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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.