Customer Service Problems Faced By K Bar

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This report discusses the problems faced by K bar, specifically the customer service standards. Our group used several research methods to find out how university students think about K Bar, and whether they prefer other on-campus bars in comparison with K Bar and their reasoning. We will mainly focus on the aspect of service quality in K bar, so we will set different research objectives, and by following these objectives we can find out the perceptions of K Bar from students.

In the research methodology part, we will illustrate how different stages of our research will take place. Moreover, we will discuss how we apply different research methods to conduct results and refer to our objectives. These will divided into two parts, exploratory research followed by descriptive research. We will explain the roles played by these methods, and how we designed our in-depth interview and the final survey. To conclude, we will explain the service quality of K Bar from the view point of the students, and we will provide our suggestions to K Bar in regards to this. Lastly, we will also explore limitations of our methodology throughout the whole research.

Problem definition and objectives:

K bar is one of the five on-campus bars in University of Kent, but our group noticed that for some reason K Bar is the least popular. However our group found out that the location of K bar is the best out of the campus bars, as it is the one nearest to the Venue night club. However, for some reason, there are not many students going to K bar for relaxation or networking. To understand what are the underlying reasons that K bar is not so popular, our group designed a few clear objectives which are based on the service quality of K Bar. Service quality is "the service should correspond to the customers' expectations and satisfy their needs and requirements." (Edvardsson, 1998, p.144).

First of all, the main objective is whether the definition of service quality differs depending on gender. Due to the fact that service can have different meanings within the perceptions of gender, and when analysing the case of K Bar, it is important that we pay attention to the different views from males and females. As normally females and males have different perception of things, and different importance of factors. Added to the above, the coming objective is; whether the expectation of service quality differs based on year of study. For instance, year one students are experiencing the university social life for the first time, they would not find much difference between bars, as long as they can make some new friends there. Yet, when students study longer at university of Kent, they will start to notice the changes at different bars, like refurbishment. Therefore, it is vital to understand the effect of different viewpoints from students in different academic years. The next objective is why people go to other bars on campus rather than K bar. This objective is to ensure the problems of K bar can be pointed out clearly, as when analysing the results of different bars we can clearly see which elements that K bar is lacking of, then our group can make some useful suggestions to K Bar. Lastly, the objective that our group will focus on is whether service quality differs in K bar to other bars on campus. The purpose of this is to increase understanding of what factors K bar have in terms of service and whether it is superior to other on-campus bars. It is good for K bar to understand which aspects they should keep and which aspects need the most improvement.

Research Methodology:

There are many different research methods; our group only chose a few of them to accomplish the market research of K Bar's service quality. The process of our research is illustrated in the diagram below.

(Figure 1)

The most important stage in starting a marketing research is to figure out which company we should focus on. Our group decided to choose K Bar, there are few reasons for choosing K bar. Firstly, in order to choose a company that is easier for us to conduct market research, K Bar is the most suitable choice as most of the students have been there. Therefore we will have an easy contactable consumer base. Besides, K Bar is in the service industry and they are concerned about consumer expectations, and obviously staff in K Bar would like to improve and meet most of the consumer expectations. This shows that K Bar is a suitable company for our group to carry out market research on, for the service quality.

Then our group needs to consider the most important factors that we should firstly focus on, and how we will measure the satisfaction level of service quality of K Bar from the responses we received. The SERVQUAL model and Service Gap can facilitate our analysis of the results. We will explain these ideas in the exploratory research part. As our group has a clear guideline of the area of service that we should focus on, then we should make a decision on which research method to apply first, as the base of research. In-depth interviews is the most appropriate method to use at the start of marketing research, it is one of the qualitative methods and it involves more one on one, face to face encounters than other interview methods. This can help our group to acquire a basic understanding of how students think about service quality and K Bar. (Gubrium & Holstein, 2002)

After completion of the interviews by each of our group-members, we will discuss and gather all of our results. The purpose of this is to compare the results and find out the similarities of students' perceptions, then we can know on which area we can get the most details from students, and which area students are the most concerned about, this will make it easier for us to design an appropriate questionnaire. Following the design of the questionnaire, our group will sample our questionnaire to a small group of students to see if any improvements can be made. With this improvement, our group can deliver the final copy of our questionnaire to get the most accurate results for the research on K Bar's service quality.

Research Design:

The research design consists of two parts, exploratory research and descriptive research. They have different roles to play in designing the research, and they are both vital.

Exploratory research:

Exploratory research is "conducted to obtain greater understanding of a concept and help crystallize the definition of a problem." It is used to get a better understanding of the research at the early stage, and it is not research for deciding which action to take during the research is taking place. (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.27). Generally, exploratory research is more flexible than other research methods. Exploratory research is divided into different forms; secondary data research and qualitative research as used by our group in this part.

Secondary data research of exploratory research:

Secondary data is "data that have been gathered for some purpose other than the one at hand" (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.27). This is one of exploratory research methods, as getting knowledge from a previous study can help us gain a better understanding on the case we are working on. Our group found out the SERVQUAL model and the Service Gap is relevant to service quality. Our in-depth interviews and questionnaires were designed mainly based on these two models.

The Service Gap emphasis the idea, that the level of service quality is derived from the difference between perceived and expected service. There are "Ex ante" and "Ex post" perceptions and expectations. A person has an expectation before experiencing the service and there is normally a gap, with the real value achieved by the provision of the service. Different customers have different expectations towards the same service, and the service quality is mostly measured from the gap that exists between customer expectations and the real service performance. (Mcknight, 2009 & Groth, 1999)

For the SERVQUAL model, that was developed by Parasuraman et al. (1988). Markovi ´c (2010, p.197) writes that SERVQUAL is based on five service dimensions, which are tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. Tangible means "the physical facilities, equipment and personnel appearance of the place". Reliability represents "the staffs' ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately". Responsiveness is "the staffs' willingness to help customers and provide prompt service". Assurance is "the staffs' knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to gain trust and confidence." Empathy is "staff should provide individualized attention to the customers." (Markovi ´c, 2010, p.197). Our group looked at the Handbook of Marketing Scales for the details of these dimensions as well (Appendix 2). One important point of SERVQUAL model is that customers are mostly consistent with their choices and their ranking of different factors. Parasuraman et al. (1988), suggests that reliability is the most vital factor for consumers to be had consistently, while tangibles and empathy are relatively less crucial for consumers. We will see whether the result of our research can be applied to the findings. (Chowdhary, 2007).

Qualitative research of exploratory research:

When starting the exploratory research, it is better to get first person perceptions from consumers as well. Therefore, our group started to use one of the qualitative research methods, in-depth interview. Qualitative research is "research whose findings are not subject to quantification or quantitative analyse." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.78). Normally, qualitative research is more informal and unstructured; in addition the sample size is relatively small as well; so it is easier to acquire basic perceptions from customers towards the market. The advantage of using qualitative research is because it is more economical and it gives the first insight into the question that researchers are concerned about, how do people think about the subject. From the qualitative research, researchers collect and analyse the data at the same time (Ruyter & Scholl, 1998, p.8). In-depth interview has the general function of qualitative research, and it focuses more on the person. It tends "to be relatively long duration and involve more interactions and it involves a greater expression of the interviewer's self than other types of interviews." (Gubrium & Holstein ,2001 , p.103) The questions involved in the in-depth interview are concerned more on personal matters, for instance their life experience in regards to the subject matter.

In our group, we designed questions for an in-depth interview. They are mostly asking interviewers' perceptions of service quality. For example we asked our interviewees which factors they will categorise to service quality, and which ones are the most important to them. Besides, we also designed questions that interviewees can refer to K Bar. For instance, how are those service quality factors satisfied by K Bar. Lastly, we also applied the SERVQUAL model, and asked our interviewees to rank and explain which are most important among those 5 factors. In total we got 12 results from the in-depth interviews, as each group mate delivered two interviews to each gender. The results obtained were quite useful as it allowed us to obtain the first impressions of K Bar and service quality from the students. Also, as we allowed flexibility to answer the questions, we received detailed responses which were useful.

We discovered that most of the students thought that the main service quality factors were composed of polite and efficient staff, while they found that the environment and value for money were the most important factors in service quality. However, when interviewees were asked could K Bar meet any of those important factors, surprisingly none of them were met by K Bar. This shows that K Bar is lacking of a better environment and value for money. The respondents were satisfied by the quality of drinks and food, and the quick service provided. For the ranking of the 5 SERVQUAL factors, respondents ranked highly the physical environment and the willingness from the provider to make an enjoyable service. Overall, students think that price and quality of food and drinks in other bars is similar, the differentiation of bars is the layout and decoration, and this is what K Bar neglects. According to these results, we obtain a clearer direction in designing our survey for tackling the major problems of K Bar's service quality. However, interview bias may occur in these in-depth interviews, as each respondent was interviewed by a different group member. This may lead to different interpretation of questions and respondents may give a mistaken answer.

Primary Research

Primary data is "new data gathered to help solve the problem under investigation." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.52). In this part we will investigate how our group created the survey and we based it on. In Primary data, there are descriptive studies and causal studies. Descriptive studies are "conducted to answer who, what, when, where and how questions, and management already knows the underlying relationships among the variables in the problem." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.33). For causal studies, it means "research studies that examine whether the value of one variable causes or determines the value of another variable." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.34).

We adapted descriptive studies instead of causal studies, since we prefer the survey method than the experiments method to gather data. Survey method is a descriptive method, and it "involves an interviewer who interacts with respondents to obtain fact, opinions and attitudes." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.35) Normally, a questionnaire is created to ensure a structured approach for data collection, and face-to face interviews are more likely to happen when applying the survey to collect data. For experiments, it is "research to measure causality, in which the researcher changes one or more variables and observes the effect of the changes on another variable, for instance, price, package and design." (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2006, p.35) Due to the fact that our main interviewees are university students, it is less complicated to send questionnaires through the internet, by using the Qualtric software, to students directly. Besides, as we have time constraints, it is more time-consuming to communicate with the management level of K Bar to change one of their service variables, and we wait and observe the divergence of respondents' reactions.

Descriptive research- Survey:

For designing the survey, we first need to create a sample to make sure the results conducted from the final questionnaire will be more accurate and so less time will be consumed to analyse the responses. When creating a useful sample, we have to allocate the time appropriately, as designing a sample survey has a number of different steps. For instance, we need to define the population, as the responses should be relevant to the objectives of research. In our case, we target university students mainly then the staff of the university or any other citizens in Canterbury, as our interviewees should have been to K Bar. Then we need to choose a sample method, and we will apply non-probability sampling techniques. In this method, the sample is chosen when it is convenient for the research and can fulfil the proposed purposes. We think the judgement sampling and purposive sampling are most important. For judgement sampling, it is vital that the respondents of sample are representative and they are relevant to the research project. For purposive sampling, the aim is to choose the interviewees that meet certain criteria that can contribute to the research. Therefore, when we are choosing the sample size, each group member delivered the sample questionnaire to around 3 to 4 persons who are from different academic years, and there should be both male and female respondents. (Webb, 1992)

Question design was based on the SERVQUAL model and from the responses from the in-depth interview. Most importantly, we expected that the responses could directly refer to our objectives and to acquire data that we required, therefore we designed our questions in relevance to our 3 objectives. Besides, we needed to make sure every question that we designed was necessary and to ensure respondents were able to comprehend the question. Therefore, we mostly used simple and clear words, as to minimize the chance that bias of questions could occur.

In the first part of our questionnaire, we obtained basic information from the respondents, such as their gender and year of study. The next part is solely focused on K Bar, and in this part there are mostly closed-end and ranking questions. Our group adopted these two question types because it is easier to obtain facts from respondents and can turn qualitative statements into quantitative data. Closed-ended questions were about the satisfaction levels of different factors, for instance, the queuing system, operating hours and serving attitude of staff. For ranking questions, respondents were required to rate the hygiene, layout, staff appearance, fixtures and fittings, equipment and range of drinks at K Bar. These factors are based on SERVQUAL model, to pick and judge K Bar's service quality relevantly. Also we required respondents to rank on-campus bars in order of service quality. Then they were asked to fill in some open-ended questions relevant to their choice of bar with the best and worst service quality. At last they were suggested to give some suggestions for K Bar to improve. At this stage we think adopting open-ended questions is appropriate, as respondents can freely respond to the questions and write their own opinion without any constraints. After all, we designed 21 questions for our sample, and the questionnaire sample is provided in Appendix 1.

The sample was distributed to around 27 people; the comments about the questionnaire were quite good. Respondents did not find that the questions were difficult to understand, or that the questionnaire took long to complete. Yet, we found out that the answers from the last open-ended question part were too vague, as we only know which bar students prefer the most. This means it is hardly compares service quality of K Bar with other on-campus bars, so we decided to change this and put a new idea for this section; but we are still keeping the open-ended question about suggesting any improvements for K Bar. The improvement to the questionnaire is statements that describe the service quality, and respondents should choose which bar best can relate to these statements. The purpose of this question is to obtain more understanding from students how does the service quality differ from K Bar to others, as comparison can take place when students can only apply each statement to one bar. Most importantly, these statements provide a better guideline for respondents and respondents can make a better response for our research.

Results and discussion:

Following the gathering of 73 responses from the final questionnaire, our group started to analyse the results with the aid of SPSS, Qualtrics. Our group also analysed the results by using Excel. The following are the results from the analysis of the survey:

Responses refer to objective 1: does the definition of service quality differ depending on gender

In total we have 73 responses, 38 respondents are female, and the rest of them are male. We combined the responses from the in-depth interview with our survey to gather a more accurate result to observe if there is any different view of the definition of service quality between different genders. By referring to our survey, it is unsurprising there are some similar definitions for both males and females. They both think good service quality can mean by the provision of quick service and the creation of a warm and welcoming environment. A familiar and comfortable atmosphere in a bar is a necessary to attract both males and females.

Obviously, males and females believe the performance of staff reflects the quality of service as well. Yet, they have different viewpoints. For males, they demand staff to provide full attention to them while serving them, so that they can minimize the chance of creating errors when serving them. In the case of females, they are looking for friendly staff that can communicate well with them. Some females stated it would be better if the staff can speak fluent English when serving them. "When creating atmosphere, friendship is linked to comfort." (Grayson & McNeill, 2009, p.522). This is exactly what females think about service quality, as when they know there will friendly and recognizable staff in the bar, they will feel more comfortable and be able to interact with others more in the bar. On the other hand, one point that males differ to females is that, how often they return to the bar can reflect the degree of satisfaction of the service quality there. As males stated that, if the service quality of the bar is not good during their first visit, then they will barely visit there again.

Responses refer to objective 2: does the expectation of service quality differ based on year of study

Most of our respondents are third years from the University of Kent, which is around 56 % of the total respondents. The rest are from forth year, second year and first year. As reference to the results, we found out that the perception of service quality of students in different year of study really differs. They have the most different opinion towards the aspect of tangibles of K Bar, as referred to the Crosstabulations below.

(Table 1: Crosstabulation about students rated factors of K Bar with level very good or good.)

Year 1 students think that the tangibles inside K Bar are quite old and they rated it in poor condition. They are not satisfied with the hygiene and the decoration in K Bar as well, therefore generally Year 1 students are not satisfied with the "hardware" that composes the atmosphere of K Bar. Students in year 2 and 3 have similar opinions, but as reference to the cossatabulation they rank the tangibles in K Bar in a higher place, especially for layout and hygiene. However, they rank furniture and fixtures in K Bar better, we assume maybe students from year 2 and 3 they knew that other bars have refurbished but K Bar didn't, so they think that in the case of K Bar it is reasonable. Yet all students have the similar opinion, that they are fulfilled with the range of drinks and equipment to a large extent.

Students are mostly viewing the reliability, responsiveness and assurance of staff at a high satisfactory level, due to the fact that students rate the knowledge of staff and politeness of staff quite highly. Also they are assured with the quick service and the degree that staff, focus on the customer solely. Overall, students from different academic years are satisfied with the service quality of K Bar to a certain extent, but K Bar still needs to make improvements on their tangibles.

Responses towards objective 3 and 4: Why people go to other bars on campus rather than K bar and how does the service quality in K bar differ from other bars?

There are many on-campus bars, and they have different strategies to attract students to come back again. Our group realise that students mostly choose other bars over K Bar, and we need to investigate the reason that students prefer other on campus bars. When referring to this objective, we can get more a detailed answer from the open-ended questions about which bar is the best one from the survey.

(Graph 1: Students preference of the bar with best service quality)

Actually, K Bar has its own attraction point. Students think that staff there provide the quickest service and the operating hours is the best timing, for them to go a bar. Most importantly, students like the location of K Bar, and saying it is the most convenient bar on campus.

Yet, according to graph 1, these can only make K Bar rated as the fourth most popular bar on campus. A successful bar needs to create a good atmosphere by combining many factors. Good location and quick service is not enough, people are looking for more from a bar. Due to the fact that most bars are selling similar products, they aim to create a unique atmosphere for customers to enjoy and be loyal to the bar. As according to graph 1, Origins is the top rated bar with best service quality bar. Students chose it because of two aspects, one is the great atmosphere created by staff and the layout and the quality of food. Respondents reflected that Origins is always full of cheerful and helpful staff, and they appreciate that staff are willing to communicate apart from providing service. The layout in Origins is also a finer point to students; they prefer the furniture and fixture in Origins, especially after the latest makeover of it. Higher quality of food provided in Origins can attract more loyal students as well, since students like their wide variety of food and nice quality of food with cheap price.

For other bars, students chose them mostly because they have better atmosphere and environment than K Bar. For instance, they prefer Mungos as it decorates better and it creates a more easeful environment. Some respondents picked another bar because they mostly go there and they feel familiar there, and also their friends may work there, this makes them feel more comfortable. Besides, students have different opinions towards the best bar may be due to that they live in a different area, and they prefer to go to the nearest bar; this may also vary the result of selecting a different bar than K Bar.

Overall, the service quality in K Bar is considerably different from other bars, as students mostly rank reliability and responsiveness of staff as the most important factor out from the five factors. These are what K Bar neglect. The only superior factor that K bar has is the reliability aspect, because students agree that K Bar is the bar with the shortest queuing and waiting time. As reference to the questionnaire, more than 60% of respondents felt they were pleased with the ability that staff can perform their service accurately.

Figure 2: Relative importance of service dimensions (Source: Chowdhary & Prakash, 2007.p.526)

However studies also show that people value assurance as high as reliability. Staffs in K Bar are welcoming and helpful, but they are not as interactive as those in Mungos, Origins and Ruthefold, as 27% of students didn't feel the staff in K Bar were attentive when serving them. Some even found staffs are rude when they are not solely serving them.

On the other hand, take Origins as an example, it has another kind of service quality to a large extent, and it creates a better atmosphere than K Bar. As when we refer to the tangible aspect, Origins is decorated better and have new furniture and fixtures, and these are important for a bar to create a warm environment. Also other bars perform better than K Bar in the feature of empathy and responsiveness. K Bar has the best operating hours, yet other bars cover better factors. For example, students stated they can feel staffs are more involved with them and concentrated to serve them in Rutherford than in K Bar, as staffs in Rutherford do not always talk to their colleagues, and they always seem happier and more friendly than staffs in K Bar. All in all, K Bar is special in reliability out from the 5 factors, yet it is obvious that K Bar should be more all-rounded and create an enhanced impression.

Limitation:

When the research is taking place, it is difficult to make everything go according to our group's plan. Therefore there are few limitations that we need to admit. First of all, the time constraint affected the result. Our group had around 3 months to prepare the whole research, but there was not enough time to test our survey thoroughly before delivering it. Besides, we only delivered to a small amount of university students, and most of the respondents are from year 3, therefore the result may bias in favour of year 3. Moreover, we are using Qualtrics to deliver our survey online, it is cost-saving undoubtedly, however we cannot make sure every survey link that we sent, and people will respond to the survey. So there may be a number of non-responses to our survey, and this shows that the result of the survey cannot represent the majority of the students in University of Kent. Afterall, our group tried different means to minimize the effect of these limitations on our investigation. (Webb, 1992)

Conclusion:

The aim of this research report is to evaluate the service quality in K Bar from different students' perception, and to find out how to improve it, so K Bar would be better able to compete with other on-campus bar. Our group searched secondary data and designed the in-depth interview and survey to gather responses on this matter, and after analysing the result we found out that no matter how old you are or what gender you are, reliability and assurance of staffs in the bar are vital to people, as they stated that they prefer quick and friendly service. Therefore K Bar should keep their quick service and the best operating hours, as these are the unique selling points for K Bar. On the other hand, it is important to create a friendly and memorable relationship with customers, customers will be less demanding and the bar can gain a good impression of nice service from this. When students go to bars, they are not only looking for a time to relax, they are also looking for a social time in a warm atmosphere. Therefore if staffs in K Bar can be more interactive with students and perform the service more accurately, this can certainly attract more customers.

Moreover, it is vital to create a warm atmosphere, and we discovered that females pay more attention on tangibles than males do. In this case, K Bar should have an interior refurnish, as students think that furniture is old and they do not prefer the layout in K Bar. So K Bar should be redecorated and rearrange their furniture, therefore students can feel comfortable once they step into the bar. This is undoubtedly can increase the loyalty of customers and also reduce the possibility of someone to creating an incident in the bar, as incidents are mostly created from an unpleasant service experience. All in all, K Bar is a good bar on campus with efficient staff and great location, yet it can be improved by training their staff to be more interactive and rearranging the layout and design of furniture.

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