Example Business Essay:Quality assurance systems in the upscale hotel sector

Example Business Essay:Quality assurance systems in the upscale hotel sector
Quality assurance systems are an important element of any business strategy. As Porter (1985 and 2004) suggests, quality is now seen as a major force for gaining competitive advantage, particularly with the consumer. There is no commercial activity where this is more important than in the hotel sector. As Yavas et al (1995) state, “the question is no longer whether to have quality assurance programmes, but rather how to make these programmes work,” within this sector of hospitality.
It can be argued that in terms of quality assurance systems delivery the hotel sector is in a distinctive position, particularly when it is related to service satisfaction (Parasuraman 1997, Schiffman and Kanuk 2000). Unlike most other industries, where customer contact and engagement during a visit might be fleeting, as happens in retail shop environment, a hotel’s interaction with customers can last from a few hours to several days. Furthermore, as Kandampully et al (2001, p.28) the quality of the hotel product also has to take into account the “customer-to-customer interactions.”

Following a brief literature review, the intention of this essay is to examine quality assurance systems and evaluate the effect that these systems have upon service quality and customer satisfaction within the upscale Hotel market.

Quality assurance and management within the hotel environment is focused upon satisfying the customer. Therefore, this review concentrates on the existing literature relating to customer satisfaction and the various methods and frameworks of service quality related to this focus.

Academic literature relating to customer satisfaction falls within two main categories, these being the psychological perceptions of the customer and the practical ways in which customer satisfaction can be implemented to help a business achieve its objectives. In the hotel sector, this objective is “to try and engender a high level of customersatisfaction in order to positively influence our customers' repurchasing and communicative behaviour” (Hennig-Thurau and Hassen (2000, p.62).

However, to achieve this aim the business has to understand what drives customer satisfaction. Christopher (1984), Holbrook (1999), Schiffmand and Kanuk 2000 and Brennen (2003) all agree that satisfaction is related to the consumer’s perception or judgement of a product experience and value when set against their expectations and the payment made. Zeithaml’s (1998, p.14) describes it as follows, being that “Perceived value is the consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product based on perceptions of what is received and what is given … value represents a trade-off of the salient give and get components,” in other words the cost paid is measured against the value expected . Therefore, it can be suggested that the greater the service quality the higher the satisfaction (Kandampully et al. 2001, p.8) and, conversely, the higher the price the greater the perception of value.

Bostepe (2007) further identifies that, within a service environment such as a hotel, consumer satisfaction does not simply rely upon the quality of service satisfaction received from business employees, although this is an essential element. The physical environment, for example the décor, bedrooms and other facilities offered, are also elements of the consumer’s perceived value and service satisfaction. If any of these are deemed as sub-standard, particularly when related to the price paid, this will reduce the customer’s enjoyment and levels of satisfaction.

It follows therefore that only by concentration upon providing quality within all of these areas of the product will the business be able to assure satisfaction and encourage customer loyalty (Holbrook 1999, p.121), which Porter (1998), Parasuraman (1997) Agrawal (2000) and Harrison (2003) all agree is essential to competitive advantage.

There are numerous “quality assurance” measurement systems and standards available for use within the business environment. Customer feedback is one such measurement. Client feedback can be achieved by two methods. The first way is to provide questionnaires that hotel guests are asked to complete before the end of their stay. The second is to rely upon externally conducted questionnaires, interviews and polls, which can be conducted on a continuous basis.

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