In first chapter, we will present background of research topic, formulate the research question, aim of the thesis and limitation of our study.
Today, tourism industry is the most valuable industry because it has significant impacts on the social and economic development of a region or country (Avelini Holjevac, 2003). Tourism industry worldwide generated US $ 944 billion sales in 2008 or it was 30% of the world's exports of services. In 2008, international tourists arrivals grew 922 million and World Tourism Organization (WTO) forecasts that approximately 1.6 billion new arrivals of international tourists are expected in 2020 worldwide. Tourism industry is in fourth rank after fuels, chemicals and automotive products among export category. Above facts and figures shows that tourism industry is key industry in world's economy and it contributes to employment directly and indirectly and thousands of families rely on the income of tourism industry. For small islands or specific regional and local destinations the importance of tourism is more significant where tourism is a key to economic sector (WTO 2009 Publications).
In tourism industry, hotels are one of the most important organizations for providing services. In this respect quality services depends on service company and service employees. According to Sperdin and Peters (2009), customers do not only expect professional services but also want satisfying experiences with good performance in purchasing services because service performance is the core of every service. In tourism industry, hotel services have more frequency of interaction with customers as compared to other service industries (Hoffman & Chung, 1999).
According to Chen and Yu (2009), service employees are the presenter of the organization and service employees who are knowledgeable can influence the perceptions of the buyers. Moreover they stated that, customer service employees can influence the five dimensions of service quality; reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibility. Customer service contains verbal and non verbal behaviors between service provider and customers (Clive Muir, 2008) and effective customer service is achieved through combining four areas: the services provided by service sector, the customer service employees hired by service company, the customers served by service company and the service managers hired by service companies and customer service can be broken if there is any disturbance in one of these four areas (Layman, 2001).
Among all attributes of service delivery process, service employee behavior and actions are important in a service company because they connect the organization with its customers and create long term relationships with their customers (Gwinner et al., 1998). Employee behaviors are defined as various consequences of actions carried out by employees within the organization (Hanna et al., 2004).
Ljander (2000) highlighted the importance of customer contact employees in hotel industry as they have more interaction with customers. He pointed out that managers should give more attention to CSEB (customer service representatives, waiters, and door and bell men, maids). Therefore in hotel services, according to (Kattara et al., 2008), key to competitive advantage is delivering superior customer services through front line staff.
According to Chun Min Kuo (2007), CSEB is very important factor for customer satisfaction and there is a relationship between CSEB and customer satisfaction. Moreover, he stated that CSEB is the key factor of customer satisfaction among nine factors of customer satisfaction in hotel industry. He recommended that for getting high degree of customer satisfaction, employees must focus on solve customer problems well and quickly, always thinking of the customer while serving, and offering appropriate service during service delivery process.
According to (Anderson et al., 2008), customer satisfaction has effects on market share, profitability, positive word of mouth, and customer retention and he stated that satisfaction level of every customer vary with customer characteristics (age, gender, price) and customer satisfaction (Skogland & Siguaw, 2004) includes service quality, product quality, price and location and moreover among these dimensions service quality (people factor) which includes tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, and empathy is more salient factor for determining overall customer satisfaction and repeated purchase behavior in service industries.
Customer satisfaction is essential for every service industry to achieve long term objectives because it leads to repeated purchases and positive word of mouth recommendations (Salzar et al., 2004). Moreover they described that behavioral intentions is one of the most important factors in hotel industry because hotel industry is very sensitive to word of mouth communications. A non satisfied customer tells his/her experience to 9 to 20 persons and obviously this will influence the hotel image in long run. Therefore, behavioral intentions of customer service employee are the causes of customer satisfaction. On other side in hotel services, customers show more satisfaction when service employees interact them with full empowerment and solve customer problems at the spot as stated by (Sparks et al., 1997).
Therefore, employees behavior either negative or positive, are highly correlated with overall customer satisfaction (Kattara et al., 2008), and results of Kattara research showed that employees behavior have great effect on the overall customer satisfaction in hotel sector. Customer Satisfaction based on availability of customer services and quality of customer services in all service businesses (Berry and Parasuraman, 1991).
Therefore, we will investigate the impact of customer service employee's behavior on customer satisfaction as it is mentioned earlier that people factor is the most important factor for the overall customer satisfaction, so the authors of this thesis have selected hotels situated in the region of Visby, Gotland.
1.2 Problem Formulation:
In hotel industry, customer service is the backbone of customer satisfaction. According to Anat Rafaeli 1993, customer service employees are the key players in shaping customer experiences because they ultimately control the manner in which the service transaction is delivered. Therefore, employees deliver tangible services in the form of delivering the food, helping a customer to his room in hotel and also deliver intangible services in the form of making visit again to the hotel. In customer services, customer service employee's behavior is the key ingredient for the satisfaction of customers. A research conducted by (Clive Muir, 2008), showed that employees smiling faces have strong impact on the customer satisfaction.
For customers, customer service employees are the organizations because they are the effective representative of the company and customer can easily judge the entire company with their actions and behaviors. For example, a cheerful “Good morning” and “Good evening” with courteous manner and sincere “thank you, and please come again”, have strong effects on customers and desire to return back. Moreover (Anat Rafateli, 1993) observed that customer contact employees create first impression, create cognitive frames for service assessment and shape and influence the the customer´s assessment of service quality that they receive. There are two kinds of behaviors during service delivery; positive behaviors and negative behaviors. Positive behaviors include smiling, friendliness and enthusiasm. Negative behaviors include sadness, frowning and anger.
Lemmink and Mattson (1998), have developed research about friendly employee's behavior with customer satisfaction. Their study showed that personal warmth by customer service employees leave positive impacts on customer satisfaction. So it is argued that, CSEB have significant impacts on hotel customers to remain with particular service company.
There is strong relationship between customer service employee's behavior and customer satisfaction with respect to customer gender, age, nationality, and purpose of visit, number of visits and length of visit. So the authors of this thesis are going to conduct research on the customer service employee's behavior on customer satisfaction and want to know to what extent customer service employee's behavior has influence on the satisfaction of the customers.
For conducting this research, authors have selected place of Visby in Gotland. Visby is popular and attractive place for tourists especially in summer season, when tourists not only come from Sweden but also a lot of tourists come from other European and Asian countries.
The objective of this thesis is to find out the relationship between customer service employees behavior with customer satisfaction in Visby hotels. Actually the main reason to conduct this research is that authors are interested to know that to what extent customers are satisfied with the behavioral intentions of customer services like behavior of front line staff, waiters, sweeper because this research will be helpful for hotel managers to motivate employees to behave positively with customers through customer service training and through implementing effective tools about customer satisfaction.
According to Tsai and Huang (2002), positive behavior of customer service employees have strong influence on customers to return back and pass positive comments to friends through mediating process of customer positive moods and perceived friendliness. Moreover, employee personality, politeness, friendliness and courtesy are the important factors of customer satisfaction (Kong & Jogaratnam, 2007).
1.3. Research Question:
After formulating the research problem the following research question had found,
“To what extent customer service employees' behaviors have influence on customer satisfaction in hotel industry”.
1.4. Research Purpose:
The main objective to conduct this research work is to find out the influence of customer service employees behaviors on customer satisfaction in Visby hotels and authors want to know that customers from different regions visited are satisfy with service intentions of service employees or not? As stated by (Kattara et al., 2008) employees behavior either negative or positive, are highly correlated to the customer overall satisfaction. Actually the main reason behind this research work is that authors are interested to explore to satisfactions levels of customers through the service employees in hotel industry and want to know that how much service employees are contributing the satisfaction of the customers.
1.5. Limitation of the Study:
This research work is limited for hotels situated in Visby, Gotland. Furthermore, the authors of this thesis conduct research with customer perspective because as above sated, due to close interaction between customer and customer service employees, service attitudes and behaviors plays a vital role in customer satisfaction.
1.6. Thesis outline:
Our Thesis is divided into five chapters. In first chapter, introduction of subject is presented with comprises of background, problem formulation, purpose and limitations in our study. Second chapter will discuss the methodology which will discuss the research strategy, qualitative and quantitative methods and data collection methods. Third chapter will discuss the literature review and authors will review the previous work of different authors. Forth chapter will discuss the results and findings of our research work. There findings will be based on primary and secondary data. In the last chapter authors will demonstrate the conclusions and limitations of the research work.
2. Research Methodologies
This chapter will present the research strategy with different research methods. These research methods will be discussed in this research.
Research strategy means general orientation for conducting business research. There are several strategies for conducting research. This research involves inductive and deductive methods of reasoning. In inductive methods of researching, research is based on specific observations and become specific later, thus observation and finding leads to creation of theory.
In opposite, deductive approach starts with general idea and become specific later, thus theory leads to observations and findings. (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
2.2. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods:
There are different ways for the collection of data; qualitative and quantitative methods. Authors of this thesis have selected both qualitative and quantitative methods.
According to Bryman & Bell (2007), qualitative research usually emphasizes words rather than numbers in the analysis and collection of data in research strategy. Qualitative research method is used to create understanding of attitudes, beliefs, motivation and interpretation of studied problem, collecting and analyzing data that cannot be expressed in numbers. According to Zafar and Rehman (2009), in research work combinations of qualitative and quantitative research methods are used.
In contrast, quantitative research methods are based quantification in the collection and analysis of data. According to Zafar and Rehman (2009), quantitative method is used to find some exact answers in the form of Yes or No.
To find the influence of CSEB on customer satisfaction in Visby hotels, both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be used simultaneously. Both methods would give more understanding about our findings. Therefore, the authors of this thesis had designed a questionnaire. The questionnaires were based on customer service employee's behavior and customer satisfaction with respect to age, gender, number of visits, purpose of visits etc.
2.3. Primary and Secondary Data:
There are two different sources for collection of data; primary data and secondary data sources. According to Strömgren (2007), primary data is directly related to study purpose and consist of interviews, surveys from different respondents. On the other hand, secondary data contains theoretical study which includes journals, books, articles and other publications.
Throughout research work, authors had used both primary and secondary data sources. Primary data was collected from students of Gotland University through conducting questionnaire developed for this research and secondary data was collected through websites and books recommended by University for collection of data. For this purpose we have used Library at Gotland University and found different journals, articles through Google scholar, Scrius, Science Direct and Sage Journal.
2.4. Literature review
The literature study is very important aspect during research work because it is used as a tool for providing the better understanding and knowledge of the research topic. Literature study provides better understanding of procedure and research approach and provides what kind of further development could be possible.
In research work, we had collected and analyzed information through literature, scientific journals, articles and books. We had discussed the services, customer services and its attributes, customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction dimensions, relationship of CSEB with customer satisfaction.
2.4 Research sample:
2.4.1 Sample site:
We started to collect primary data from Gotland University Students and from hotel customers. For this purpose, we had presented our questionnaire to students. During our questionnaire survey, we had observed that students showed their keen interest to fulfill the questionnaire about influence of CSEB on their satisfaction. On the other hand, we selected five famous hotels among all hotels in Visby and contacted hotel management to get permission for fulfilling our questionnaire from hotel customers. During fulfilling our questionnaire from hotel customers, we had observed that almost all hotel customers showed their deep interest to fulfill questionnaire after looking the research topic.
2.4.2 Sample size:
In our research work, sample size was 100 respondents. We had distributed 50 questions among university students and 50 questions among hotel customers. We had further divided our questionnaire among students and hotel customers on the bases of age and gender. The idea behind this strategy was to get better findings about the influence of CCEB on customer satisfaction among different age people and among different gender.
The questionnaire was developed under such idea that could be easy for answering questions from respondents as well as to get the authors intentions. The questionnaire was designed on the bases of open ended and close ended questions.
2.5.1 Open ended questions:
The open ended questions are used to understand the specific topic through accessing respondent's opinions, beliefs and attitudes. In open ended questions, respondents have the opportunity to describe what they ever in their mind about a particular subject area. While designing our questionnaire, we had kept in mind that it should not be so complicated and not too long that the respondent loses his/her intention and it should not be so short it create difficulty for us to get results from our research topic.
It was amazing for us that most of the people put their maximum efforts to fill out the questionnaire. It was surprising for us most of the students give their remarks and views about influence of CSEB on their satisfaction.
But during fulfilling our questionnaire from family, we had faced lot of difficulties because it was difficult to ask a family to give us some time to fill out questions. To accomplish this challenge, we purchased chocolates and offered to children with the families. This courteous behavior convinced people to take interest in filling out the questionnaire.
2.5.2 Close ended questions:
2.6 Survey Duration:
3 Literature Review:
In service industry, service organizations are continuously seeking to create and build competitive advantages in the competitive market through their offered services to achieve customer satisfaction and build long term relations with their customers. On the other side, customers are continuously seeking those companies whose are fulfilling their basic needs and expectations and giving them prestige to build long term relations with them..
In this respect, customer service employees are the most important part in hotel industry which are the representative of the organization and the most important infrastructure of tourism industry in hotel industry is customer satisfaction.
According to Loverlock & Wirtz (2007), it is important to recognize appropriate means and procedures that satisfy the customers. SERVQUAL model has been recognized as an efficient means for measuring service quality of customer service employees in service organizations.
What are services?
Different definitions have been introduced for services. Some definitions for services are as follows:
“The action of serving, helping, or benefiting; conduct tending to the welfare or advantage of another (Loverlock & Wirtz, 2007, p. 14).
Services are the “acts, deeds, performances, or efforts” (Rathmell, 1996).
Another definition was presented by Loverlock & Wirtz as follows;
Services are economic activities that offered by one party to another, most commonly employing time-based performances to bring about desired results in recipients themselves or in objects or other assets for which purchases have responsibility and in exchange for their money, time, and effort, service customers expect to obtain skills, facilities, networks, and systems; but they do not normally take ownership of any of the physical element involved. ( Loverlock & Wirtz, 2007, p. 15).
Specification of services:
According to Liverlock & Wirtz (2007), following features distinguish services from goods,
Service are intangible in nature such as processes, internet based transactions, and the attitudes and expertise of service personnel. Customers cannot taste and touch these elements and they are unable to see or hear them.
Difficult to Visualize and understand:
Service described as “mentally intangible”, meaning that it is difficult for customers to visualize the experience in advance of purchase and to understand what they will be getting.
Services are perishable and cannot be stored as inventory after purchasing or after using. Overall customer´s demand changes continuously and it is not possible to store these demand through making inventory.
Customer service definition:
According to Theocharis (2007), service strategy must be communicated to hotel employees in order to handle any confrontations arise from the customers. According to Walker (1990), hotel strategy must include customer needs and expectations and competitors' activities in order to create competitive advantage in products and services.
Jim Sullivan defines customer service as “the manner in which the customer is treated, a perceived value based on type of product, price, environment, and manner” (Sullivan, 1991, p.16).
Another definition of customer service was presented by Schechter, 1994), that “smiling, getting customers, names right and remembering their likes and dislikes”.
According to (Kattara et al., 1999), customer service is not only politeness and helpful attitude but also it includes helping customers with no hassle and with no delay in service delivery and be treated in a way that customers want with respectful manner and an appreciation for the customer's position.
Customer Service attributes:
According to (Stamatis, 1996), the acronym COMFORT can be used to present the importance of customer service;
COMFORT stands for,
It is argued that these are the most basic attributes of customer service and without these basic attributes; a true customer service is not possible. All these attributes depend on interpersonal skills, communication, empowerment, knowledge, sensitively, understanding and some kind of external behavior of service employees.
Caring shows that service companies must much spend time with customers to find out their real need, wants and expectations.
Service Company must be observant; it means when dealing with service related items, observations are contributing more to satisfying the customers than direct communication of service employees. Customer service employees must be actively listen the customer what the customer is communicating and more important for customer service employees is that, listen actively what the customer is not communicating.
Customer service must be mindful. It means that service employees and service organization exist to satisfy the customers. Without the customer´s need, customer service do not have a job and the organization does not have service to provide. If the organization does not recognize urgency, sensitivity, uniqueness, expectations, and influence of the customers, customer service will not be successful in satisfying the customer.
Customer service must be friendly. Friendliness in customer service means that providing guidance and information about the related service. Friendliness behavior in customer service encourages customers to tell the right problem openly without any hesitation.
Customer service must be obliging and patience is the keyword to customer satisfaction. Sometimes customers do not know what they want. Customer services are serving as guinea pig for their decisions. During obliging the customer, do not hesitate to educate the customer as well.
Customer service must be responsible. Customer services must provide relevant information in a clear, concise, and easy to understand manner. Responsibility shows customer service attention towards customer satisfaction.
Customer service must be tactful. During service delivery, there may be many problems between customer service and customers. Customer service must resolve customer problems through appropriate process and productive way to satisfy the customers which can be achieved through tactfulness. Tactfulness means that listen the customer conflicts actively, be patient and exchange ideas through proper way and clear the situation during service encounter.