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  • Subject area(s): Hospitality
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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‘Service quality is the difference between a customer’s expectations and the perception of the quality of service’.There is a firm belief that if these expectations are met and exceeded by yourself and your team members, your guests will return. Bateson’s theory states that the service quality can be measured by intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability and this has been evaluated further by Berry (1980) and Lovelock (1981).

Intangibility means that the hospitality services we provide don’t have a physical dimension; it cannot be touched, seen or used - only experienced. In other words, the core value of the service is produced in the buyer-seller relationship, for example between a waitress/waiter and their guests or between a receptionist and their guests that check in. These are true examples of the experiences that can make or break the quality of the service provided, and without this process there would not be a product. The 2007 study carried out by Cornell University states that the platform for customers to detail their experience within the hospitality business is becoming more and more popular among social media and review sites, consequently future guests can gain a perspective of what they may experience. Service quality is also measured by intangibility because it is all about the selling power of the company and how it can attract new and returning guests back, without them trying their facilities beforehand. This is what Sakas and Konstantopulous call the ‘spirit of hospitality’, they conclude that with a service quality development course, hotels sales were increased, customers left happy and returned often.

Heterogeneity measures service quality because it is the quality and standard of the human performance and how you react person to person, this varies from employee to employee and from customer to customer. This is because different guests prefer different styles of service. Heterogeneity mainly recognises the lack of consistency with the hotel or restaurant due to the different experience and personalities of their staff. Therefore, this may be a weakness for the hospitality industry as if the business is unable to maintain the same service performance, each and every day with different levels of business trade, the guest will not feel confident about returning to the business. As the customers’ needs differ, heterogeneity can also be a strength for the hospitality business as the differing attitudes and experiences of the employees can cater for this.

Inseparability is where the product is produced and consumed at the same time, by other words you cannot separate the product from the employee. This provides the business with complications as the product given to each guest is different as the training, experiences and personality of the staff are completely unalike. To overcome this problem, procedures and routines within the business need to be carried out in the same way by each employee, therefore meaning that the specific points of service will be the same just delivered in different ways. As stated by D. Bowie, F. Buttle and M. Brookes, there are specific ways to challenge this problem. By ensuring that each guest segment are compatible with each other and every employee is trained efficiently. This will minimise the difference between employees and in other words, improve the quality of service from each individual employee and across the business.

Hospitality is perishable, the services that the industry provides cannot be stored or resold. In other words the better service quality you provide, the less potential revenue would be lost. If you apply this to a hotel, the better service quality and facilities your provided the higher occupancy the hotel would have.  Service quality is also perishable because the guests cannot have the same experience again, therefore once someone has used or not used their item it cannot be repeated and experiences cannot be redone. For example, a restaurant cannot store their dining experience from the Friday night for the Saturday nights; you can’t ask a customer to head back into the hotel to start their experience from the beginning. Perishability is an important measure of service quality as it shows us that service needs to be perfect from the start and exceed customer expectations. There are no second chances.

Parasuraman’s service quality model SERVQUAL is the most applied model for evaluating and developing service quality  .This model is based on the difference between the expectation of service quality from guests and the perception of the received service quality. The actual performance of the hotel or restaurant is not examined and therefore cannot be examined from inside the hotel; only by someone outside. This can also be thought as a weakness, as it is vital for management to be able to examine their own property and be always improving.

However this theory is encouraged by Samson and Parker, 1994; Saleh and Ryan, 1991 who believe that it provides a useful insight and understanding into the business. The SERVQUAL model believes that there are 5 quality dimensions, these include tangible; reliability; responsiveness; assurance and empathy.  

The physical service environment within a hospitality business is an indication of the quality provided. In other words, if the hotel’s décor and furniture is dated, this may suggest to the guests that the service quality is also out of date, likewise, if the hotel’s facilities are very well cared for, then customers would expect a certain level of service from the staff.. As stated by Bitner (1992) ;Crane and Clarke, 1988 the physical environment does contribute to the service quality, and this study shows that the evaluation of service quality is higher due to the physical environment.

As the SERVQUAL model suggests, service quality can also be measured by responsiveness. For instance if a hospitality business is slow in getting back to a guest, they will feel less important and therefore this doesn’t meet their needs within the first contact. Consequently, the guest may be lost, or if they do arrive at the property they will start off with a pre-assumption about the hotel and their service, doing this means it may be hard for the hotel to reach or exceed their expectations as they potentially start out on the back foot. The theory reinforces that service quality can also be measured by responsiveness, as if the guest’s needs are met, their experience will be more enjoyable and their expectations exceeded. An example of this, is the acknowledgement of a returning guest to your hotel, remembering the guest’s name to greet them in the hall way or upgrading their room if possible at the mention of a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.

As described by D'Annunzio-Green, assurance is the knowledge and courtesy of the employees and their ability to inspire. Assurance measures service quality from outside the hotel, as it is providing guests with an indication of what quality standard the hotel is such as the Michelin guide and the AA guide. This is crucial to the industry because by providing hotels with stars/ rosettes it provides guests and business with a benchmark of what service and facilities should be provided. This measures service quality because if the expectations of the guests and these awards are not met, the perception of quality is lower than what was assured, leading to customer dissatisfaction. Listening to these comments may give a manager useful information on what needs to be done to improve quality of service.

Maxwell and Watson define empathy as the individualised attention to customers by making the effort to get to know your customers and their needs. This plays a vital part in the quality of service you deliver; it is measured by the way the hotel reacts to the guests needs, how they are made to feel welcome and if any special circumstances or occasions are taken into consideration. As shown by the study carried out by Altuantas 2012, Empathy was the most important service quality within the SERVQUAL model, this is because it had the ability to put people at ease. An example of this can be reservations in the hotel. This is the first department that deals with the gusts, and they can note special requests such as someone birthday anniversary or a medical circumstance. By being able to use empathy and put the guest at ease, the hotel becomes more responsive to the public which raises their quality of service and exceeds customers’ expectations.

The fifth dimension to the SERVQUAL model is reliability. This is important for service quality because if the hospitality business can provided the same services and the same service quality repeatedly, they will have happy guests. This is crucial as repeat guests and their recommendations are vital to the business. By increasing your reliability, your customer base will grow as you are delivering the same standard each visit and your guests feel confident in the business’ abilities. Reliability also measures service quality because if the guest can rely on the hotel/ restaurant when having allergies or special medical conditions they are meeting and exceeding their expectations, so in other words providing a good quality of service.

I undertook my placement year at Bovey Castle hotel, a five-star property in the middle of Dartmoor national park. As part of the Eden collection, and undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment. It combines elegance and country living effortlessly throughout its 300 acres, two restaurants and array of activities. Service quality is a number one priority as described by the resort director, Greg Fehler “Bovey Castle is a unique luxury Dartmoor retreat! My whole team pride themselves on providing first class service and hospitality to all our guests to ensure that their visit is a fantastic and truly unforgettable experience.”

Throughout my year, I carried out a rotation around hotel which included departments such as Food and Beverage, Reception, Reservations, Events, Housekeeping, Kitchen and shadowing the general manger. All departments taught me many different lessons, although all focussed immensely on service quality.

I have chosen to look at Food and Beverage and Reception within Bovey Castle, this is because I feel that they have the most contact time with guests so therefore service quality is at the top of their list.  As the first port of call, reception is very much guest focussed, this interaction with the guest sets the impression and tone for the rest or their stay. If the receptionist are friendly, enthusiastic and efficient this will provide the guest with an informative and quick check in. This is important as stated by R.C Lewis this repeatly is listed as an important feature which is looked for regularly and improves service quality. Within reception at Bovey Castle, service quality is described as going the extra mile and fulfilling the guests needs. The front of house manager, Sarah Fawden believes that this is done with a positive attitude and by motivating your team with a happy working environment and passing on good feedback from guests. If Bovey castle’s reception was to be evaluated by SERVQUAL they would pass as I believe they are responsive to guest needs, can provide assurance on issues that arise, have empathy and are reliable. Although I believe that they could improve on being reliable by making sure that guests who have queries are responded to within a reasonable amount of time, or chasing the departments that need to respond to these guests. This would also be done by improving communication within the whole of the hotel between each department, by providing the different departments with an understanding of what the other departments do and have to deal with this. This would create a stronger communication bond within the hotel and improve teamwork overall. A factor affecting service quality within reception at the moment is that they don’t have a full team of receptionists, by creating a bigger reception team this means that there is less pressure on the team, in other words they can provide greater service quality as there are more team members to tackle the guests needs and full fill them. The moral of the team can also affect service quality, because as heterogeneity shows us the happier the team is, the better service quality they will provide. As we can see from the questionnaire I provided to the reception team 4 out of 5, believed that quality of service would be improved in the hotel if the communication was developed. In other words, if the communication is perfected, the guests will have received better service quality and the team will be happier.

Food and Beverage with Bovey Castle was where I spent the most amount of time during my placement this included the Smith’s Brasserie; the casual dining option, including many pub classics in a stylish setting, The Great Western; the 3 AA rosette awarded exclusive fine dining restaurant and the Oak Bar; the main bar within Bovey castle with an extensive amount of gins, whiskeys and cocktails. Within these different outlets service quality is the main focus though it varies between each outlet. Smith’s brasserie has a more relaxed style of service, that puts the customer at ease and provides service without intruding on the guest’s time whereas the great western is a more glamourous affair with a set service style with encompasses all fine dining etiquette. Service quality is defined as knowledge and attitude by the Great Western Manger, Michal SW….. By having the ability to gain knowledge about guests dining in your restaurant before they arrive, it means that you are able to put the guest at ease straight away, from this service quality is improved. Service quality is also about attitude, by having a positive attitude throughout your department means that the employees and yourself are more inclined to go the extra mile for a guest and not only meet but exceed their expectation. I believe that within Bovey Castle there is a high standard of service quality although there are certain factors within food and beverage that affect quality of service which could be improve; these include rota management, contact time with guests and the importance of guests feedback. Rota management is very important for all hospitality departments as a sign of a good management shows that it values its employees by offering rotas that are flexible. Rotas dictate the mentality and enthusiasm of your staff. This was a big topic referred to on the questionnaire, as the great western staff believe that with a better rota and more staff their job satisfaction and service quality will improve.

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