Managing Services Promises

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | January 18, 2015

A major cause of poorly perceived service is the difference between what a firm promises about a service, and what it actually delivers. To avoid broken promises companies must manage all communications to customers, so that inflated promises do not lead to overly high expectations. This difference between what is promised and what is delivered can cause customer frustration, perhaps driving the customer to the competition. As Jim Knight, Senior Director of Training for Hard Rock International says: "the worst mistake a business can make is to over-promise and under-deliver".

Researchers suggest that there are four strategies that are effective in managing service promises. These are show in the Figure below and discussed in the remainder of this article.

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**1) Create Effective Services Advertising**

One of the key ways that services promises are communicated is through advertising, but the intangibility of services makes advertising difficult for service marketers. Before buying services, consumers have problems understanding them, and after purchase, they have trouble evaluating their service experiences. Various strategies have been proposed to overcome these problems. One is to present vivid information and evoke strong emotions. Advertisers of top-notch resorts for example often try to build a mood or image around the resort, such as beauty, love, or serenity, creating an emotional relationship between the resort and potential visitors. In fact, research has showed that appealing to a consumer's emotional responses can be very effective in terms of creating a favorable attitude towards a service brand. Hospitality marketers are realizing the importance of touching emotions and get into the consumer psyche, and have begun to focus on promoting experiences as opposed to physical attributes. The print ad below from the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley Utah actually uses a mixture of both rational appeals (hotel room features), and emotional appeals (skiers enjoying the après-ski). But the emphasis is on the experiences guests can expect at the five-star resort with the tagline 'Experience Legendary'.

**2) Coordinate External Communication**

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.