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Services Marketing- Airlines Emotional Strategy

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The ability to link unique positive emotions with service brands is an essential strategy for all service firms. "Consumers who have an emotional link with a brand are less likely to be price sensitive so long as they continue to derive emotional satisfaction from the brand" (Mahajan & Wind, 2002). To outperform rivals, organizations must use emotion to differentiate their services from others. The following literature analysis will examine the role of emotions within the service sector. It will be concluded that through the use of emotional management, emotional intelligence and customized recovery strategies, Virgin Blue will increase their likelihood in delivering superior service, reduce their chances of service failure and increase their effectiveness in service recovery techniques.

Service Delivery

"Service delivery is the interaction between consumers, and the organization within the service setting (McColl-Kennedy, 2003). The emotions displayed by boundary spanners are a critical element in service delivery. The term boundary spanner is commonly used to define employees that represent organizations at the front line, their displayed emotions have the ability to increase sales or drive away customers. "Employees who display good cheer to customers can enhance sales and customer loyalty" (Parasuraman, Zeithamal, Berry, 1985).

Emotion Management

Organization's recognize the financial benefits of superior service and have responded by standardizing the service script through various informal and formal measures. Service standardization is often referred to as the McDonaldization effect (Raz & Rafaeli: 5) "McDonald's pioneered the routinization of interactive service work and remains an exemplar of extreme standardization."

According to Rafaeli & Sutton (1987) organizations must first recruit and select employees based on an ability to convey the appropriate emotions needed for the role. At Delta Airways flight attendants are selected on appearance and a certain type of outgoing middle class sociability (Hochschild, 1983).

Organizations can also routinize service work through socialization. "Organizational socialization often includes learning norms, or feeling rules about which emotions ought to be displayed and which ought to be hidden" (Rafaeli et al. 1987). At Delta, metaphors such as regarding the aircraft as a home are used to achieve a superior service culture. In addition, Delta Airways establishes a range of feeling rules "For the flight attendant, the smiles are a part of her work, a part that requires her to coordinate self and feeling so that the work seems to be effortless" (Hochschild, 1983: 8).

Organizations can also control employee emotions through the use of reward and punishment. "Socialization teaches new comers which emotions are expected, while rewards and punishments maintain or alter such behaviours" (Rafaeli et al. 1987: 28).

The type of incentives used to direct employee emotions will often differ between cultures. Due to Japan's collective culture effective service delivery is rewarded at a group level. In contrast, North American incentives are generally rewarded at an individual level (Raz). Similarly, punishments used to alter employee emotions are also dependent upon the cultural context. In Japan, emotional commitment is administered through shaming employees whereas in North America, commitment is administered through guilt. The two techniques differ in that the former results in a loss of face within society while the latter results in individual guilt (Raz).

Customer Emotion

Effective service delivery requires employees to go beyond simply managing emotion. Specifically, boundary spanners must be able to recognize customer emotions and respond to them accordingly. A study conducted by Mattila & Enz (2002) found front line employees failed to assess their own performance in a fashion that was consistent with customer's assessment. This finding suggests that many service providers may not be able to recognize customer mood.

According to (SOCAP, 2003); the range of emotions experienced by customers can be categorized according to satisfaction level. Customers who are extremely satisfied with an organization's service will feel emotions that enhance their self worth. Such emotions would consist of pleasure and content. In contrast, extremely unsatisfied customers result in customers feeling badly. Unsatisfied customers often feel insulted, cheated or disgusted. Between extreme dissatisfaction and satisfaction, customers can become indifferent to service provision and exhibit minimal emotion. This range of emotion is extremely dangerous as it is often more difficult for employees to identify. "Most customer facing staff has a reasonable idea about how to handle anger. More problematic is how to identify and manage emotions like disappointment..." (SOCAP, 2003: 28) Indifferent customers are a major concern for organization's as their lifetime value and loyalty are in question.

Non-verbal communication such as eye contact, smiling and thanking behavior can also provide employees with essential interpersonal cues. According to Mattila at al. (2002); non verbal communication comprises more than 60% of the interaction in any service encounter. Although, reading non verbal emotions may appear to be straightforward, substantial evidence suggests that it is often misinterpreted (Mattila et al., 2002). The PERCEIVE TM framework (Beall, 2004) can be used to decode non-verbal consumer emotion. The framework examines human emotion along several dimensions; proximity, expressions, relative orientation, contact, eyes, individual gestures and adaptors.

Proximity refers to the distance between the employee and customer while relative orientation examines the position of the body. Close proximity coupled with parallel positioning indicates interest and fondness.

There are six universal expressions that all cultures recognize; happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and disgust (Beall, 2004). Although these six emotions are recognized worldwide, the context in which they can be displayed often differs. For example, the A-okay sign commonly used in western countries to denote happiness is seen as an obscene gesture in Latin America and the Middle East (Barnum & Walniansky, 1989). Similarly, the ability to successfully interpret non verbal emotions can also be subject to gender differences. An experiment conducted by the University of Pennsylvania



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