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Is Amtrak on Track?

1. The management decision problem is: How should Amtrak change the Acela service to
regain lost passengers particularly in Northeast area?
2. The marketing research problem is to determine consumer preferences for alternative
means of transportation and to determine how consumers evaluate Acela as compared to major
airlines. Specifically,
a. What criteria do consumers use to select a means of transportation when traveling
long distances in the Northeast corridor?
b. How do consumers evaluate Acela on the criteria identified in question a?
c. How do consumers evaluate the major airlines on the criteria identified in
question a?
d. What is the demographic and psychographic profile of customers who like to
travel by Acela? How does it differ from the profile of customers who do not like
to travel by Acela?
3. Exploratory research should be conducted first to identify the factors that influence the
satisfaction toward Acela. This research should include an analysis of secondary data as well as
focus groups. The exploratory phase should be followed by descriptive research in the form of a
single cross-sectional survey to determine customer satisfaction with Acela.
4. Travel industry journals and statistics will help Amtrak better assess the market trends,
customer preference, and competitive environment. General syndicated surveys should be useful
as well. Specifically, travel and dining habits and practices as a part of Psychographic and
Lifestyle surveys should provide relevant information. Nielsen Television Index (NTI) provides
information on who was watching which program, so that audience size and demographic
characteristics can be calculated.
5. In this case, focus groups seem to be sufficient even though depth interviews can uncover
greater depth of emotions than can focus groups.
6. Personal on-train interviews and satisfaction feedback forms for the passengers could be
used to determine customer satisfaction toward Acela considering the relevance and convenience
of the respondents.
7. A Likert scale could be used to measure customer satisfaction toward Acela as follows:
8.
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
I am satisfied with the Acela Service 1 2 3 4 5

9. See Acela questionnaire in the following.


10.

ACELA QUESTIONNAIRE
PART A

Q1. How often do you use Acela transportation?


a. _____ Once a year or less often
b. _____ Once every six months
c. _____ Once a month
d. _____ 2 to 5 times a month
e. _____ 6 to 10 times a month
f. _____ More than 10 times a month

Q2. Why do you use Acela and for what occasions?


a. _____ Business/work travel
b. _____ Pleasure/vacation travel
c. _____ Other (please specify) ______________________________

Q3. How often do you fly a major airline?


a. _____ Once a year or less often
b. _____ Once every six months
c. _____ Once a month
d. _____ 2 to 5 times a month
e. _____ 6 to 10 times a month
f. _____ More than 10 times a month

Q4. Do you have other alternatives besides Acela?


a. _____ Yes
b. _____ No
c. _____ Dont know

Q5. Please indicate the importance of the following factors in your selection of a means of
transportation, such as an airline or a train. Please use a five-point scale, where 1 = Not at
all Important, and 5 = Very Important.
Not at all Very
Important Important
a. Timely Service 1 2 3 4 5
b. Cleanliness 1 2 3 4 5
c. Comfortable 1 2 3 4 5
d. Friendly Atmosphere 1 2 3 4 5
e. Roomy Space 1 2 3 4 5
f. Good Food 1 2 3 4 5
g. Reasonable Price 1 2 3 4 5
h. Travel Convenience 1 2 3 4 5

Q6. Please evaluate Acela on the following factors using a five-point scale, where 1 = Very
Poor, and 5 = Very Good.
Very Poor Very Good
a. Timely Service 1 2 3 4 5
b. Cleanliness 1 2 3 4 5
c. Comfortable 1 2 3 4 5
d. Friendly Atmosphere 1 2 3 4 5
e. Roomy Space 1 2 3 4 5
f. Good Food 1 2 3 4 5
g. Reasonable Price 1 2 3 4 5
h. Travel Convenience 1 2 3 4 5

Q7. Please evaluate the major airlines on the following factors using a five-point scale, where 1
= Very Poor, and 5 = Very Good.
Very Poor Very Good
a. Timely Service 1 2 3 4 5
b. Cleanliness 1 2 3 4 5
c. Comfortable 1 2 3 4 5
d. Friendly Atmosphere 1 2 3 4 5
e. Roomy Space 1 2 3 4 5
f. Good Food 1 2 3 4 5
g. Reasonable Price 1 2 3 4 5
h. Travel Convenience 1 2 3 4 5

Q8. What would be the best way for Acela to compete with alternative transportation,
particularly airlines?
a. _____ Lower prices
b. _____ Offer new services and routes
c. _____ Increase advertising
d. _____ Offer specials and promotions
e. _____ Other (Please specify)

Q9. How much do you like Acela?


a. _____ Very much like
b. _____ Somewhat like
c. _____ Neutral
d. _____ Somewhat dislike
e. _____ Very much dislike

PART B

In this part we would like to ask you some questions for classification purposes.

Q10. Your Gender:


1. Male _____
2. Female _____

Q11. Marital Status:


1. Married _____
2. Never Married _____
3. Divorced/Separated/Widowed _____

Q12. Family Size:


1. One _____
2. Two _____
3. Three _____
4. Four _____
5. Five or more _____

Q13. Your Age:


1. 18-24 _____
2. 25-40 _____
3. 41-60 _____
4. 60+ _____

Q14. Your Formal Education


1. Less than High School _____
2. High School Graduate _____
3. Some College _____
4. College Graduate _____

Q15. What is Your Occupation?


____________________

Q16. What is the approximate combined annual income of your household before taxes?
1. $30,000 or less _____
2. $30,001 to 50,000 _____
3. $50,001 to 75,000 _____
4. $75,001 to 100,000 _____
5. $100,001 to 150,000 _____
6. $150,001 and over _____

Thank you for your participation.


_________________________________________________________________________

9. Convenience sampling could be used to conduct the customer satisfaction survey.


Convenience sampling attempts to obtain a sample of convenient elements. The selection of
sampling units is left primarily to the interviewer. Often, respondents are selected because they
happen to be in the right place at the right time. Convenience sampling is the least expensive
and least time consuming of all sampling techniques. The sampling units are accessible, easy to
measure, and cooperative.
Target population: Travelers on Acela in the current year.
Sampling frame: Acela routes and schedules
Sampling unit: Acela routes and schedules and then travelers
Sampling technique: Convenience sampling
Sample size: 500
Execution: Conveniently select Acela travelers on chosen routes and schedules while they
are traveling.
10. The difference in the environments of countries, cultural units, or foreign markets should
be considered while conducting international marketing research. These differences may arise in
the marketing environment, government environment, legal environment, economic
environment, structural environment, informational and technological environment, and
sociocultural environment.
11. With regard to the general public, ethical concerns revolve primarily around the methods
of generating and reporting research results. It is the joint responsibility of the researcher and the
client to ensure that the research findings are being disseminated accurately. Incomplete
reporting, misleading reporting, and biased research should not take place.
It is to the marketing researchers advantage to protect the respondents from unethical
research practices. Two of these deserve special attention: conducting a survey as a guise to sell
products, and the invasion of the privacy of the respondent.
The ethical issues surrounding the researcher-client relationship are: abuse of position
arising from specialized knowledge, unnecessary research, an unqualified researcher, disclosure
of identity, treating data as nonconfidential, and misleading presentation of data.
The researcher (or the research firm) has the right to be treated ethically as well. Ethical
treatment by clients involves several issues: improper solicitation of proposals, disclosure of
proprietary techniques, and misrepresentation of findings.