In recent year, it is a contemporary challenge of management in hotel industries to create and maintain service quality and customer satisfaction. Both concepts have significant impact on organisation performance and customer behaviour. Service quality guides to higher profitability (Gundersen et al., 1996) and customer satisfaction (Oliver, 1997). Moreover, a number of empirical researches identify a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty (Kandampully and Suhartanto, 2000; Dimitriades, 2006; Chi and Qu, 2008; Faullant et al., 2008), as well as between customer satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth (Soderlund, 1998). Therefore, one of the main tasks for customer-focused firms is to measure and monitor service quality and customer satisfaction.
2.0 The service quality of Ritz-Carlton hotel
The Ritz-Carlton hotel has been known since the beginning for excellent quality service and improved elegance which has developed over the years into contemporary luxury. Based on principles of ground breaking levels of customer service, and with customer satisfaction being the highest mission, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, is the first and only hotel organisation to win the desirable Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and the only service organisation to win the award two times, with the most recent honour received in 1999. Nowadays, the Ritz-Carlton brands itself as more than just five star luxury; it sees itself as a lifestyle brand where talent is embraced and a place of opportunity and growth (The Ritz-Carlton, 2013). The Ritz Carlton is very well-known for providing consistent service to its customers in each of its locations throughout the world. The hotel chain has always struggled for quality improvement, of not only its external brand, but its internal brand and puts a high value of its staffs, saying, ‘we are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen’ (Regani, 2007). Moreover, they provide customers with high quality customer service, utilizing their Gold Standards for customer service, which include its credo, motto, employee promise, three steps of service, and the twelve service values (Appendix 1)(The Ritz-Carlton, 2013). The three steps of service are fairly basic; however most of firms overlook them, losing that opportunity to build a long lasting relationship with their customer. Without these principles the organisation would not be who it is; it believes they are the life behind the concept (Reiss, 2009). They believe they succeed only when they achieve and exceed the expectations of their customers.
Based on Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons (2006), customer’s expectations are based on several sources, including word of mouth, personal requirements, and past experience. Therefore, people may have additional expectation on the high-rated hotel. In general, the five-star hotels are more expensive than the lower level so customers might expect to get serviced as much as they pay. In other word, the service quality could be a primary goal for hotels to obtain more benefits. Service quality is a complicated, intangible, subjective and abstract concept. It means different things to different people. The most ordinary definition of service quality is the comparison customers make between their expectations and perceptions of their received service (Parasuraman et al., 1985; Grönroos, 2006). Customers should be satisfied, because if they were not satisfied to leave the company and might become customers of competitors, this could reduce sales and in turn might lower corporate profits (Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Rust, et al., 1995). Researches demonstrate that customer satisfaction might have direct and indirect influence on firm’s consequences. Many studies have explored the relationship with customer behaviour patterns (Söderlund, 1998; Kandampully and Suhartanto, 2000; Dimitriades, 2006; Olorunniwo et al., 2006; Chi and Qu, 2008; Faullant et al., 2008).
Based on these findings, customer satisfaction raises customer loyalty, motivates repurchase intentions and creates positive word-of-mouth. Anderson et al. (1994), Yeung et al. (2002), and Luo and Homburg (2007) stated that customer satisfaction positively influences business profitability. Because of the important role of customer satisfaction, it is not surprising that a variety of research has been devoted to investigating the determinants of satisfaction (Churchill and Surprenant, 1982; Oliver, 1980; Barsky, 1995; Zeithaml and Bitner, 2009). Satisfaction could be identified by subjective (customer needs, emotions) and objective factors (product and service features). In contrast, satisfaction is more inclusive, that is, satisfaction is identified by the perception of service quality, product quality, price, situation elements, and personal factors (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2009). Utilizing to the hotel industry, there have been numerous researches that investigate attributes that travellers might find important regarding customer satisfaction. Barsky and Labagh (1992) noted that staff attitude, location and rooms are likely to affect satisfaction of travellers. A study conducted by Akan (1995) demonstrated that the main factor s of hotel customer satisfaction is the behaviour of service workers, cleanliness and timeliness. Choi and Chu (2001) pointed out that service personnel quality, room quality and value are the most important hotel factors that influence travellers’ satisfaction. Moreover, customers usually think price as an indicator of the quality of a service, especially for services whose quality is hard to detect prior to services in consumption. This is related to the element that the nature of the services that have a risk level is high enough compared to the product form of goods and services to be purchased, the customer tends to utilize price as the source for expected quality of a product or service. Environmental or situation factors also influence the level of personal satisfaction with the services consumed. Servicescapes play a vital role in customers’ evaluation of any particular service. They are important because they influence customers’ cognitive, emotional, and physiological states and subsequent purchase behaviors (Lin, 2004). A servicescape is composed of numerous physical elements such as the color, music, scent, and layout and design (Bitner, 1992) and is the physical environment of a service organization where customers experience the service.Situation factors such as, conditions and circumstances would lead the consumer experience to come to a service provider, this might influence the expectations or the experiences of the products or services to be consumed. A good hotel design enriches the guest experience and increases the social and economic value of its location (Phillips, 2004). The same consequence occurs because the impact of personal factors such as emotional consumer (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2009).
In brief, everything might influence the service quality of hotel and impact the customer satisfaction; therefore, the Ritz-Carlton utilizes total quality management (TQM) as an approach of winning their customer’s heart and improving their service. Oakland (2003) highlights that TQM is about teamwork; every functional department have to work cohesively together and support each other so as to achieve business excellence. The effectiveness of teamwork decides the success of TQM in each hotel; this is why some hotels have better performance than others. Bardi (2007) claimed that preparation for adopting TQM is essential to attain success goal in hotel. In its simplest form, the TQM is a management philosophy which points out that the whole company is working for succeeding high quality service and reaching the customer’s requirement and expectation (Williams et al., 2003).
Thus, in order to provide the outstanding service demanded by customers, the human-resource function works closely with the other operational functions. The Ritz-Carlton takes great care recruiting and selecting service workers and not just hiring them, and have different procedures in comparison to its competitors so as to obtain the right people to establish the best service and to provide them proper tools to do so (Regani, 2007). Only around 2% of potential applicants are hired, and once within the hotel are given opportunities to further their career with training and development, which in turn, assists to decrease employee’s turnover and increase their satisfaction (Reiss, 2009). Indeed, training could improve the business, and there could be a positive return on investment (Erickson and Wentling, 1976). The Ritz-Carlton hotel’s staffs receive more than 100 hours of quality education training aimed at fostering a commitment to premium service, solving problems, setting strategic quality plans, and generating new ideas.
Moreover, the Ritz-Carlton empowers their employee to satisfy the needs of customers and make them loyal to the Ritz name. By applying the credo, ‘We are Ladies and Gentleman Serving Ladies and Gentleman’. It gives the service personnel a sense of dignity in their presentation, themselves and who they work for. The Ritz-Carlton takes the time to confirm their employee is well trained and therefore reduces turnover, this enhances the morale of the employee and provides opportunities for them to advance within the hotel. By the Ritz-Carlton empowering their employee members to be on the lookout to produce remarkable or ‘wow’ moments for the customer, is one sure way to be on top of expecting guest requirements. Furthermore, staffs are empowered to ‘move heaven and earth to satisfy a customer’, to enlist the assistance of other staffs to deal with a problem quickly, to spend up $5000 to satisfy a guest, to decide the hotel terms of a sale, to be involved in setting plans for their particular work area, and to speak with anyone in the hotel regarding any difficulties (Evans and Lindsay, 1999). Once one of these moments is generated the customer has spontaneously become a walking advertisement to promote the amazing deed the employee of the Ritz has performed and how they will refuse to stay anywhere else.
Rudimentary quality is to identify not just what the customer wants but truly recognize the customer and then creating processes with the involvement of the staffs connected with each process to provide excellent service. Quality means maintaining to observe how well employees are doing and how to do it better, and then ultimately bringing the processes to zero faults. One lesson the hotel has learned is not to undervalue the value of even one idea or quality improvement endeavour. The Ritz-Carlton has become an intelligent company, where all service personnel recognize and actively contribute in the processes that support the creation of outstanding service. It has come to know that, without quality they would not be leading in product and profit. Therefore, the Ritz-Carlton adopts SERVQUAL scale which is available for measuring and maintaining service quality and customer satisfaction to reach their goal and reduce the gap. Parasuraman et al. (1985; 1988) established the SERVQUAL scale, which became the most important instrument for measuring service quality. They classified five key dimensions of service quality, including “tangibility”, “reliability”, “responsiveness”, “assurance” and “empathy” (Parasuraman et al., 1988: 23). The consequences are used to recognise positive and negative gaps. The gap is measured by the difference between perceptions and expectations scores and signifies the level of service quality. If the consequence is positive, perceived service surpasses expected service. A negative consequence means low quality of service. According to this instrument, service quality arises when perceived service meets or exceeds expectations of customer. The Ritz-Carlton hotel uses these five dimensions to improve their quality of service and customer satisfaction.
The tangibility of front office employee is including a personality and appearance of personnel, tools, and equipment used to offer the service. For example, some hotel chains such as Hilton, Mandarin, Sheraton, and Hyatt, deliberately confirm that their properties are ensured to global standards of facilities wherever they are located (Nankervis, 1995). When describing comforting products, the Ritz-Carlton hotel’s guests most often remarked about their room-in particular the room’s design, a comfortable bed and pillow, room and hotel cleanliness, and convenient and special amenities. Additional product-oriented attributes are good food, an attractive atmosphere and noise control.
The reliability involves performing the promised service consistently and correctly. It includes ‘doing it right the first time’, which is one of the most vital service elements for customers. Reliability also expands to offer services when promised and maintain error-free records. In the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the employees operate tasks that have been promised to guests and resolve problems faced by guests. Moreover, the telephone has been picked up within five rings and customer’s reservations being correct.
Responsiveness means the front office employees is willing to assist customers and offer rapid service to customers such as quick service, professionalism in handling and recovering from service failure. It has been said that today luxury is time. Consequently, service worker’s ability to offer services in a timely manner is a significant factor of service quality for many guests. For example, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the employees inquire for customer’s name, address and telephone number during the telephone booking. Furthermore, the customers are inquired to guarantee their booking, the different rates that they are provided and which ones they accept. The customers are offered alternative accommodation at a sister hotel and how efficiently that is arranged and reservation cards being ready to sign upon arrival.
Assurance refers to the erudition and politeness of employees and their capacity to carry trust and confidence including proficiency, courtesy, reliability and security. For instance, the customers anticipate experiencing safe during their stay at hotel from the employees, and they can handle efficiently criticisms and difficulties from the customers. In the Ritz-Carlton hotel, guests are impressed and put at ease when the processes of hotel limited access to selected areas of the hotel. Tangible components of security included needing keys to enter escalators and a design that needs those entering the hotel to pass staffs or security positions. Hotels with good interior lighting in public areas, especially hallways, stairways, and elevators, and abundant exterior lighting made customers feel safe. Parking lots that had good lighting (bright lights that illuminated all of the lot) and that could be seen from the guest room increase a guest’s sense of security.
Empathy refers to the provision of caring and individualized attention to customers. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel staff members have a substantial impact on the feelings of ease experienced by guests. Guests appreciate having friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful employee members whom they feel comfortable addressing. Guests felt relaxed knowing that they can believe the employee with their safety, belongings, messages, and wake-up calls. Most of guests commented that it was comforting when the staff approached their stay with a receptive, helpful, and enthusiastic attitude. Guests mentioned endeavors made to personalize their service as a contributing component to their comfort. Therefore, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the service worker acknowledges the presence of customers at the reception and with a verbal greeting. Moreover, they keep eye contact, use customers’ names and ask customers to return their key upon departure. It is clear from the above consequences that customers like to be given enough individualized attention and treated with care. Therefore, it allows the customers to easily approach and spell out their needs regarding the service being provided. The importance of empathy may be the root of the statement. If one looks at who is winning, it tends to be companies that think the customer as an individual. Due to the desires of customer that employee considers things from their point of view, the hotel staff are piloting an empathy training program intended to assist staffs relate to their guests in a more empathic manner.
In conclusion, the service quality will be a major component of the future hotel industry continuously. Therefore hotels need to manage the service quality with various theories and methods. Accordingly, if the the Ritz-Carlton hotel emphasis the service quality continuously, they could reduce the gap and provide customer satisfaction more successful. The any efforts from hotel’s marketing cannot be stand on long term period solely. However, the quality of the interactive service between hotelier and the guest could be possibly long term and this could be why the improving service quality is vital to hotel. Most of service quality theories and models’ measurement is a customer satisfaction. Thus, in order to improve a hotel’s service quality with customer satisfaction, the whole of departments should link and think about the service quality together so the all of employees and the senior managers can generate continuous competitive advantages.
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