The apparent marketing orientation of Cardiff Bus is thoroughly rooted around the premise of ‘what the customer wants the customer shall have’. Most academics would argue that this view should be adopted and is the way that marketing should be conducted. Most would point to this textbook marketing theory as the perfect definition of how marketing and its tools should be applied within a practicing marketing field. Meldrum and McDonald state that organisations believe that the marketing orientation of an organisation is reflected within values, beliefs and attitudes of the people that are employed within the organisation.
Organisations, according to Meldrum and McDonald, trust that the focus of a market orientation is the customer. It is this customer centric approach that enables the organisation to apply their resources accordingly (Meldrum & McDonald: 2000: 8). Carson, Gilmore and Maclaran have noted many academics that have sided with the argument that customer centrality is the only ethos that should prevail. They quote Brown (1995) as depicting marketing as a tool in which to produce what the customer wanted, Doyle (1994) as believing that the fulfilment of customers requirements is the fundamental function of any business and Dibb et al.
(1994) describes the most important point of the marketing concept to be its customer centric perspective in achieving customer fulfilment (Carson, Gilmore & Maclaren: 1998: 26-39). Theodore Levitt, more than thirty years ago, created the notion that the customer must be central in all business activities in order for that product or service to become successful. In what is probably the best-known marketing article written in the past half century, Levitt said that what customers wanted when they bought quarter-inch drills was in fact quarter-inch holes and so the drill is simply a means to an end.
If the drill manufacturer believed that their sole purpose was the manufacture of the drill and not the means for making holes then the manufacturer would soon find themselves in jeopardy of going to the wall, so to speak, when someone invented a better way for making the holes (Chernatony & McDonald: 2001: 4). Chernatony & McDonald also believe that this route is the way that practitioners should follow. They believe that textbook meanings of marketing, along with Levitt, also underline the identification of customer needs as “fundamental articles of faith”.
They view them as practically unarguable against in most aspects (Chernatony & McDonald: 2001: 4). A view portrayed by Peter Drucker was one that the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. He also believed that the aim was also to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him or her and sells itself (1973). Drucker’s words have proved popular as they have been replicated and followed on an American university’s website as the correct guide of business.
The fact that the Victoria University passes on this as the basis of good business gives an indication of the theory’s power in modern academia (www. businessandlaw. vu. edu. au). Peter Graham whilst writing for the Marketing Bulletin in ’93 believed that, in terms of the marketing concept and marketing orientation of an organisation, the customer is central and organisations meet their objectives by discovering and staying in touch with their potential customers needs and wants and then satisfying them by producing an appropriate product or service (Marketing Bulletin, 1993, 4, 1-11).
All forms of business are now liable to believe that the traditional theory is now the way forward and are using relationship marketing as an essential business tool. Through their website CRM UK, a national customer relationship marketing consultancy group, believes that there has been a shift in the business focus of organisations from transactional to relationship marketing where the customer is at the centre of all business activity with organisations now greatly attempting to update their business methods around the wants and needs of their strategically important clientele.
The critical driver, CRM UK believe, of such a seismic move in the direction of a customer centrality is the realisation that customer’s are a business asset who if managed correctly can obtain sustainable financial value for an organisation over a period of time (www. crm. co. uk). Purple Spinnaker is another group that follows the same marketing theorem as CRM UK.
They believe that marketing teams recognize, understand, and foresee customer’s needs and wants. From that they also believe that customers are motivating organisational transformations and as such, organisations have to understand that their durability is based on their capability to construct a customer centric organisation which is capable of growing with customer requirements (www. purplespinnaker. com).
C D Hobbs, President and Chief Executive Officer of the SPL World Group Incorporated, believes that the traditional models of pursuing customer perceived quality in business may lead to a failure in an organisations respective market where business processes are changing at rates that render the focal point of such a strategy obsolete – that is, the business processes have modified before excellence is possible, making adopting the new emerged business processes far more important than rendering them perfect.
(http://www. splwg. com/main/articles/splcdarticle. pdf) Until more recently, as noted above, most believed in the historically noted theory that the consumer or the customer is always the organisations central motivation. Carson, Gilmore and Maclaran disagreed with that theory greatly as it was not of any real value in a practical situation.
They understood that marketing had moved on from the days of organisations being production orientated, with Henry Ford’s quote standing forward as a prime example, “the customer can have any colour they want, as long as its black”, but realised that although organisations were not still sales orientated as they were in the 50’s they understood that the aim of any organisation was a customer focused approach but that this approach could only be achieved with an understanding that compromises need to be made to enhance profits and realise profit targets (Carson, Gilmore & Maclaren: 1998: 26-39).
THEORY IN LIGHT OF PRACTICE AND PRACTICE IN LIGHT OF THEORY So does the theory, that has bounded around marketing and business management books for the past two decades at least, that an organisation must have a customer centric attitude and approach in order to provide a successful service or product. To Cardiff Bus, the theory really doesn’t always work. In essence the theory is the exact way that Cardiff bus should approach their business, but in practice it simply doesn’t always work.
As a perfect example, employees deal with pressures in totally different ways. Cardiff Bus appears to be working on being both customer orientated and profit focused. Cardiff bus is owned wholly by the council as so is first and foremost focused on profits to justify to shareholders. It has been noted that several staff of Cardiff Bus believe that the ethos of their company is not one of customer centrality but one of profit maximisation.
On several occasions certain routes run by the company have appeared to be running at a loss and so have been scraped to cut the cost. This, the employees agree is not a bad thing in terms of maximising profit, but customers are not satisfied when services are cut and they have no other services close by. Often the management are only concerned with profit and often neglect simple ideas, like extending existing services to accommodate the routes that have been scraped, in order to preserve existing running times and avoid timetable changes (Appendix).
Cardiff Bus is running a service to its customers and has attempted through technological advances to try and fulfil customer expectations. As noted above, the company has often invested in new technology, for example the low floor concepts of the new buses are designed for customer ease when boarding and offloading, electronic bus arrival displays have been installed area by area, modernised ticketing equipment and new bus radio location systems have been installed.
In 2000 a new Telephone Call Centre was installed which provides timetable information for all bus and rail services throughout Wales (www. cardiffbus. co. uk). Cardiff Bus has also, at numerous times, been accused of taking for granted the customer mainly because of the monopoly that it holds of the city. It terms of bus company competition, it has none. The routes that Cardiff Bus do not cover, of which are covered by local rivals, are simply the routes that they don’t want.
This monopolisation element coupled with the fact that the company is council owned and is a money making aspect where they are concerned, means that they are certainly never likely to lose there status as Cardiff’s premier bus service. Within such an established organisation such as Cardiff Bus, there is the obvious possibility for promotion within the company for deserving employees. Cardiff Bus will obviously have a reward system in place that will enable employees to work up towards higher paid and hopefully better jobs.
Some employees also believe that the incentives on offer to employees (i. e. a drivers chance to become a conductor, a conductors opportunity to enter management), can also lead towards a lack of customer centrality (Appendix). Employees would also agree that customer centrality leads instinctively to inter-organisational conflict. It is also believed that constant fare changes and cancellation of routes leads to hostility from customers towards drivers. These conflicts can only really be of detriment to the organisation over time (Appendix).