goodwill that would turn around its fortunes in favor of the stakeholders. The choice of CSR programs that are adopted by the airline sector in Cyprus does not meet the threshold of shared needs and values of the community of stakeholders.

The concept of CSR is intended to provide a terrain through which a firm can engage informally with the distinct categories of stakeholders whom it might not reach in the formal discourses of commerce. The respondents who expressed their dissatisfaction with the CSR program argued that some of the programs that have been adopted by most airline industries are superficial and cosmetic which alienates them with specific categories of consumers. The companies that fail to choose appropriate CSR programs end up losing to rival environments that activate associations with all categories of stakeholders on a lateral basis. The slight minority who endorsed the CSR programs as currently constituted might be thought of as the top cream of the stakeholders who might have some privileged access to the centers of influence within the industry set-up.

Recommendations to manage customer expectations on service quality

The commercial status of the airline industry in Cyprus had experienced high and low seasons because of a multiplicity of factors. Many of these have to do with the internal, regional, and global market forces. However, the aspect of consumer satisfaction has grown to become an integral determinant of the direction that the industry is likely to take. The recent poor showing on the market can be explained through an empirical analysis of the internal structures that govern the relations between the industry and its clients. This study has shown that structural weaknesses in consumer handling policies and lack of innovation in the area of customer satisfaction remain the two major forces that have held back the progress of this industry. Adjustments in these two key areas with a specific focus on moderating profits with service remain the key to turning around the dysfunctional zones of the industry.

These results have also indicated that there exists some apparent disconnect between the service providers and the clientele in the airline industry of Cyprus. This disconnect results from tendencies of dominant players of over-relying to traditional forms of customer service and relations without regard to the shifting trends, values, and preferences that have shaped up on the international market. Deliberate overhaul of the local market structures, adjusting relations with foreign firms, and decentralization and outsourcing of consumer-related services are some of the bold suggestions that the industry might have to consider as possible remedies.

References

Churchill, G. A. 1982. An investigation into the determinants of customer satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Research, vol 19, pp. 491-504.

Grigoroudis, E. & Siskos, Y. 2009. Customer Satisfaction Evaluation: Methods for Measuring and Implementing Service Quality. New York: Springer.

Shaelou, S. L. 2010. The EU and Cyprus: principles and strategies of full integration. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Stefanou, C. 2005. Cyprus and the EU: the road to accession. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing.

Vavra, T. G. 1997. Improving your measurement of customer satisfaction: a guide to creating, conducting, analyzing, and reporting customer satisfaction measurement programs. Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press.

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