Introduction Due to the fact that the customers are continuously changing and become more sophisticated, marketers have to adapt and keep up with the change. The demand for higher standards of services makes it difficult for the service providers to determine and control their services efficiently. The key is to understand the importance of the services provided and to allocate more attention in the attributes and dimensions that improves the quality of the service and gives the company a competitive advantage. Quality in services Competitive advantage can be achieved through service quality.
Quality differentiates between strong and weak competitors (Sachdev, 2004). In service more than in manufacturing quality plays an important role. Service quality is seen in light of customer service management. Companies in the service sector are focusing more and more on service quality due to the increase competition coming from the constant emerging private sector, latest technological improvements and higher customer emancipation and requirements (Sachedev, 2004). In order to adapt to the current market situation private players make extensive use of technology in form of websites, e-mails, on line advertisements and call centers.
This helps them have a more direct and easily access to the customer, thus decreasing the respond time. However, the down turn of this is that customers start becoming more demanding by making quick comparison between companies (Sharma, 2002). Customers demand higher quality standards and immediate access (Mittal, et al. , 2004). This puts high pressure on companies to maintain and continuously improve the service quality. Service quality can be explained in light of validity and reliability, response time, empathy with customers, and communication skills.
High standard of service quality leads to lower costs, higher customer satisfaction, higher customer loyalty, and overall organizational profitability (Nalini and Samuel, 2011). Service quality measurement Quality measurement is divided into two approaches: internal and external. Each perspective has a different assumption and measure. The internal perspective defines quality as zero defects. In other words, the service has to be defect free and excellent from the start (Russell and Taylor, 2009). On the other hand the external perspective on service quality is defined in terms of customer perception, expectation, and satisfaction.
Customer plays an important dictating the level of service quality. Moreover, customers have different needs, thus different expectations. This leads to the concept of ‘fitness for use’. In other words, the service needs to be according to what the customer expects it to be (Russell and Taylor, 2009). This level of quality should not be mistaken with the notion of perfect service. Services should be designed with varying quality levels in order to accommodate the expectations of different customer’s expectations.
Evans and Lindsay (1996 as cited in Russell and Taylor, 2009) identified seven dimensions that should be taken into account when looking at service quality: time, completeness, courtesy, consistency, convenience, accuracy, and responsiveness. Timeliness is pivotal factor in service quality. It refers to the amount of time customer has to wait for a service. The aim here is to shrink as much of possible this amount of time. Completeness refers to the final service and if this is in line with the customer expectation.
Courtesy refers to the way the customers are being treated. For example if the voice of a phone operator is pleasant and if he/she has a pleasant attitude. Consistency refers to similar services offered to all customers. Accessibility and convenience refers to the easiness of achieving the desired service. Accuracy refers to the correct nature of the service. For example, if a bank provides correct statements all the month to all customers. Responsiveness emphasizes on the ability of the employee to cope and efficiently resolve unexpected or difficult situations.
For example, how fast can an employee answer a customer’s question that is not in the manual(1996 as cited in Russell and Taylor, 2009). The best way to improve quality is to identify and prevent future possible problems. Luckily, literature presents a large number of tools to use in quality improvement. This includes but is not limited to process flow charts, fishbone diagrams, check sheets and statistical analysis ( Kheng, et al. , 2010). Customer satisfaction As mentioned earlier the main aim of service quality is to achieve customer satisfaction. The reason behind it is that satisfied customers are less likely change services.
High customer satisfaction creates an emotional bond between customer and service provider. Studies regarding customer satisfaction in services and the need of the companies to improve their offerings based on consumer’s expectations begun in the early 1980 ( Lien, et al. , 2008). It was discovered that by improving the quality of the services provided, a company can achieve easier customer satisfaction and possibly in the long run customer loyalty. Customer service and communication is extremely important when trying to form relationship and ultimately to create loyalty.
It can also bring positive word of mouth, improve profitability, and influence the buying decision (Bailor, 2006). Due to the fact that services are intangible, promotion becomes more difficult. Customers cannot easily express their requirements and a gap between what customers expect from services and what they actually receive can be easily created. Based on this, there are three scenarios that can take place: service quality less than satisfactory, service quality more than satisfactory and service quality being satisfactory. The first situation occurs when the provided service is less than what was expected.
This will move towards a totally intolerable quality having a huge inconsistency between the expected and the offering. The second scenario takes place when the provided service over exceeds the expected. This will shift towards an ideal service with an increased positive attitude. Moreover, the third setting occur arise when the perceived service is equal with the one provided (Naik, et al. , 2010). A service conducted by the British Quality Foundation (2006) found that it is more costly to attract new customers than to retain the existing ones.
A high percentage of unsatisfied customers (98%) decided not to make formal complaints out of which 91% do not use the specific company’s services again. However, from the customers that do complain a high majority will use the services again if the complaints are answered promptly and with a good attitude provided by the staff. An important aspect in customer satisfaction is the measures used to quantify it. It is difficult to improve something and to acknowledge its problems if you do not know how to measure it. An initial way of measuring customer satisfaction is to give customer a voice (Joseph, et al. 2003). Most of the time identifying ways of measuring customer satisfaction is easier in theory than in practice. The company needs to have a well deigned measurement scheme, either in terms of surveys and questionnaires, structured interviews, focus groups or a mixed model approach (Mont and Plepys, 2003 ). Similar to all measurements the data needs to be collected from the customers, analyzed by the specific marketing department and be used for the improvement of the service quality. A large amount of companies choose to use external consulting companies to gather such data.
For example, Motorola has an annual contract with a private company to conduct surveys of their customers around the world (Russell and Taylor, 2009). The largest used index in the United States in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The measurement gathers information from both manufacture and service sector from 39 industries using more than 200 companies annually. The company’s score is translated in a number on a scale from 1 to 100, with 1 having some very unsatisfied customers and 100 being the companies with the most satisfied customers in the world.
In 2006 Amazon received a score of 37, which was the highest score ever received in the service industry (ACSI, 2011). This leads us to believe that a perfect score of 100 is an abstract concept quantifying perfection that until now was not achieved by any company in the service sector. Customer Loyalty One of the most erroneous ideas in marketing is that customer satisfaction directly leads to customer loyalty (Griffin, 2002). Managers wrongly assume that customer satisfaction creates a bond between the service provider and client that intern translates into loyalty.
For example, in a study conducted by a software company, the authors found that even though their customer satisfaction was high, a high majority of satisfied customers moved to a competitor due to the grater value for money. However, a possible explanation of the gap between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty could be the measure used to asses’ customer satisfaction. A qualitative approach that is widely used in marketing research comes with a set of limitations given by the subjective interpretation of the interviews, the interviewer’s experience and expectations, as well as the perceived expectations of the customers.
Thus, it could be argued that the gap between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty is not as big in reality as it appears (Griffin, 2002). Another misconception that the companies make is that they lack understanding of what constitutes customer retention and customer loyalty. Customer retention is simply put, a customer who made use of the service a number of times. Such clients can easily from one service provider to another. On the other hand, customer loyalty refers to the tight relation between service provider and the client. This can explain why market share expansion does not translate into more customer loyalty.
When a company expands it tends to diversify its practices and thus it’s a high possibility that you will lose the close relationship with its customers (Thompson, 2005). The GAP Model In order for the companies to quantify better their services the gap model was developed. This model implies finding out the actual or perceived gaps between what customers are expecting and their perception of the services offered. Another use of the gaps is for the management to improve the services offered and become more aware of what customers are expecting to be delivered. For this matter, four gaps were exposed.
The first gap is also known as the knowledge gap and its represent the differences in managing knowledge and their real expectations. This gap is caused by erroneous information in the marketing research, lack of feedback between the company and the customers, too many layers in the management, unsatisfactory relationship focus and inadequate service recovery. The second gap is also known for the lack in selecting designs and standards. This is the result of poor service design, nonexistence of customer driven standards, bad management planning and lack of clearly setting goals in the organization.
The third gap involves not delivering to the right services standard. It implies deficiencies in human resource police, problems with service mediators, failure to match supply and demand and customers who negatively impact each other. Finally, the fourth gap is the communication gap that arises when there is a difference between the service delivered and the one excepted. The gap is the result of overpromising services, ineffective management of customer’s expectations, absence of strong internal marketing program and lack of coordination between traditional marketing and procedures (see appendix 1).
Identification of GAPS in Marriott Hotels Marriott Hotel was chosen in order to apply the gap model for the hotel industry. Customer reviews about the hotel were examined in order to identify the gaps in the service. After secondary research it was discovered that this particular hotel experiences all the four gaps. Te first Gap was encountered when a customer was complaining about the poor service the hotel has. Firstly, the client suggested that special care was necessary due to a 14 months old child that was accommodated in the room. However, dangerous objects were left in the room and also a space that as in construction was disturbing the family on the entire accommodation period. Even though complains were made, the management did not pay attention to the customer’s needs (see appendix 2). This clearly suggests that the company fails in making amends when things go wrong and that the service recovery it is inadequate. The second Gap was met when a customer’s privacy was dishonored by the staff in the hotel. After placing a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door, the client suggested that after the cleaning services staff entered the room some cosmetic products disappeared (see appendix 3).
This implies the fact that there is an absence of process management to focus on customer requirements and also that there is a lack of customer driven service standards. The third Gap in Marriott services was encountered when an employee was complaining about the inappropriate working conditions offered (see appendix 4). This suggests the fact that there is an unsuitable evolution and compensation systems, lack of empowerment and perceived control over teamwork. The fourth Gap was met due to the over promising services regarding a special support for people with disabilities.
Regardless of the fact that Marriott established a foundation for people with disabilities (CSR, 2008), a customer was complaining about the fact that he was asking for a special room that was not provided for him (see appendix 5). Solutions for closing the GAPS Since there were encountered so many problems in delivering the services in Marriott hotels, the upper management should take into consideration the complaints done by the customers in order to improve their overall activity. First of all, in order to close the first Gap as much as possible they should try to pay more attention to the customer’s wants and needs.
They have to be ready to find an immediate solution for the problems that arise in order to satisfy them. A deeper relationship has to be created in order to improve the communication between the company and the clientele. The closing of the second Gap can be possible only by designing a better service and customer-driven standards. They should pay more attention to respecting the customers and also their privacy. New rules and regulations for the staff have to be clearly settled from the upper management.
The third gap can be reduced by setting some normal standards of working environment that keep the employees safe. The human resource policies have to be redesigned. By keeping the employees happy, the level of customer satisfaction grows, due to the better service delivering. Since customers appreciate all the time honesty and openness, the company should pay more attention to keeping their promises when delivering their services. In this particular case the fact that the company has a foundation, makes it more important to support their promises. Discussion
After this study was conducted some very important issues regarding the delivering of services in Marriott Hotels were encountered. However, the secondary research conducted based on forums and chartrooms is not very reliable. All the people that uttered their experiences can be seen as very subjective due to the fact that the reviews are not academicals. Moreover, one can think of the fact that the answers came from the competition that was trying to give a bad reputation to the hotel. Nevertheless, this was the only way of finding out what people experienced regarding the services offered at the hotel.
Key Points Learned • Understanding of the service industry • Each customer having a unique perspective on the services provided • Application of marketing theory in services • Understanding service quality • An in-depth understanding of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty • Understanding of The Gap Model • Application of this model in real life situations Conclusion Achieving customer satisfaction is one the most important assets that a service company can have. However, this is a very difficult thing to do especially nowadays when the consumers are so demanding.
Nonetheless, the marketing tools can be always helpful in trying to see the needs and the wants of the customers. The only most important thing for the companies is to know how to take advantage of this and continuously improve their services. References • ACSI, (2011) About The American Customer Satisfaction Index. [online] available from http://www. theacsi. org/index. php? option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=111 [accessed on 12. 05. 2011]. • Bailor, J. , (2006) Understanding Consumers, Gaining Loyalty in Return. Sales and Marketing Management, 158(2), 30-45. British Quality Foundation, (2006) Back to basics. Quality World, 32(5), 37. • Complaints Official Website, (2011) [online] available from http://www. complaintsboard. com/complaints/treatment-of-employees-c416000. html [accesed on 10. 05. 2011 ] • Consumer Affairs Official Website, (2010) [online] available from http://www. consumeraffairs. com/travel/marriott. html [accessed on 10. 05. 2011] • CSR Official Website, (2008) Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities names Shelby Hill, Program Director of Washington, D. C. [online] available from http://www. srwire. com/press_releases/25254-Marriott-Foundation-for-People-with-Disabilities-names-Shelby-Hill-Program-Director-of-Washington-D-C- [accessed on 10. 05. 2011] • Griffin, J. , (2002). A closer look at loyalty . In: Bass,J. Customer Loyalty: How to keep it how to earn it. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Wiley. • Joseph, M. , et al. , (2003) Using the Importance Performance Grid to Evaluate International Student Perceptions of Service Quality in Education: an Investigation from an Australian College Perspective. Journal of Advancement of Marketing Education, 3, 11-22. Kheng, L. L. et al. , (2010) The Impact of Service Quality on Customer Loyalty: A study of Banks in Penang, Malaysia. International Journal of Marketing Studies,2(2), 57-65. • Lien, N. H. , et al. , (2008) The Effects of Service Quality Dimensions on Customer Satisfaction Across Different Service Types: Alternative Differentiation As a Moderator. Advances in Consumer Research, 35, 552-560. • Mittal, V. , et al. , (2004) Geographic Patterns in Customer Service and Satisfaction: an Empirical Investigation. Journal of Marketing, 68(7), 48-62. • Mont, O. and Plepys, A. (2003) Customer Satisfaction: Review of Literature and Application to the Product-Service Systems. International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, 3(28), 10-23. • Naik, C. N. , et al. , (2010) Service Quality and its Effect on Consumer Satisfaction in Retailing. European Journal of Social Sciences, 16(2), 231-240. • Nalini, H. M. and Samuel, S. , (2011) Importance- Performance Analysis to determine Service Quality of a Restaurant Service- An Empirical Study. Advances in Management, 4(2), 52-57. • Parasuraman, A. , Zeithaml, V. A. & Berry, L. L. (1985) A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and Its Implications for Future Research. Journal of Marketing, 49(4), 41-50. • Russell, A. and Taylor, B. , (2009). Operations Management Along the Supply Chain. 6th ed. Asia: Wiley. 53-70. • Sachdev, S. B. and Verma, H. V. , (2004) Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions: A Multisectoral study. Journal of Services Research, 4(1), 94-100. • Sharma, S. , (2002) Changing face of life insurance in India. Insurance Chronical, 12, 24-27. • Thompson, B. , (2005) The Loyalty Connection: Secrets to Customer Retention and Increased Profits. Right Now Technologies, 3, 5-14.
Appendix Appendix1- The Gap model (Presurama,1985) [pic] Appendix 2 – The first Gap (Complaints Website, 2011) Poor customer service Complaint Rating: [pic] Company information: Marriott Switzerland Where to start: I have never made a complaint in 35 years of and in the last 15 years of traveling 40% of the time for my job, but I need to do so now. I am currently in the Marriott in Zurich paying 640CHF (642USD) per night for a premium room (not a suite, but slightly larger than the standard room). To start off we came to the hotel and were given the keys and only then were told there would be some construction in the hotel.
We asked why we were told just then and not when booking and received no reply. We asked about another room further from construction because we have 14month child and she needs to take naps during the day and they could not come up with a better room. I or my husband make over 30 nights in Marriott hotels per year because we can get a free night here or there for vacations using the points. Well to begin with the room was very cramped. I went to order room service and the cheapest item on the menu was the 36USD burger. The cheapest item on the kids menu was a small portion of spagetti for 19USD.
So to begin with it was a very expensive week say, and the construction was not some construction as described, but it was a jackhammer being used in the room next to our room. The hallway was a mess with construction materials and hotel items like buckets, mops and all sorts of things I didnt want my child touching. I complained the 3rd day after 3 hours of non stop jack hammering and a piercing headache because my child was terrified and cranky since she could not get any sleep so she screamed at the top of her lungs for 3 straight hours.
I called Myriam at the at your service desk and she kept repeating that she could not hear me and asked me to repeat myself at least 20times because of all the noise inside my room from the construction, the baby crying and my loud voice from trying to talk over it all. She finally kept repeating that there was a note in my room that neither my husband or I saw that stated that there would be construction until 630 everyday and with no end date. She never acknowledged my pleas for asprin and never offered me another room or an appology.
She did after the second call offer free food for lunch at one of their restruants. Finally, I took the baby downstairs and demanded that they move me to another room. Another person helped, but promised asprin and did not deliver it for another 1. 5 hours and the move of the items from one room to the other took several hours and they just threw the bags and boxes of stuff that had been neatly folded in drawers in the room. This after spending 350USD on laundering and drycleaning the day before. Finally to sum it all up the free dinner that was offered was just put on my bill and they never paid for it.
It came to another 100USD that I would have never spent in this horrible hotel if I had known that it would be charged to me. Needless to say I am going to put the whole ordeal on utube and let the public decide if they would ever stay in a horrible place like this. Fair warning. Appendix 3- The second Gap (Consumer Affairs, 2010) I wanted to have privacy and left DO NOT DISTURB LABEL on the door of my room before I went out in the city. Unfortunatelly when I came back later this day, the LABLE DO NOT DISTURB was gone, MY PRIVACY WAS VIOLATED,my room was cleaned and MY PERSONAL BELONGINGS (DESIGNER COSMETIC PRODUCTS) were gone as well.
These cosmetic products (Clarins Paris Rouge Prodige 130, Clarins Paris Baume Couleur Levres Lip Balm, Clinique Powedr makeup, Lancome Ombre absolue, Clarins Baume Beaute Eclair le Visage, Clarins Capital Lumiere Jour were in other possession for several hours and for hygiene reasons are not possible to be used by me. Not to mention the disappointment of the violation of my privacy. J. of San Francisco, CA Dec. 26, 2010 Appendix 4- The third Gap (Consumer Complaints, 2011) Treatment of Employees Complaint Rating: [pic] Company information: Marriott International
Medford, Massachusetts United States My spouse is a Marriott employee and currently works at their new regional sales office called the “ONE” office in New England. It’s currently a blizzard outside and has been since late yesterday afternoon. Although many of the higher up employees have chosen to take paid time off to stay home, they are forcing their employees to go into work in hazardous and extremely dangerous conditions (to give you an idea: there have been over a dozen accidents already this morning on just my spouse’s route to work).
Throughout the day we are supposed to receive more than 24-36 inches of snow and somehow the head of this office believes it’s safe to send their employees in. This has been a continuous tune this winter since the weather has started to become tumultuous. We are getting hit with multiple feet of snow, ice and hail at least once a week and Marriott has only closed their office but once.
They are so concerned with not paying additional costs to shut down the office, they are dying to let their employees take the already banked paid time off. But then, how can their employees matter to them? They are putting their lives at risk as well as the lives of anyone else who is on the road to work today. What about the families of their employees? They claim to be based on family values and a family company but yet they may very well be stealing the life of someone precious from their family today by sheer fate of an accident.
My spouse has loved working for Marriott but I have completely jumped off that bandwagon and am encouraging my spouse to wholeheartidly pursue outside the company. Any company that would put their employees lives at risk to save a dime should be sued for negligence and believe me when I saw, I will be the first to bring suit if anything happens to my spouse because of their inhumane need to save a penny. My advice: NEVER work for Marriott! Your life is at risk! Appendix 5. The fourth Gap (Consumer Affair, 2010) GAP 4 —disabilities