Closing the Gap Between Guest Expectation and Management Perception

By Venkat Rajagopal Professor, Pacific International Hotel Management School | January 23, 2011

One of the characteristics of the service industry is tangibility. While the product is tangible, service is intangible. Unlike tangible products many services are not measured easily nor can be tested for quality. While it is easy to improve the quality of a product any time it is difficult to improve the quality of services because service is always of a temporary nature. As a hospitality manager the first rule of any good quality service is you should know your customer very well. Gaps model is a conceptual model developed to qualitatively measure service quality. One of the most important gaps is "Expectation of a guest and the perception of management".

Customer satisfaction is most important for any corporate to survive and to continue, more so related to service industry. Researchers have established that to get a new customer it costs five times more. Every satisfied and loyal guest in turn can get an organisation five new guests, saving huge costs to any marketing department. Satisfaction installs a positive attitude towards that brand and the chances of the customer returning to the same brand in future are high. When the guests or customers are happy and satisfied with the quality of a product and service, there is a possibility they will come back again to purchase and use it and also tell their friends and family members their experience. On the other hand if they are neither happy nor satisfied with the product and service they are most likely not to return, at the same time to keep complaining to the brand owners and other customers about their level of dissatisfaction.

Unlike tangible products many services are not measured easily nor can they be tested for quality. In case of hotel products like rooms, food is measurable in terms of quality whereas service provided is not measurable. Often one cannot even assess the quality of service until after experiencing them. However some leading hotels and airlines consider service increases productivity and they use it to earn their customer's loyalty.

While it is easy to improve the quality of a product any time it is difficult to improve the quality of services because service is always of a temporary nature. A defective product can be replaced or repaired. However delivery of an unsatisfactory service cannot be undone. Hence it is imperative that when a service is performed either first time or last time, better it be done to the satisfaction of the customer. To illustrate this statement, a room that was not clean at the time of check in at a hotel, can be always cleaned. However an important message that was not delivered to an in-house guest, on time is failure of service and the damage caused to the guest by non performance of this service could have far more repercussions than an uncleaned room.

As a hospitality manager the first rule of any good quality service is you should know your customer very well. Companies like The Walt Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Leelas and some of the well known airlines practice this philosophy. These companies pride itself on exceeding customer expectations and work hard to create and maintain a culture of service quality. These companies have each developed an extensive data base of customer information so they can analyze how successful their service has been, what it lacks, where it could be improved, and how to predict what these customers may expect in the future. These companies have processes in place to obtain feedback from employees and guests alike on how their service is working and where it could be improved. These companies are never satisfied with their current level of service and have processes in place for continual improvement. One of the important functions of an operation manager is to keep looking for continued improvement.

Different companies use a variety of different measures by which to judge how successful they are in creating customer satisfaction and service quality. There are many awards for manufacturing and selling quality product by a company but seldom any for service quality.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.