The aim of this research is to investigate how the application of relationship marketing paradigms affects customer experience and customer satisfaction in Indian restaurants in the North-East of England. The relationship marketing strategies of three Indian restaurants situated in Newcastle Upon Tyne will be scrutinised. Both managers and customers will be interviewed in order to get a fuller understanding of how relationship marketing affects customer experiences and satisfaction. This study will focus on Indian restaurants for the particular reason that after researching the growth rates and profitability of the different types of restaurants on offer in the UK, such as Italian, French, Asian and British, Mintel (2012) reports that "around a third of consumers have been reducing their expenditure on ethnicÂ restaurants" and of all the types of restaurants it is "venues focused on family or mid-/mass-market dining which are arguably suffering the most" (Mintel, 2012). An in-depth understanding of the strategies used in those restaurants could find the reason why they are losing custom, as reports show that "UK consumers continue to show interest in wider ethnic flavours", however, research also shows that Indian restaurants "are failing to provide reasons to visit" (Mintel, 2012) and as Newcastle consists of one of the highest poverty rates in the UK (HMRC Child Poverty Statistics, 2009) this study is thought to be particularly beneficial to the dining industry in this region.
1.1 BACKGROUND RESEARCH
A closer look into how restaurants implement relationship marketing could help explain how services can be improved to retain customers and increase profits.
Abdullah, Ingram & Welsh (2009) define Indian dining as a cuisine with exotic flavours, delicate fragrances and spices ranging from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian influences. Mintel (2012) reports show that Indian cuisine is amongst the most popular in the ethnic dining scene as 91% of the 1,868 internet users surveyed confirmed to having tried Indian food; 3% said they would like to try it and only 5% said they had no interest in ever trying it. Mintel (2012) explicates that UK's most frequented supermarkets like Tesco and Asda offer readymade Indian takeaways as part of their 'eat-in' food range due to the popularity of the cuisine. In addition, Mintel (2010) states that luxurious Indian dining has seen an increase in interest over the last decade due to their development of trends such as lighter menus, improved food presentations and a clear focus on authentic traditional dishes. However Indian restaurants are continuing to suffer from "lack of modernisation and a failure to provide consumers with a value for money" (Mintel, 2012).
Findings suggest that only 29% of customers choose to return to the same venue and while a Â¼ of all diners like the idea of trying something new and different, they do not act on their desire, fearing they will not enjoy it (Mintel, 2010). This implies consumers are wary of how they spend their earnings and do not want to risk not liking what they are paying for. In addition, a fall in consumer confidence of the aging population has resulted in Indian restaurants depending on consumers between the ages of 16-24 as Mintel (2012) reports that "frequency of using ethnic outlets decreases with age." Moreover, a Datamonitor report on the post-recessionary strategies adopted by food and drink companies states how "the foodservice business has been one of the main areas negatively impacted by the recession" with consumers cutting back on spending (Dodds, 2009).
Furthermore, The Bank of England (2012) report on UK inflation states that the outlook for the GDP growth in the UK remains "unusually uncertain", helping to explain why "families continue to struggle the most". Datamonitor (2009) explicates how restaurant and catering industries have suffered a detrimental impact from the recession. This notion reflects the "tough market conditions" for ethnic restaurants (Mintel, 2012) as due to the recent decrease in GDP growth in the UK the standard of living of the population is suffering "reflecting a combination of supply and demand influences" (Bank of England, 2012). As a result, Indian restaurants are fighting to maintain profitability as consumers which may have been loyal customers in the past are now opting to purchase their weekly Indian dinners from the supermarket (Mintel, 2012). In order for Indian restaurants to maintain a competitive advantage against competitors, management must invest in relationship marketing, as surveys show that 52% of ethnic diners state that "the recommendations of family/ friends affects where they go", demonstrating how 'word of mouth' promotion can have a positive impact on existing and future consumers (Mintel, 2012).
After findings from reports on ethnic diners state that the Indian restaurant industry has seen an increase in consumers between the ages of 16-24, it became necessary to do basic research on the North-East of England and its youth population statistics. The HEFCE regional profiles (2010) states "the North East has a high percentage of young full-time first degree students remaining in the region to study, and the inflow of students from other regions in the UK is much greater than the outflow." It is, therefore, vital that managers of North-East Indian restaurants aim to develop positive relationships with their youthful consumers.
In a website aimed at helping struggling restaurants, Julianna Karall (2012) advices that if restaurants "have limited marketing dollars to spend" they will profit from investing in ways to "impress, recognize, and reward" their best customers. This notion is supported by Dev, Buschmen & Bowen (2010) who claim that in the hospitality industry the cost of creating new customers costs organisations five times more than "it does to maintain an existing one". Relationship-marketing is therefore vital in the service industry as it can cut costs whilst yielding profits.
In addition, Grönroos (1994) regards relationship marketing as an essential aspect of the business world. Andaleeb & Conway (2006) argue that it is vital for restaurants to provide customer satisfaction, as Szymanski & Hernard (2001) suggest there is a positive correlation between customer satisfaction and consumer loyalty. Additionally, Innes & La Londe (1994) suggest that delightful customer service is essential to customer satisfaction and retention. Lee & Hing (1995) support this view by claiming that private restaurants could overcome disadvantages of competing with larger, more standardised franchises by improving the quality of their services and customer relationships. Yüksel & Yüksel (2003) highlight that consumers satisfied with service quality are more likely to provide repeat business.
1.2 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
This study will aim to fulfil the following four objectives:
Investigate past literature of academic theories on relationship marketing paradigms, customer experience and customer satisfaction.
Critically analyse the relationship marketing paradigms employed in Indian restaurants in the North-East of England.
Critically analyse the attitudes of managers and customers on the importance of delightful customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty.
Recommend ways in which existing relationship marketing strategies could be improved in North-East Indian restaurants.
This study will aim to examine relationship marketing theories and in the process identify what constitutes a delightful customer experience and customer satisfaction. Although, there are other aspects of relationship marketing, this study is limited in how many of those it can investigate due to a limited timeframe.
The dissertation will be split into six chapters:
Introduction; which will discuss the purpose of the study and background research into the topic.
Literature Review; which will reassess existing literature on relationship marketing paradigms as well as customer experience and satisfaction, through the use of three theoretical models.
Methodology; which will outline how the study will be conducted, by ultimately identifying and discussing various research philosophies.
Findings; which will examine findings.
Content analysis and discussion; which will provide an in-depth content analysis and interpretation. The findings will be compared to theories discussed in the Literature Review by identifying differences and similarities between studies. Recommendations to Indian restaurants will also be offered.
Conclusion; which will summarise the study by relating it to the research objectives and see whether they have been attained. Limitations of the study will also be discussed, concluding the paper with a scope for further research.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW (4000 words)
Successful marketing can lead to organisations gaining competitor advantage as marketing allows organisation "to create and exchange value with customers" (Silk, 2006). This literature review will investigate the concept of relationship marketing, exploring past theories and research focusing on two factors; customer experiences and customer satisfaction. In turn, Andersson & Mossberg's (2004) model of customer experience as well as Kano's (1984) model of customer satisfaction will be presented and analysed, respectively.
Due to the competitive nature of the business world, it is becoming seemingly harder for companies to gain competitor advantage in their market segments. As a result, relationship marketing is becoming an increasingly popular business strategy in the hospitality industry. Grönroos (1994) argues that there has been a shift from the traditional marketing mix to the innovative relationship marketing strategies. Past literature identifies relationship marketing as the ability for businesses to establish and maintain relationships with potential customers (Rashid, 2003).
Other attempts at defining relationship marketing include Morgan & Hunt's (1994) definition claiming that RM refers to the establishment, development and maintenance of successful relational exchanges, adding that there is a strong focus on trust and commitment in order to succeed. In addition, Bennet (1996) states that RM consists of a lifetime commitment to the customer, mutual benefits, promise fulfilment, impressive customer knowledge, customer interaction, empathy as well as continued communication with customers. Furthermore, O'Malley et al (1997) argue that in order to enhance the experience of both parties involved a loyalty to the established relationship must be present.
In addition, Constantinides (2006) argues that although the 4P's marketing mix framework is still "the dominant marketing management paradigm" the mix lacks personalisation and is therefore not effective on its own. Kotler & Armstrong (2006) support this argument by claiming that the original marketing mix is limited due to the fact it concentrates too much on the seller and not enough on the customer. For a truly successful marketing mix, businesses should implement a more customer orientated concept at the early stages, before moving on to the introduction of the 4P's marketing mix (Kotler & Armstrong, 2006).
2.1 RELATIONSHIP MARKETING ORIENTATION
Christopher et al's (1991) relationship marketing orientation diagram highlights the 3 cross-functional aspects which when integrated make up relationship marketing. The general model demonstrates how RM consists of quality, customer services and marketing.
Figure 1. The Relationship Marketing Orientation Framework
Source: Christopher et al (1991)
A driving force into the espousal of relationship marketing is considered to be the Total Quality Movement (TQM) that revolutionised business's perspectives in terms of quality and cost (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995). Feigenbaum (1961) defines TQM as "an effective system for integrating the quality development, quality maintenance, and quality improvement efforts of the various groups in an organization so as to enable production and service at the most economical levels which allow full customer satisfaction." Sheth & Parvatiyar (1995) explain how organisations began to acknowledge the importance of offering high quality products and services to customers, whilst maintaining the lowest price possible, arguing that companies that had implemented TQM began to involve both customers and suppliers in employing the program at all the different levels of the value chain.
The Department of Trade and Industry (1999) summarises the evolution of TQM by claiming that the practice is now a widely accepted concept which addresses organisational performance as well as acknowledging the importance of processes. It also explains how many countries have developed TQM into whole frameworks intended to help companies achieve exceptional performances in customer and business relations. Examples of the frameworks are funded by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and can be witnessed around Europe under the name of "Business Excellence" (The Department of Trade and Industry, 1999).
Over the last few decades, the technological revolution and the development of sophisticated "computerized communication systems" has had an enormous impact on the marketing institutions, changing the way they operate, effortlessly allowing customers and producers to interact directly with each other (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995). Complex databases developed to capture individual customer information during company interactions with consumers enable producers to learn more about their target market, which organisations can then use to implement individual marketing strategies (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995). In their overview of the revolution of relationship marketing, Sheth & Pavatiyar (1995) explain how the new technology and new electronics mean producers can afford eliminate the "middleman" as they are able to directly communicate with business and customers regarding "manufacturing, delivery and customer services." Sheth et al (1988) explains how the recent technological phenomena has altered consumer attitudes and improved business. An example of this is the "Just in Time" inventory system which allows producers to completely remove "intermediate inventory holding institutions" which stands in the way of the producers and their customers and suppliers (Sheth, 1988).
In more recent academic research, Palmatier (2008) explicates how "a confluence of factors, including the transition to service-based economies; advances in communication, logistics and computing technologies; increased global competition; and faster product commodization have enhanced the salience of relationship-based loyalty to sellers compared with other marketing mix factors."Moreover, Palmatier (2008) adds that these trends are increasing consumers' desire to participate in "relationship-based exchanges" due to lower risk and higher trust rates as well as the luxury of flexibility.
In addition, Sheth & Parvatiyar (1995) argue that the cost of research & development has increased due to the new technological advancements, causing organisations to join forces in carrying out research and product-development programs. They add that inter-firm alliances are becoming popular in industries concerned with technology and electronics as the amalgamations between home appliances and electronics as well as communication and computers are pushing companies to share risks involved and combine their resources.
Christopher et al (1991) came up with a 'six markets model' to help explain how relationship marketing influences the overall aspect of marketing in the business world. In their model, Christopher et al (1991) explain how multiple markets affect the outcome of marketing actions.
Figure 2. The Six Markets Model
Source: Christopher et al (1991)
The paragraphs below will briefly discuss four of the concepts which relate to the study.
18.104.22.168 Customer Market
Christopher et al (1991) place customers in the middle of the model as Winter & Preece (2002) argue that the client is at the centre of all marketing activities placing an emphasis on long term relationships as although transactional marketing is still important, relationship marketing is becoming more vital for the survival of businesses. Payne (1993), however, argues that the maintenance of relationships should exceed transactional marketing as it is more important to retain loyal customers than it is to require new ones.
22.214.171.124 Recruitment Market
Payne (1993) disputes that "the scarcest source for most organisations is no longer capital or raw materials- it is skilled people" claiming that skilled professionals are essential in customer service delivery. Winter & Preece (2002) support this view by stating how beneficial it is for institutions to cultivate long term relationships with labour resources services as for most companies success depends on the skills and qualifications of the personnel.
126.96.36.199 Internal Market
Employees are detrimental to the success of a business as "employees with high levels of satisfaction are very valuable" as "long ties create a familiarity with the business and they possess a high degree of knowledge" which in turn has a positive effect on customer satisfaction and retention (Winter & Preece, 2002). In agreement with this, Payne (1993) explicates how "every employee and every department in an organisation is both an internal customer and an internal supplier".
188.8.131.52 Referral Market
The referral market's primary focus is word of mouth promotion, which is either done by loyal customers or other organisations such as intermediaries, multipliers, connectors and agencies (Payne, 1993). Winter & Preece (2002) argue that in some cases even competitors can contribute to the referral market, therefore, organisations must pay particular attention to existing customers and mediators as they're a good source of "future business" (Payne, 1993).
2.1.4 Customer Service
The vast growth of the service sector is considered the third force of the relationship marketing trio, as an increasing number of organisations are yielding profits from their service sectors making relationship marketing an important part of doing business (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995).
Sheth & Parvatiyar (1995) explain how services in these institutions are often produced and delivered by the same organisation. Examples of this can be seen in the professional and personal service sectors, such as consulting services, accounting services, legal services along with hairdressers and domestic services. The service producers, in these cases, are also the providers of the services. The role of the middleman is therefore completely eliminated as customers of these services are also directly involved in seeking out and using the services (Berry, 1983).
In addition, Crosby & Stephens, (1987) explain how the elimination of the middleman and the direct interaction between producer and customer allows the formation of an emotional bond between the two parties, resulting in a need for both sides to maintain and enhance the relationship formed. Crosby et al (1990) argue that the role of relationship marketing is vital for both academics and experts of the services marketing industry.
Furthermore, Ward & Dagger (2007) claim that companies focusing on building and maintaining strong customer relationships are more likely to score highly on customer satisfaction and be perceived as offering quality. In support of this, Payne (1991) argues that customer retention is becoming as important, if not more vital, than customer acquisition, as it is proving to be a securer way of yielding profits.
In order to maintain strong relationships with customers, Rashid (2003) argues that trust, communication, customer experience/satisfaction, commitment and promise fulfilment are key factors to achieving and maintaining healthy customer relationships.
Due to the nature of the thesis and its primary focus on customer relationship marketing strategies implemented in restaurants, the importance of customer experience and customer satisfaction will be discussed and further examined.
2.2 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Customer experience is defined as the occurrence of a customer achieving some type of sensation or knowledge through interaction with aspects of any given context created by service providers (Gupta & Vajic, 2000).
Meyer & Schwager (2007) however regard 'customer experience' as encompassing "every aspect of a company's offering-the quality of customer care, of course, but also advertising, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, and reliability." In addition, Rashid (2003) points out that a successful customer relationship is a by-product of a good customer experience. In support of this, Meyer & Schwager (2007) describe this phenomenon as a customer's personal response to an organisation which they have come into direct or indirect contact with.
In addition, Meyer & Schwager (2007) attempt to underline key differences between the following two terminologies; customer experience management (CEM) and customer relationship management (CRM). They argue that customer experience management concentrates on gathering customer opinions which managers can use to improve their services and their customer experience. Customer relationship management, on the other hand, focuses less on the collection and distribution of customer opinions and more on already gathered information about existing customers in order to improve sales and benefit business.
However, Kotler & Armstrong (2006) believe that in order to excel in the business world, organisations must understand what drives customers to purchase particular products and services. They claim that in order to secure customer loyalty, companies must take the time to acknowledge and improve their 'customer touch points'; defined as core processes, such as marketing, sales and support, that enable businesses to connect with their purchasers. In addition, Berry, Carbone & Haekel (2002) suggest that a competitive advantage is only achieved if, in addition, customers are satisfied with their purchasing experience.
2.2.1 Model showing factors influencing diner's experience (Andersson & Mossberg, 2004)
Do restaurants satisfy customer needs? This is the question which Andersson & Mossberg (2004) aimed to investigate in their extensive research into dining experiences. As a result, Andersson & Mossberg (2004) helped generate a model which they deemed useful in evaluating customer's dining experiences (see Figure 1). The framework focuses on customer's Optimal Level of Arousal (OLA) and claims that 3 key factors play a vital role in a consumer's dining experience. These are 1). Physiological, 2) Intellectual and 3) Social needs (Andersson & Mossberg, 2004). Crosby & Masland (2009), on the other hand, argue that it is difficult to measure customer experience as all these factors can be regarded subjectively.
In brief, physiological needs (such as hunger) dominate at lunchtimes as this is when customer's seek to eat and care little about the environmental atmosphere around them, whereas social needs are regarded as important in the evenings as this is when individuals enjoy dining with groups of friends and the experience becomes more about the atmosphere and the service than the act of eating. Intellectual requirements on the other hand consist of the simple mathematics of food varieties and the complimenting tastes of the dishes. Andersson & Mossberg (2004) itirate that although good service is vital in a restaurant a favourable cuisine is a must as without one, restaurants would cease to exist and customer satisfaction is only achieved when expectations are surpassed in both departments.
Andersson & Mossberg's (2004) model is based on 3 key factors which begins with the primary need of "musts", proceeds to the secondary need of "delights" and becomes the ultimate "satisfying" experience. In their research, the authors deciphered 5 major factors that can impact customer satisfaction; restaurant interior décor, service provided, organisation involved, surrounding customers and type and standard of cuisine. In support of this, both Meiselman (2003) and Hansen (2005) argue that the interior décor of a restaurant can play an important role in the consumer's decision of where to dine and in their overall satisfaction. Findings also suggested that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for popular restaurants as they seek an attractive atmosphere paired with satisfying service (Andersson and Mossberg, 2004).
Figure 3. Factors influencing customer experience framework
Source: Andersson & Mossberg (2004)
184.108.40.206 Limitations of Andersson & Mossberg's (2004) framework
Although Andersson & Mossberg's (2004) model helps explain what factors contribute to a customer's experience, critical researchers argue that there are more than 5 factors influencing customers in restaurants (Meiselman, 2003). In his research into the topic, Meiselman (2003) discovered that location plays a vital role in the experience of consumers. He conducted a study which intended to test whether customers could be tricked into thinking they enjoyed a meal due to where it was they were eating it, regardless of its actual quality. Army rations were served to 3 groups of unsuspecting consumers; costumers in a restaurant, patrons in a hospital and students in a cafeteria. Edward et al (2003) discovered that unsurprisingly, restaurant customers rated their food better than patrons in the hospital and students in the cafeterias; despite the fact all 3 groups had the same food.
Another factor which academics have found plays a vital role in the dining industry is hygiene. Aksoydan (2007) argues that existing research concludes that clean lavatories are essential to females and married couples. In the same study, males were found to be more bothered about the cleanliness of crockery and cutlery.
However, this is not all. Gustaffon et al (2006) argues that there are notable limitations to following models developed to improve customer experiences, as they are merely theoretical and deterministic. Andersson & Mossberg's (2004) model does not take customers' individual differences into account as well as many of the missing factors mentioned above. If followed religiously, frameworks could lower margins for customers and set unrealistic expectations for organisations (Gustaffon et al, 2006).
2.2.2 Overall critical review of the Customer Experience Theory
A criticism of customer experience put forth by Rust & Oliver (2000) suggests that if customers are greeted with a very positive experience upon their first arrival at a restaurant, they will naturally seek and expect the same experience the next time round. This, however, is unrealistic as restaurants will struggle to meet those standards set the first time round. This term is referred to as "assimilated delight" (Rust & Oliver, 2000): "Assimilated delight has the strong potential to raise the bar of consumer expectations."
Another criticism proposed by Rust & Oliver (2000) is that delight is too fickle for customer experience to be based wholly on it as delight can prove temporary. An example of this was put forth by Rust & Oliver (2000) claiming that a child is first excited by the offer of sweets at the doctors, however, with time the child will forget about the sweets and will continue to show reluctance to going to the doctors. This type of delight is referred to as a "transitory delight", meaning it is easily forgotten and doesn't leave enough of an impression. Nevertheless, Rust & Oliver (2000) claim that all is not a lost cause, suggesting that instead of not delighting customers at all, a new type of delight should be considered. The "re-enacted delight" is described as withstanding the effect of time much better than the previous two types. An example of this can be described using a theme park scenario, whereby a visitor likes the rush and the feelings they get from the amusements rides the first time round so they return to the park again to experience the same rush (Rust & Oliver, 2000). This sort of commitment gives birth to customer loyalty and engraves the experience in the customer's mind, nonetheless, this experience will not be in their minds for ever so visitors may intend to go back but may end up forgetting (Rust & Oliver, 2000).
After a critical review of the limitations of customer experiences, it must be noted that the cost of rewarding the customer with delights could outweigh the benefits and may not always yield profits. It is, therefore, vital for organisations to consider the issues mentioned above when attempting to create a unique consumer experience (Rust & Oliver, 2000).
2.3 CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
A strong relationship exists between customer experience and customer satisfaction as Andreassen & Lindestad (1997) suggest that service quality directly affects customer experience which in turn affects satisfaction. The notion of customer satisfaction is defined as a "consumer's fulfilment response" (Oliver, 1997). Oliver (1997) argues that customer satisfaction is customer judgement about whether a service is providing an adequate amount of "consumption-related fulfilment". Furthermore, McDougall & Levesque (2000) argue that customer satisfaction is the complete assessment of the service provided. Moreover, Kim, Ng, & Kim (2009) claim customer satisfaction is measurement used to predict the likelihood of repeat custom. Consequently, academic research focused on the importance of customer satisfaction on retention has found that there is a strong positive correlation between the two (Trassoras, Weinsten & Abratt, 2009).
In addition, Gustafsson, Johnson & Roos (2005) argue that dissatisfied customers have a detrimental impact on business, as they are part of the referral market and can negatively influence the decision of new customers. However, improving customer satisfaction can be very costly for businesses thus it is essential that a balance is found (Hill, Roche and Allen, 2007). Nonetheless, Mowen & Minor (2001) point out that former studies have found that a 1% in customer satisfaction results in an average annual profit increase of 11%, suggesting that although ensuring customer satisfaction can be expensive it can prove beneficial to the company. In addition, Anderson, Fornell & Lehmann (1994) found that the implementation of customer satisfaction strategies increases customer value resulting in financial profitability. An example of this is shown in a study whereby an American University reported higher levels of custom after the refurbishment of a canteen, resulting in the notion that although food remains the main reason people visit diners interior décor can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction (Kim, Ng and Kim, 2009).
2.3.1 Kano's (1984) Model of Customer Satisfaction
Kano's (1984) model attempts to outline customer preferences and the satisfaction levels of each. The model identifies three customer preferences: must-be, one dimensional and attractive requirements (Wang & Ji, 2010). The must-be refers to the requirement to eat and customer satisfaction is not obvious. For the one-dimensional requirements there is a positive correlation between fulfilment and satisfaction and un-fulfilment and dissatisfaction and for the attractive quality, satisfaction is felt when attributes are fully met, however, customers do not feel dissatisfaction if they are not met (Sauerwein , Bailom, Matzler & Hinterhuber, 1996).
Figure 4. Customer requirements and customer satisfaction model
Source: Berger et al (1993)
Kano's (1984) model can aid in the identification of the requirements which make up customer satisfaction (Surwein, Bailom, Matzler & Hinterhuber, 1996). An advantage of managers implementing Kano's (1984) framework to monitor satisfaction levels is that the model can help improve products by identifying whether already existing products satisfy customers at 'must-be' levels or 'attractive' levels (Surwein, Bailom, Matzler & Hinterhuber, 1996). Customer feedback should be acknowledged and used during the development of the services and products (Ullah & Tamaki, 2011). Additionally, Matzler & Hinterhuber (1998) argue that the model can help managers identify a specific product criterion, helping with the development of a product satisfactory to customers.
220.127.116.11 Limitations of Kano's (1984) framework
In the competitive hospitality industry, Tan & Pawitra (2001) argue that in order to succeed in the restaurant business, managers should aim to exceed mere 'customer satisfaction' and aim to do more than just satisfy them. They state that in the whole, every restaurant should meet the 'must-be' and 'attractive' requirements of customer satisfaction as that is the purpose of their business.
3. METHODOLOGY (3000 WORDS)
This chapter of the dissertation aims to present, explain and justify the particular choices of research methodology and methods deployed in this specific study. It will explain the approach taken, the design used and the strategies implemented when conducting the study, whilst attempting to refer back to the objectives of the investigation, as well as provide basic understanding of the literature research methodologies. It is important that this section provides all the necessary information needed for future researchers interested in replicating the study, explaining why such a study suits the specific approach it has chosen.
To begin with, various different research approaches will be discussed and as a result the chosen research methodology as well as the research method tools utilized will be conferred. It is important to realise the difference between these two terminologies, as 'research methodology' refers to the approach taken to conduct the research and in comparison, 'research methods' refers to the tools used in order to carry out the study (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007).
The chapter will conclude with a discussion on the study's limitations as well as the ethical implications of the research as Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson (2008) argue that it is essential researchers inform the public of the ethical issues presented when conducting an investigation.
3.1 RESEARCH PHILOSOPHIES
Acknowledging the importance of an appropriate research philosophy is vital, as an effective study requires accurate and clear information, which is only made possible through the right research philosophy (Clark, 1998). In addition, Holden & Lynch (2004) assert that researchers who are more comfortable with a particular research philosophy will make sure their study fits their preferred choice.
Matthew & Ross (2010) identify four categories of social research; descriptive, explanatory, exploratory and evaluation research. The nature of this study is deemed as explanatory as an investigation into relationship marketing implemented in Indian restaurants aims to understand and explain 'why' and 'how' RM affects customer experience and customer satisfaction.
3.1.1 Research Paradigm
On the whole, academics agree that there are numerous categories of research paradigms; positivism, post-positivism, constructivism and critical theory (Crossan, 2003). It must be acknowledged, however, that different authors will often refer to these paradigms under different names. Easterby- Smith, Thorpe & Jackson (2008) concentrate on 'positivism' and 'interpretivism', whereas, Holden & Lynch (2004) choose to refer to them as 'subjectivism' and 'objectivism'.
Bahari (2010) claims positivist researchers place great value on hypothesis testing as their aim is to provide scientific explanations for their research. Furthermore, Hammersley & Atkinson (2007) dispute that research must be measurable in order for results to show whether findings are 100% correct or false. In addition, the objectivist notion is that the researcher is not directly involved in data collection and has, therefore, no influence on the findings (Holden & Lynch, 2004). This is because objectivist researchers use indirect methods of collecting data such as self-administered questionnaires and covert observations (Holden & Lynch, 2004).
However, Hughes & Sharrock (1997) acknowledge the limitations of positivist paradigms in social research, arguing that scientific observations and calculations do not make research accurate and a valid source of information.
Nonetheless, Kim, Ng & Kim (2009) argue that research on customer satisfaction implement deductive approaches in their studies. In their investigation into customer satisfaction, however, Andaleeb & Conway (2006) opted for a mixed methods approach by incorporating both interviews and questionnaires in their study of over 100 participants. Andersson & Mossberg (2004), on the other hand, used an inductive approach to conduct their study on 14 Swedish restaurants in Gothenburg.
In social research, Matthews & Ross (2010) claim that an interpretive epistemology focuses on "people's subjective interpretation and understandings of social phenomena and their own actions". As the study focuses on the attitudes of restaurant managers and thoughts of customers to relationship marketing, an interpretive epistemology and an inductive approach to the research will allow for an in-depth understanding of the differing views (Gray, 2009).
3.1.2 Research Design
The quantitative research design lines up with the logical positivism and post-positivism paradigm. Qualitative research, on the other hand, focuses on the naturalistic and interpretivist paradigm. However, in terms of a combined-methods approach Crotty (1998) argues that although post-positivism is considered to be a branch of the positivist theory, the former acknowledges and accepts the limitations of positivism and objectivity, choosing to focus on probability as opposed to certainty. This means that post-positivist researchers believe qualitative research compliments quantitative methods of study very well if either of these methods become limited (Crotty, 1998). Nevertheless, Smith (2008) argues that researchers who prefer qualitative forms of study decline the positivist approach altogether and decide upon a more interpretive and phenomenological approach. In addition, Matthew & Ross (2010) imply that in order to choose the correct research design, the decision to implement a qualitative or quantitative research approach "should be on your research question and the nature of the data you need to collect and analyse, in order to address the question".
As the study is not concerned with figures, facts and calculations but rather with the phenomena of relationship marketing and how managers and customers feel it affects customer experience and satisfaction, an in-depth qualitative approach was deemed as the most suitable design for the research.
3.1.3 Research Methodology
A broad range of research methodologies such as grounded theory, case studies, ethnography and evaluatory studies are present in the world of social research (Matthew & Ross, 2010). Nonetheless, only one of the methodologies listed above can be seen as suitable and appropriate for the study, depending on the research paradigm and research design chosen at the start. Due to the qualitative nature of this study, phenomenology was deemed as the most suitable methodology.
Phenomenology is defined as qualitative research aimed at achieving an in-depth understanding of human experiences and events, investigating the subjects of a phenomenon. (Sander, 1982). In addition, Bahari (2010) argues that phenomenological research is vital as social behaviours in society must be investigated since the human species requires careful management. For demonstration purpose he goes on to claim that phenomenological researchers such as interpretivists focus on investigating human characteristics, such as emotion.
Furthermore, Owen (1996) claims that the philosophy of phenomenology assumes all information is subjective and has the tendency to change over time. In support of this, Smith (2008) claims that because events can occur at anytime and under any condition, it is unrealistic to decide upon a positivist approach and attempt to control conditions in research as experience is not objective and cannot be 100% right or wrong, but it is subjective and may be perceived differently by different people. Different to objective research, interpretive researchers are directly involved in the data collection process as studies are conducted via interviews and group discussions, however, many positivist researchers argue that this can lead to the 'experimenter affect' and bias information (Holden & Lynch, 2004). Other limitations of phenomenological research and an interpretive approach are that due to its subjective nature, what the respondent says may not necessarily be what the researcher hears and interprets it as (Clark, 1998). In addition, Hammersley & Atkinson (2007) argue that this approach makes results impossible to generalise due to a lack of scientific rigour. Nevertheless, a qualitative and phenomenological approach was undertaken as opposed to a positivist and objectivist approach.
3.2 RESEARCH METHODS
Three types of interview techniques are identified by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill: unstructured, semi-structured and structured interviews. However, Bryman (2006) claims that qualitative data is best collected via semi-structured interviews. After careful consideration, it was decided that the data for the study would be attained via individual semi-structured interviews. Saunder, Lewis & Thornhill (2003) claim they allow the researcher to adapt the questions to individual participants whilst still maintaining a loose structure. In support of this, DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree (2006) argue that individual interviews allow the researcher to develop a more in-depth discussion with the participants, allowing the study a flexibility to ensure the questions have been fully answered. In terms of research interviews, Knox & Burkard (2009) argue that unstructured interviews, though they may seem ideal for a qualitative study, are difficult to analyse and compare as participants may misinterpret topics which may result in issues with interpreting the data.
Kajornboon (2010) outlines that the method of 'probing' participants for further detail allowed the researcher to follow paths which were not initially intended but which may prove useful. Because of this, it was vital that participants of this study were probed in order to get a more in-depth understanding of their views and thus, the semi-structured questions consisted of brief topics and already prepared sub-questions to speed up the interview process.
3.2.1 Semi-structured interview questions rationale
It must be noted that all interview questions were based upon past academic literature. There was a total of ...... topics and â€¦.. open-ended sub-questions.
3.3 SAMPLING STRATEGY
Nielsen & Einarsen (2008) state that factors affecting sampling size and technique are efficiency, cost and research validity. Non-probability sampling will be used for this research as it is a qualitative study and probability sampling will be too expensive and inefficient. Convenience sampling is regarded as the best method of participant selection as "with limited time and resources, student researchers may have little choice but to select a sample on the basis of its convenience or ease of access" (Matthew & Ross, 2010). Although, Nielsen & Einarsen (2008) argue that representative sampling guarantees higher validity, this method of sampling would cost both time and money as there is only one researcher available. In contrast, non-probability sampling is cheaper and more suitable for "small-scale" research designs (Matthew & Ross, 2010).
Due to the inductive nature of the study, Crouch & McKenzie (2006) recommend a small sample size, as in qualitative studies the researcher must be able to get close to the participant in order to understand their views and attitudes. The sample consisted of 12 participants, 4 of which were restaurant managers and 8 customers; 2 from each restaurant. A larger participant pool requires an unrealistic time period and better resources, both of which cannot be offered by the researcher. Demographic characteristics such as age, nationality, gender and background were deemed as irrelevant and although it was ensured all participants were over the age of 18, the ages ranged from 18-60. Managers of popular Indian restaurants in Newcastle, Durham and Middlesborough were approached and informed of the nature and purpose of the study. They were then asked if they would consent to partaking and answering a few questions. The same procedure was followed when customers were approached. In terms of data collection, it was decided that individual semi-structured interviews would be the most appropriate form of collecting information.
The sampling type chosen for the study was convenience sampling, as Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2003) argue that convenience sampling is ideal for small-scale studies as it is easy to obtain. However, it is important to acknowledge that one disadvantage of convenience sampling is its lack of generalisability factor. Tansley (2007) claims that because this type of sampling does not consist of systematic selection it makes it difficult to know whether the sample selected is a realistic representation of the population or not.
3.4 METHOD OF DATA ANALYSIS
Due to the qualitative nature of the study, content analysis is deemed as the most suitable method of data analysis as Elo & Kynga (2008) claim that content analysis is used by qualitative researchers to analyse textual or oral data. Hsieh & Shannon (2005) identify content analysis as the combination of analytical methods, providing in-depth knowledge of the research. Furthermore, Elo & Kynga (2008) argue that content analysis allows researchers to understand data through the examination and the comparison of theories.
Out of the various methods of content analysis, Cassell & Simon (2004) suggest that template analysis is less time consuming and more beneficial than other methods such as IPA. In addition, they argue that template analysis consists of the researcher creating themes based on participant responses to topics and questions.
3.5 RESEARCH QUALITY
In order for research to be thought of as "rigorous and robust", the issue of quality must be considered (Matthew & Ross, 2010).
Matthew & Ross (2010) identify four key features of research quality. These aspects will be briefly discussed as they determine whether the study "meets the quality standards expected by other researchers" (Matthew & Ross, 2010).
3.5.1 Reliability/ Dependability
Matthew & Ross (2010) describe how in the natural sciences researchers often expect to achieve the same results after replicating an experiment. This notion is known as 'reliability'. However, in the realm of social sciences, because research deals with individuals, it is unrealistic for researchers to expect the same results after replicating the study. Nonetheless, Matthew & Ross (2010) claim that qualitative results "should be similar for similar groups of people". It can therefore be assumed that one would expect similar results if this study was to be repeated as managers of Indian restaurants will all assumingly implement similar relationship marketing strategies.
In terms of dependability, Matthew & Ross (2010) claim that this concept is best related to the research methods of qualitative studies, ensuring that all data is successfully recorded, included and readily available for scrutiny. The dependability of this study is quite high as a fine Dictaphone was used to record interviews, which were then transferred onto a USB stick (see Appendices). No data was lost during the course of this study.
3.5.2 Validity/ Credibility
Biggam (2008) claims that the validity of a study is repeatedly questioned by academics, as research must be valid in order for the findings to be interpreted and applied accurately. Matthew & Ross (2010) state that validity refers to "whether or not the researcher is measuring and finding out" what they think they are and how it relates to their research questions. This study is, therefore, considered as valid as the study consists of an appropriate research philosophy and method of investigating a phenomenon. Furthermore, the interviews are based on topics covered in the literature review. In terms of credibility, the study's findings are interpreted alongside existing theories, meaning the results are credible and can be trusted.
3.5.3 Generalisability/ Transferability
The concept of generalisability is defined as the extent to which the findings can be applied to the rest of the population (Matthew & Ross, 2010). Because of the small scale and sample size of the study, it would be overly optimistic to assume that the findings of this study are relevant to the rest of the population. This is because research into phenomena do not focus on an "enquiry from the outside" but an "enquiry from the inside" (Louis, 1981), meaning that depth and interpretation of individual's thoughts and behaviours are regarded as more important than whether the data is generalisable.
3.5.4 Ethical Stance and limitations
Bell (1999) claims confidentiality is essential when conducting qualitative research on human beings. In order to ensure anonymity the names of restaurants and their managers were replaced with numbers. The names of customers were also kept anonymous and replaced with letters A and B, so customers from restaurant 2 were be referred to as 2A and 2B and so on. All participants were informed of the nature of the study before being asked if they would consent to partake as according to Kajornboon (2010) ethical issues are minimised when participants are informed of the study objective and assured of confidentiality. They were told they could withdraw from the study at any point and were protected from harm.
The nature of the researcher is also reported to have an effect on both the ethical stance and the limitations of the study. Bell (1999) uses the term "inside researcher" for researchers who investigate a situation they are a part of or familiar with. The researcher of this study is a part-time waitress and Bell (1999) acknowledges that an advantage of being an inside researcher is that the researcher is automatically aware of how the business operates and can empathise with both sets of participants. However, Bell (1999) states that often inside researchers experience an uncomfortable sense of over-involvement which may affect the overall findings.
Another limitation of the study is that participants provided answers based on memory. Biggam (2008) argues that individuals have different levels of memory recall which can impact findings. Furthermore, the timeframe for this study can also be seen as a limitation. Qualitative research interested in in-depth investigations takes years to take shape; however, because this study was conducted as part of an MA dissertation, the research had to be conducted in a matter of months. The data was also collected during the month of Ramadan, meaning some of the Muslim participants may have been affected by the obligatory fast and as Chennaoui et al (2009) states that during this time daily habits change resulting in poor physical alertness and sleep deprivation. This must be acknowledged as it could have an impact on the findings.