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As the trains were trapped inside the Eurotunnel for over 15 hours, there was loss of power which resulted in loss of air conditioning. The trains' facilities were not prepared for such a situation and this resulted in scarce water and food supply. The toilet facilities also broke down and the situation became so worse that people had to relieve themselves on train floors.
Lack of communication:
This issue played a major role in the incident. There was lack of communication at several levels. There was no proper communication between the staff present in the stuck trains and the trapped passengers, the communication also suffered between the train staff and the back end support staff. The communication was also poor for the passengers and families waiting at the stations for the trains to arrive and depart.
Lack of training:
None of the staff, either inside the trains or at the back office and stations were properly prepared for such an emergency situation. The staffs was not even properly trained to deal with medical issues as there were elderly people, pregnant ladies and kids among the passengers trapped inside the train.
The issues identified above were the main causes of chaos other than the major reason behind the incident. These could have been controlled and the whole situation could have been less unpleasant if the above mentioned problems were foresighted and dealt with properly.
The following processes can be implemented for the future incidents;
There should always be a batch of medically trained staff present on board to deal with medical emergencies.
Although it is impractical to have ample amount of food and water supply but there should always be an emergency reserve maintained. This incident could be used as a yard stick to determine the quantities of such reserve.
Lack of trained staff and lack of communication resulted in lack of reassurance to the passengers from the staff. The staffs at most of the levels were not even sure what was going on and how they were supposed to be dealing with the situation. As there were no proper instructions from the back end office the staff inside the trains were as frustrated as the passengers and they were in no better situation then the passengers. The staffs need to be trained to deal with such unforeseen situations.
The communication needs to be improved at all levels. There was another chaos at the train stations where there were stranded passengers with no clue as to what was happening with their journeys. There were families waiting for their loved ones at the stations. Almost 125000 passengers were stuck at the stations and were forced to make alternate plans. There is a need to look into alternative communication procedures. The phone system inside the trains had limited services which meant that the drivers of the stuck trains could not get a timely update on the situation.
The evacuation procedure:
Passengers were transferred to the goods train to get them back to their original station and re-boarded them on another train to send them back on the same track without checking the fault causing that train to fail as well. This shows clear signs of inexperience and lack of understanding of the impact of the situation on the whole company.
It would be advisable that in case of any future faults trains are held temporarily for engineers to visit the site and establish the reason for faults before more trains are run on that track.
Role and relevance of TQM for Eurostar - question 2
Total Quality Management is an approach to maintain and improve quality by incorporating it into the organisational culture. All the employees and the departments are expected to participate to make this a successful implementation and to get the most out of it. Some of the main concepts being zero defects, zero delays, get it right first time, prevention rather than correction, breaking of barriers between employees to increase input. TQM is used sometimes to give a competitive advantage to the organisation especially when there is severe competition.
TQM is relevant to Eurostar as much as to any other company in the transport industry and its significance must not be underestimated. TQM's importance to Eurostar has been discussed below;
TQM involves continuous improvement in the products, services and processes. Overtime these improvements will lead to competitive advantage over other companies operating in the same market.
One of the models used for quality management is plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle by Deming
Plan: Involves the identification of an opportunity to change
Do: Do a trial on a smaller scale
Check: Once trialled check whether the outcome resulted in quality improvement
Act: If the trial result was satisfactory then apply the change to whole process and continuously monitor to see if stays efficient or does it need any further changes.
The idea is to be dissatisfied with status quo so that improvement is never stopped.
Eurostar depends highly on the defect and delay free service to deliver quality experience to the customers. TQM will enable a constant review of the existing technology, the process and the way the maintenance task is carried out on the trains and also on the tracks to identify any problems in advance.
TQM encourages innovation in the organisation
Innovation will be seen as a key part of any organisation which is seeking to improve its current method of operation and increase efficiency. Companies spend a significant amount of money to finance the Research and Development activities of the business especially when it is dependent on the technology.
Eurostar can use innovation in many of its areas as it is mainly dependent on the operations of the trains, the quality of service, the number of faults found etc. In case of a fault identified and a thorough investigation of the cause is carried out, some changes must be incorporated to the process which caused the fault. This could be the spare parts or the operational inefficiency but TQM will be useful in any case to achieve this.
Enables the organisation adaptable to change
The market conditions are extremely dynamic and there are new and stronger competitors the market which a business must challenge to ensure long term sustainability and growth.
One of the main doctrines of TQM is to enable the organisation to adapt to the changes in the market or the industry. So if suppose there is a new technology available in the market to improve the time taken to reach the destination in trains then incorporating such technological improvement will provide a competitive advantage for Eurostar.
Increases the motivation of employees to achieve better quality
Employees are a key factor to the success of a company especially in the service industry as they represent the organisation when in contact with the customers. Eurostar's employees in the ticket counter or onboard or in the call centre combined with the other technical and back office staff play a very significant role in the success of the company.
TQM believes in as much staff involvement as possible for the setting up and the implementation of its principles and to break any barriers in communication between employees to improve the overall organisation's efficiency.
Customer retention and attraction
By providing the quality of service which exceed the expectations of Eurostar's customers it makes customers feel that it is going an extra mile in satisfying their needs. There is a strong and an obvious relationship between the satisfied customer and repeat sales.
Customer retention is as difficult as attracting new customers but cheaper in terms of the marketing expenses. Giving deals or discounts to the existing customers could be far cheaper than advertising and other promotional expenses. Using TQM as a guide to set up the processes and policies within Eurostar will help it improve them on a continuous basis and to reap the maximum benefits from satisfied customer base.
Increased revenue leading to improved profits and share prices
There is a direct relationship between the share prices of a company and its profits. If a company is forecasting strong profits in the future it will be reflected in the profits. There would be a negative impact if the forecasted profits are not met by the company due to loosing customers or not maintaining the quality of the service leading to adverse media coverage.
After the breakdown of the Eurostar trains in the tunnel Eurostar's boss was quick to speak to press providing explanation for the cause and assurance of the quality. It helped Eurostar maintain its share prices with little impact if any on it. TQM would have helped in Eurostar preparing the contingency plans to deal with the issues with tracks and the electrical failures although there weren't any cases reported in the past just as a way of continuous quality improvement with zero defects.
Eurostar can use the following TQM program
Eurostar should consider ways in which it can understand its customers so that the TQM program is designed which is appropriate to meet the company and customer goals.
TQM requires total participation of all employees of the company in the setting up of the TQM program and to make regular reviews to it. Eurostar can have its entire staff to give input on the existing procedures.
This step would be to plan the activities required to meet customer expectations and what areas are to be considered to plan them.
Process finalisation and implementation
Once the process is designed and approved it will be implemented. Eurostar might have a new process set up to check the train track for faults in a more efficient way
Repeat the above
TQM is a continuous process of quality improvement so Eurostar can repeat the above steps on a timely basis on various sections of its business to ensure that it is meeting the quality expectations.
5 Effect of adverse media coverage- question 3
Media plays a huge role these days. News can travel the world in a matter of seconds. In such an age image is very important. Eurostar also had to deal with media coverage along with dealing with the incident. In a way it was good as it worked as means of communication to the outside world for worried passengers and their families but on the other hand it also damaged Eurostar's image.
Impact on future sales and image of Eurostar
Millions of commuters who travel with Eurostar on a regular basis or who were planning to commute in the future had to reconsider their decision. Everybody got a complete picture of the whole incident and how Eurostar managed the situation through media.
For the marketing department of Eurostar it is a matter of major concern as it takes considerable time and effort to rebuild a lost image. They have to come up with a strategy which can ensure that not only the unhappy existing customers will return back to them but also the new customers will not hesitate in travelling with Eurostar.
The media coverage will obviously affect the future sales as it has made customers, the major stake holders of the company, fully aware of the mismanagement of the incident.
Even though compensation was offered to the affected passengers but it was not good enough to cover their complete loss. Most of the customers had to cancel their holidays which they had already paid for. There was no compensation offered for that. Most of the customers were left feeling unhappy about the whole situation. Such customers would probably think twice before travelling again with Eurostar.
The international coverage also meant that potential tourist customers would probably prefer alternate routes when travelling within Europe.
The overall unreliable image means that the other stake holder groups such as shareholders will also be concerned about their investment in the company. This might lead to a fall in the share price.
Efforts from marketing team;
The marketing department has to focus on a strategy which will help regain the trust of customers. They should come up with some discount offers for the affected customers which can result in some positive publicity.
The campaign should also include indication of measures and options that are available in case of service failures. This might be a matter of concern for most of the commuters as they would like to make sure that they will be taken care of in emergency situations.
The main focus has to be on coming up with such a strategy that could not only get rid of any negative publicity but also result in future positive publicity. It should help in building a reliable image. If this is not taken care of immediately than Eurostar is likely to see a drop in future sales. Over 125000 customers were affected by the incident and if they were not compensated properly and ensured that in future there will be a better solution then they are not likely to travel with Eurostar again, at least not in the near future. Those who were not affected but read the media coverage would also be looking at the alternative options.
It is a challenge for the marketing team which must be overcome by focussing more on the quality improvement banners and improving customer experience.
CRM role and relevance for Eurostar - question 4
Relationship marketing focuses on customer retention and satisfaction instead of treating customer as one off transaction. Relationship marketing can be effectively used by implementing CRM techniques. Plakoyiannaki and Tzokas (2001), state that CRM is an IT enhanced value process, which identifies, develops, integrates and focuses the various competencies of the firm to the voice of the customer in order to deliver long-term superior customer value, at a profit to well identified existing and potential customers.
CRM therefore uses IT as a main driving force to obtain the customer information and automate the marketing function. The emphasis is on creating long term value by building relationship with the customers rather than just satisfying their needs. By creating value it is meant to deliver the better than expected value money, quality, satisfaction, etc to both the parties.
Relationship marketing or CRM requires an in-depth understanding of the customer needs. This could be achieved by asking the customers to leave feedbacks, through questionnaires, marketing surveys, and by one to one interactions with the customers. A better understanding of their needs will help enhance the quality of procedures adopted to fulfil customers' requirements. The focus should not be on just fulfilling the needs but also on quality so that customer retention can be ensured.
However, it could also mean that companies might have to deal with conflict of interests when they have a wide range of customers. In order to develop a marketing strategy based on better relationship marketing techniques, it is difficult to be able to satisfy each and every aspect of customer's requirement. When dealing with different demographics, one might come across conflicts of interests and the key is then to develop a strategy which not just focuses on the major customers but also take into account small groups and their interests. It is vital to identify common needs and mainly focus on them.
There are also costs involved in the implementation and maintenance of data for the purpose of CRM. This would include technological know how, the technological infrastructure and a research and development team to make constant improvements to the data so that the company can get maximum benefit from its implementation
As the marketing manager of Eurostar the following steps can be taken to build the long term relationship with the customers;
- Establish the customer needs and expectations
Like any other industry customer plays a very important role in the success of a company. Apart from the existing customers Eurostar should strive to attract more customers to continue growth and sustainability.
- Ensure the availability of the required Information Technology and Information system in the company.
There was a vacuum identified in the lack of technological awareness and incident appraisal techniques which could be partly because of the lack of required technology to understand the situation and to communicate to the passengers. It is a very important function for Eurostar which must be continuously improved with regular investment.
- Carefully select the suitable offers which fit the customer needs
With the use of an efficient system to record customer's buying activities and their preferences, CRM can be aimed at targeting and satisfying those needs by tailoring the offers to fit the individual needs
- To discuss the concerns and complaints of the customers and providing solutions
Customer feedbacks must be sought whenever possible which is a cheaper way of understanding how the customer's experience was with Eurostar and the changes they would like to see e.g. including certain magazines for specialist areas of fashion, finance, etc. some demands could be cheaper to implement and result in a huge customer satisfaction.
- Encouraging employees to take initiatives to cater to customer needs
Employees are a part of success for a company like Eurostar so it is important to train them to take initiatives to satisfy customer needs.
- To ensure that value is created in terms of the service and quality received by customers for the money paid by them for the service for the mutual long term benefit.
The above report aims to assist Eurostar to deal with some of the specific issues identified by making necessary recommendation considering their practicability.