Food and Beverage Management
Service failure is a common phenomenon in industries such as the hospitality industry, and to overcome the same, these industries come up with various service recovery strategies. Service recovery, in the event of service failure, has been highlighted as an opportunity through which firms regain trust, loyalty, and confidence of customers. Lee and Sparks (2007) believe that the evaluation of customers on how firms in the hospitality industry provide quality services is based on how well the initial services are managed and the actions that are taken to realign provided services to meet the expectations of customers. Unlike other industries such as car manufacturing that offer tangle products to customers, firms in the hospitality industry are likely to fail in service delivery because of intangible or experiential nature of services offered, and this is coupled with simultaneous consumption and production. These factors in mind, it is almost impossible for hospitality firms to guarantee services that are error-free. There are other uncontrollable external factors that play a part in service failure in hospitality firms, and these include customer late arrival and unexpected employee illness.
Moreover, the greater likelihood for mistakes in hospitality firms is attributed to the high level of human interaction involving individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. In situations of service failure, (Lewis and McCann, 2004) believe that it is imperative for stakeholders in hospitality firms to come up with service recovery efforts, which in the long see customers’ return to a state of satisfaction or delight. In respect of the perspectives, this paper discusses and critically evaluates the various factors that cause delight and dissatisfaction among customers in hospitality firms as well as identifying the key factors that lead to the service failure in these firms. It goes ahead to identify and evaluate the consequences of service failure to hospitality firms and the consumers. Also, this paper identifies implementable policies and procedures which can lead to positive service recovery and concludes with a presentation of recommendations.
The various factors that cause delight and dissatisfaction among customers
Customer delight, also known as customer satisfaction, is often viewed or perceived as an attitude-like judgment that is based on a series of interactions between a consumer and a service or product. Mattila and Ro (2008) argue that in the hospitality sector, there are a series of service encounters, and each encounter plays a role in customer delight or satisfaction. Research indicates that the hospitality firms’ service encounters occur in four stages, which are the reception, ordering, meal consumption, and check-out. Customer delight, in most cases, helps in the prediction of behavioral intentions such as the customer’s revisit to a restaurant or hotel. On the other hand, customer dissatisfaction, in most cases, is accompanied by intense emotions as well as perceptions of unfairness. Customer dissatisfaction is often as a result of poor service delivery, which triggers negative customer responses. To enhance customer delight and curb customer dissatisfaction, understanding the various causative factors is important. One of the factors that cause customer delight in the hospitality industry is having positive relationships between employees and customers.
Positive relationships help enhance trust between customers and employees, and this, in the long run, results in delight both on the side of employees and customers. This has seen hospitality firms increase their investments to improve relationships between employees and customers. It should be noted that with better relationship quality, behaviors of customers are enhanced; creating a positive word of mouth as well as increasing repeated guest rates, perspectives that highlight customer delight. Another causal factor for customer delight is enhanced safety and security of customers in hospitality firms. Safety and security imply that managements of hospitality firms prioritize and protect customers from harsh treatment by employees as well as from attacks and harm from potential terrorist attacks. When customers feel comfortable, safe, and secure, they are likely to become loyal and exhibit repeated visits, and these are some of the perspectives that highlight customer delight.
Moreover, providing high-quality services, which are preferred and rated highly by customers, is a starting point and one of the key factors that cause customer delight or satisfaction. According to Lee et al (2011), provision of quality services entails including diets that play a significant role in improving health conditions and living standards of customers. Through this, positive behavioral responses from customers are likely to be witnessed, illustrating delight or satisfaction on the side of customers. When it comes to customer satisfaction in the hotel or hospitality industry, there various factors involved in the same. One of the leading causes of customer dissatisfaction in the hospitality industry is negative attitudes and behaviors of employees. In several hotels where customer dissatisfaction has been reported, complaints about negative attitudes and behaviors of employees often stand out. When employees exhibit negative attitudes and behaviors, their relationship with customers is likely to be in jeopardy, and in the long run, customers often feel ignored, unwanted, or not welcome. As such, repeated visits are often rare or minimal in hotels where employees have negative attitudes and behaviors.
Customer dissatisfaction in hospitality firms is also caused by slow service delivery especially at the till, which makes customers queue for long durations (O’Neill and Mattila, 2004). Nothing interferes with customers’ happiness, and commitment to a specific hotel as long queues and every hotel is committed to addressing this menace by introducing advanced technological equipment or increasing the number of employees providing services especially at reception or till venues. Moreover, there are hospitality firms that receive first-time or new customers who may not be aware of procedures or operations in these firms. A factor that causes dissatisfaction for first-time or new employees is the lack of employee or staff assistance. When customers are left to do everything on their own from ordering to meal consumption to checking out, they often feel ignored, and this plays a significant role in their dissatisfaction. It is important for hospitality firms to prioritize customers by ensuring that they are assisted in every operation in these firms if the issue of customer dissatisfaction is to be addressed.
Key factors that lead to service failure
Hess et al (2003) define service failure as a perspective that arises when customers are dissatisfied because a particular service was not delivered by a hospitality firm as originally expected or planned. Imperatively, service failures are often determined by the customer and not by the service organization as perceived by many. As such, one of the key factors that lead to service failure in hospitality firms is the unavailability of services. The ‘unavailable services” concept refers to particular services that are often available but are lacking or are absent at the time of request by a customer (Othman et al, 2013). For instance, when a hotel announces that rooms are available during summer but a customer later finds that all rooms are booked, which results in service failure. It is the duty of hotels and other hospitality firms to provide alternative services to customers to prevent service failures. Another factor that leads to service failure in the hospitality sector is unreasonably slow service provision, which relates to services or employees perceived by customers as being inordinately slow in the fulfillment of their functions or responsibilities.
Lengthy queues, which are common in hotels, are illustrations of service failures because customers often expect to complete their activities within a given duration. Also, the failure to meet basic performance standards for the hospitality industry is a factor that leads to service failure (Huang, 2008). For instance, when a hotel room is dirty or when a customer’s meal is cold, these are in contrary to the expectations of the customer, and thus, results in service failure. It is also important to note that the failure to respond to a customer’s special needs contributes to service failure. When it comes to special needs, attention and focus should be on taking care of a customer’s individual requests such as language requirements or medical requests (Komunda and Osarenkhoe, 2012, p 85).
In most cases, hotels or restaurants commit to meeting special needs of their customers, and when they fail to do so, the expectations of customers are compromised resulting in service failure. The lack of response to customer errors is also a factor that leads to service failure in the hospitality sector. New customers are often prone to errors as it is their first time in hotels or restaurants and are not conversant with laid down procedures or guidelines. The failure to respond to customers’ errors or taking steps or measures to correct the problems or errors committed by customers lead to service failure.
There is a close association between customer dissatisfaction and service failure, and this implies that myriads of factors that result in customer’s dissatisfaction also result in service failure, especially in the hospitality sector or industry (Boshor and Staude, 2003, p 34). As already mentioned, lack of attention by employees to customers is a causal factor for both customer dissatisfaction and service failure. Lack of attention is common among employees who develop attitude problems, and this is always in contrary to the expectations of customers, making it a causal factor for service failure. Like in other sectors, employees in the hospitality sector are tasked with paying attention to employees, and failure or lack of the same is often regarded as a factor that leads to service failure.
Additionally, the exhibition of unusual behaviors by employees in the hospitality sector is seen as a factor that leads to service failure. Some of the unusual behaviors exhibited by employees that go against expectations of customers include rudeness, inappropriate touching, and abusiveness. These behaviors go hand in hand with the violation of cultural norms such as stealing from the customer, cheating or displaying false information about the hotel or restaurant, which also lead to service failure (Mupemhi et al, 2006).
Consequences of service failure to the business and the consumer
In such as challenging and competitive hospitality market and industry, the managers of firms in this sector attempt to offer high-quality and satisfactory services to consumers. However, the difficulty faced in avoiding occasional service failures cannot go unnoticed, with some of the common service failures being late service delivery, insufficient information about products and services, as well as poor customer service support or assistance. According to Gursoy (2007), one of the consequences of service failure is that it results in the dissatisfaction of consumers, and this leads to negative word of mouth, which is detrimental to the profitability and growth of the business. In other words, services failure results in dissatisfied consumers, and the more dissatisfied they become, the more likely they are to spread false information and negative word of mouth about their service experiences with a given hotel or restaurant. With the spread of negative word of mouth, potential consumers will be scared or driven away, reducing the firm’s profitability or growth.
Other than spreading false information about a firm and negative word of mouth, service failure can result in a customer becoming disengaged and withdraw or stop buying products or services from a firm where service failure is experienced. Memarbashi (2012) opine that if a consumer stops purchasing services or products, it is highly likely that the business will lose one of its several customers, which in extension, will result in significant loss of income for the business. In extreme cases, a frustrated customer could take away other loyal consumers or customers leaving the business at a competitive disadvantage (Mostert et al., 2009, p 120).
Another consequence of service failure for businesses in the hospitality sector is the development of poor relationships between employees and customers. Chou et al (2009) believe that every business in the hospitality sector aims at ensuring positive relationships between employees and customers as one of the strategies of achieving customer retention. Once service failure is witnessed in a particular business, the relationship between employees and consumers is jeopardized, and the trust of consumers on service delivery is lost. Since customers are critical to businesses, the loss of trust and poor relationships between them and employees could have adverse effects on income generation and profitability. It is common to hear of customers’ defection to competitor businesses, and this is one of the several consequences of service failure. When service failure is experienced by consumers in one business, they defect to competitors with the aim of obtaining quality product or service provision (Sparks and Fredline, 2007, p 243).
The result of customer defection is that their previous preferred business of firm becomes inferior to the new business. It should also be noted that a key consequence of service failure is frequent conflicts from the business perspective. During the recruitment of new employees, managers in the hospitality sector give priority to employees who are likely to meet the special needs and demands of customers or consumers. However, as mentioned earlier, one of the leading causes of service failure in the hospitality sector is the failure to meet special needs of consumers, and when this happens, conflict between employees and managers is experienced.
Implementable policies and procedures that can lead to positive service recovery
According to Warden et al. (2008), service recovery entails actions, policies or procedures put in place by organizations, firms, or businesses in response to service failure, with the objective being to change dissatisfaction of customers to satisfaction as well as retaining them. It is the duty of management of organization to provide full support to positive service recovery because ineffective service recovery would see customers let down for the second time. For positive service recovery, a policy that ought to be formulated and implemented by firms in the hospitality sector is frequent communication with customers who have experienced in the past or who are experiencing service failures. This communication should involve providing customers with feedback regarding the service failure or offering an explanation for the reasons or factors that led to the service failure. Also, it is important for firms in the hospitality industry to hire service-recovery personnel who are professional in their actions, and who will ensure that service failure is not witnessed again. Another key procedure that can lead to positive service delivery is the provision of an apology for the service failure, which should go hand in hand with presenting consumers with some compensation forms such as offering vouchers or discounts.
Petzer and Steyn (2006) indicates that offering discounts or vouchers to customers especially after their experience with service failure, is likely to enhance their retention and loyalty, thereby highlighting positive service recovery. Another policy, which should be implemented by firms in the hospitality sector, with the aim of achieving positive service recovery is the training and empowerment of employees to deal with service failure effectively (Silber et al., 2009, p 732). Employees with the idea or information on how to handle or deal with service failure are more likely to help achieve positive service recovery than those with no such information. Moreover, in the case of service failure, organizations in the hospitality industry should provide assurance to consumers who have experienced service failure that the same will not be experienced in future, and through this, positive service recovery is often assured.
There are various recommendations that organizations, especially those in the hospitality industry, should consider if they are to prevent incidences of service failure. As mentioned earlier, negative attitudes and unacceptable behaviors of employees play a significant role in service failure. As such, it is recommended that employers should strive to manage employees’ emotional response to customers when providing services to them. Hugo (2013) is of the opinion that with the management of employees’ emotional response, poor or ineffective relationships between them and consumers will not be experienced, and possible service failure might be prevented.
Another recommendation is that employers or managements should pay attention to employee satisfaction as this will enhance how they interact with or engage consumers. It is also recommended that firms in the hospitality industries should learn from their service failures and apply what is learned to create a set of knowledge that can be used for continuous transformational change and innovation and to amend their existing systems. Mattila (2006) articulates that the idea of purchasing new systems is more costly than amending existing systems, and this is what firms need to consider. The amendment of existing systems plays a significant role in preventing possible or future service failures.
Moreover, firms, in a bid to prevent or address frequent service failures, should be better equipped to provide customers with better value, and this can only be achieved by putting in place more reliable and continuously updated service systems as the market undergoes evolution over time (Bradley and Sparks, 2009, p 132). Most importantly, in case of service failures, it is recommended that organizations especially those in the hospitality industry should provide feedback to consumers on whether the failure has been addressed or not and providing assurance that the service failure would not be experienced in future. Organizations provide feedback to customers regarding service failures are often more successful in terms of customer retention and enhancement of customers loyalty.
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