Tourism has become one of the great pillars in the Mauritian economy since some years. Today Mauritius is very popular in the Indian ocean and has emerged as a major tourist destination. According to statistical research done, we can say that Mauritius is facing a continual increase in the inflow of visitors during the recent years. Consequently, the hospitality industry faced a rapid growth to accommodate demands, causing a great increase in the number of hotels. The total passenger arrivals during the period January to September 2010 numbered 879,833 representing an increase of 7.3% over the figure of 819,741 for the corresponding period of 2009. Tourist arrivals for the first nine months of 2010 attained 646,656. This represents an increase of 6.2% over the figure of 608,885 registered in the corresponding period of 2009. However, one of the greatest challenges facing hotel organisations today is the ever-growing volume and high level of competition. (Kamdampully et al ,2000).
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In the highly competitive hotel industry, service becomes one of the most important elements for gaining a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. Improving quality gaps has become a critical issue for the hotel industry in Mauritius as it represents an important source of competitive advantage. In consequence, hotels need to ensure customer satisfaction through the provision of high quality service to their guests for achieving their financial objectives. Increased employee performance is a viable way for hotels to remain competitive.
On the other hand, given that delivering service quality and satisfying customers has become the life hood of service providers. Per se, service quality and customer satisfaction need to be investigated to know where the hotel stands and to develop proper methods leading to excellence. The impression that tourists will have of the organisation as a whole will depend on their interaction with the front line employees which means that the latter have a role to play in service quality.
However, service quality control is of great importance for customer retention. Customer loyalty is a key determinant for the long term financial performance of organisations (Jones & sasser, 1995) . Reichheld and sasser (1990) found that if a firm increases its customer retention rate by 5%, then its total lifetime profits from a typical customer will rise by 25-125%.
1.2 Problem statement
The tourism and hospitality industry in our island is developing more rapidly than other industries. Based on data available on tourist arrivals and information gathered from stakeholders, tourist arrivals for the year 2010 has been revised upwards to 920,000. This represents an increase of 5.6% over the figure of 871,356 in 2009. Service quality occupies a significant role in the hotel industry as there is a need to provide service properly. Efficiency cannot be achieved without good & proper service quality standards. Assurance of service quality is of great importance in various hotels. So, it is important to alleviate all the downfalls of service quality in this sector to ensure satisfaction of customers .
This study is mainly carried out because in Mauritius, the main problem that the hospitality industry is facing nowadays is that demand for high quality service is increasing considerably due to competition. As our country is focussing more on tourism for a better economy, it is vital to see whether the expected class of services are provided to the tourists at the hotels. This shall allow Mauritius to respond to the challenges of the incoming competitive global business environment. By providing high quality service, hotels can enjoy long term profitability.
Adapting it to concerned hotel, it is important to know if the employees and the management of the hotel are providing high quality service to the guests to ensure customer satisfaction.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The aim of the study is to assess the level of service quality provided by the Hotel. This study will help to know the needs and expectations of the customers of the hotel. The study will also identify the hotel`s current situation and this will help the management of the hotel to develop future strategies to improve services .
The study will focus on these objectives :
To assess customers` perceptions and expectations of the level of service provided by the Hotel using a modified servqual model.
To identify aspects of service that reveal weak and strong areas ( Gaps ) of service quality.
To evaluate the level of customer satisfaction at the hotel.
To identify appropriate techniques, strategies or action plans to enhance the service at the hotel.
1.4 Profile of organisation
This 5 star hotel is one of the world’s great resorts -the height of cool, modern elegance, imbued with the warmth of tropical Mauritius, truly one of the “Leading Hotels of the World”. It lies on a beautiful stretch of sandy coast, looking out over tranquil Trou d’Eau Douce Bay. Out in the lagoon, are two beautiful islands, including Ile aux Cerfs with its spectacular 18-hole championship golf course, designed by Bernhard Langer.
This is 5-star luxury at its best, the perfect holiday setting for couples and families, with a fabulous range of facilities, including an extensive range of water sports and land-based activities, 5 restaurants, a renowned Givenchy spa and personal butler service.
The Resort also features three spectacular waterfront Villas, which have redefined the benchmark for luxury in Mauritius. Opened in May 2005, the hotel offer ultra-exclusive and spacious accommodation, using the latest technology to meet the high expectations of the most discerning guests.
The hotel comprises of 300 rooms including villas, standard rooms, junior suites, and royal suite. There are 2 Bars known and also 3 Restaurants
1.5 Outline of study
The study on assessing service Quality comprises five chapters .
Chapter 1 relates to the introduction on service quality in this new century. Then the problem statement is explained followed by the aims and objectives of the study and lastly the hotel profile is shown.
Chapter 2 consists of the literature review on service quality and discusses all its related key theories. This chapter has the main objective of broadening knowledge on service quality and customer satisfaction. The second part of the literature review sets out to develop and understanding of the distinctiveness application of service quality and customer satisfaction concepts to the tourism and hospitality industry.
Chapter 3 explains the methodology used throughout the study , the methods used for data collection, the sample size , the sample techniques , the data analysis , and the limitations of the study.
Chapter 4 presents the actual data findings accompanied by the necessary analysis.
Chapter 5 consists of the conclusion and recommendations pertaining to the study.
The literature review
The chapter sets out to clarify various concepts around which the thesis would be based. This part is normally divided into three sections whereby the first part gives an insight into the world of services. Then secondly the concept of service quality and its determinants are dealt with on a general point of view. And finally the last section offers a review of customer satisfaction and some elements of services attached to it.
Within the chapter, much emphasis has been focussed on the work of Parasuraman , Zeithaml and Berry (1988) who devoted particular attention to the field of service quality.
Since a couple of years services are growing in importance in the world economy and this is majorly due to the advent in technology. Services are diverse and omnipresent in most industries. They are economic activities that create value and provide benefit for customers at specific times and places as a result of bringing about a desired change in the recipient of the service (Lovelock, 2003). Services can also be viewed as including all economic activities whose output is not physical product or construction , is generally consumed at the time it is produced, and provides added value in forms (such as convenience , amusement , timeliness, comfort or health) that are essentially intangible concerns of its first purchaser ( zeithaml and bitner,2003)
Although the process of services may be tied up to physical products, their performances are essentially intangible and do not result in ownership of any kind. This can be identified in all the definitions .In simple terms services can be described as deeds, processes and performances.
Characteristics of services
Services cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard or smelled before they are bought, as they are rather performances than objects. Customers usually derive value from service without obtaining ownership of any tangible elements in most cases (lovelock 2003) . For example, a tourist cannot know how his holidays would be like, at a particular destination until he/she experiences it.
Production and consumption of services are done simultaneously, after that they had already been sold before hand. Services cannot be separated from their providers, whether they are people or machines ( Kotler and Armstrong,2001). Customers usually need to assist the production process or even participate in it. This often reveals to be an essential ingredient in the service experienced by the customer.
Services are subject to degrees of variability as they are performances that are frequently produced by humans ( Zeithaml and Bitner,2003). Performances vary from producer to producer, from the customer and from day to day. This is due to our uniqueness; productions of services are delivered differently and experiences, lived in unique ways.
Services are highly perishable items since they cannot be stored for later use or sale. It has a shorterm supply elasticity. Services cannot be stored and carried forward to a future time period (Rathwell,1966,Donnelly,1976 ; and Zeithaml et al..1985).For example, if a tourist reserved for a stay in a hotel during peak seasons ,he may not be re imburse if he does not show up.
Customer expectations are beliefs about service delivery that works as standards or reference points against which performance is judged . It provides understanding of how the customer defines quality of service and facilitates the development of customer satisfaction questionnaires ( Pizam and Ellis,1999). Consumer expectations , therefore , serve as the cornerstone or foundation on which service quality is measured ( Clow et al ..,1997) and represent a critical step in delivering quality service.
In simpler terms, Expectations is defined as a person`s thought of the future service that he/she will consume. These are expectations have arised by the person`s personal experience, on the internet, by friends and colleagues through word of mouth etc.
As diverse individuals, we all tend to see the world in our own specific ways. Customers act and react on the basis of their perceptions rather than on the objective reality, meaning that each customer experience services differently. Thus ,it is important for organisations to know how consumers perceive their services so as to take necessary dispositions to enhance quality.
Perception is defined as the process by which an individual selects ,organizes and interprets stimuli into meaningful and coherent picture of the world ( Schiffman and kanuk,2002) . Each consumer`s interpretation process is based on this own needs, values and expectations : as such , a cognitive judgement.
Customer perceptions are the evaluation of particular services by actually experiencing them. They are always considered relative to expectations . Oliver ( cited in Williams and buswell,2003) defined customer perceptions as `a comparison to excellence in service by the customer `. However , the notion of excellence is difficult to be known and whether this standard can be used to judge a particular service is questionable.
Finally, customer perceptions should not only be viewed as being made at the end of and experience ( zeithaml and al..,1990) . It is believed that there is an endless potential for judgements to be made all through out the service delivery process. Perception creation starts whrn the customer first enters the service provider`s premise and continues during the service delivery process till it ends . Thus , it may be assumed that an overall perception is built after a particular experience.
Service quality is a central issue in this ever growing service economy. It is considered a critical determinant of competitiveness, as it is a source of differentiation for various firms . For instance, and appropriate service quality definition is an essential starting point.
Through time , numerous quality concepts have been developed ,starting by shewhart ( cited in Williams and Buswells, 2003 ) with conformance to requirements. Then , Deming (1986) defined quality as the predictable degree of uniformity and dependability at low cost while juran proposed ‘fitness for purpose’ ( Juran and godfrey,1999). Afterwards, Feigenbaum ( 1991) came with the total quality control throughout the organisation. Crosby ( 1979) equated quality to conformance to requirements until Peters ( 1987) offered the concept of customers perception excellence , which revealed be be fundamental in assessing quality.
It is difficult to define service quality due to the various caracteristics of services ( such as tangibility ,perishability ) and to the changing needs and expectations of both providers and users. Quality practitioners view quality from various approaches but most of them prefer the user-based approach to quality. Kotler and Armstrong (2001) define quality as the ability to satisfy stated if implied needs with totality of features and characteristics of a service.
In broad terms, quality focuses on the benefits created for customers` side of the equation (lovelock,2003). It is all about how customers, both internal and external , evaluate an organisation`s services. Service quality is modelled as the consumer comparing service attribute ( perceptions) to standards of excellence/ ideals for those attributes ( expectations) (oliver,1993;Parasuraman e al.. 1988).
According to Deming ( cited in Van Der Wagen) , 1997) quality does not necessarily mean high quality. It means a predictable degree of uniformity and dependability, with a quality standard suited to the market . he also stated that as a concept , it is closely related to value for money. Whereas for Edvadsson ( 1998) , quality means satisfying needs and meeting expectations ; not only those of customers but also those of employees and owners.
High quality service is considered as a critical determinant of long term profitability as service quality affects the repurchase intentions of both existing and potential customers ( Ghobadian e al..,1994 ) . Hence , it can be stated the concept is an effective means to ensure survival or even obtain a competitive position in today`s dynamic environment. However , the only appropriate means is to thrive for continuous improvement.
Measuring service quality :
As service quality is becoming a major part of business practice , it is important to be able to measure and research its effectiveness ( Mei et al..,1999) . For instance , different management practitioners and writers proposed various models to assess service quality.
The figure 2.1 shows the gaps model of service quality
Source : Zeithaml , V.A , Parasuraman, A.,Berry, L.L ( 1990) ,Delivering Quality Service : Balancing Customer perceptions and Expectations.
Gap 1 : Customers expectation = Management Perceptions : as a result of inadequate marketing research orientation, lack of upward communication, insufficient relationship focus with both customer and stakeholders or even inadequate service recovery.
Gap 2 : Service quality Specifications – Management Perceptions: as a result of the absence of wholehearted management commitment to service quality , Poor service design, absence of customer – defined service standards or even inappropriate goal setting.
Gap 3 : Service Quality specifications – Service Delivery : owing to poorly qualified employees , inadequate internal support systems , insufficient capacity to serve , customers not filling their roles or problems with service intermediaries among others.
Gap 4 : Service Delivery – External communications : due to inadequate horizontal communication and propensity to over promise.
Gap 5 : Customer Expectations – customer Perceptions : as a result of influences exerted from customers` side and because of the previous four gaps ( providers` gaps)
Consequently, a process model ( Zeithaml et al..,1990) was developed to assess these gaps and take corrective actions.
SERVQUAL ( Parasuraman et al.,1990) had its roots from a strongly user oriented research done through numerous qualitative studies ( mainly focus groups). Parasuraman et al..,(1988) originally evolved a set of ten dimensions ,which was consolidated into five broad criteria after further in -depth research to evaluate service quality
SERVQUAL is viewed as the mostly used ,valid and generally accepted measurement tool ( brown and bond,1995). It assesses customers` expectations and perceptions of quality through five generic dimensions described below :
Reliability : ability to perform and deliver promised service dependablyand accurately.
Responsiveness : Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
Assurance : Employee`s knowledge , courtesy and ability to inspire trust and confidence ; serving with a smile and be courteous in their approach.
Empathy : Caring and individualized attention the firm provides its customers . Ability to make him feel unique and to cater to any of his requirements.
Tangibles : Appearances of physical facilities , equipments,personnel and communication materials used to enhance image of the organisation and to signal quality.
SERVQUAL questionnaire contains 2 sections : an expectations section consisting of 22 statements and a perceptions section consisting of a matching set of company-specific statements ( Zeithaml et al.,1990). Expectations are measured to serve as standards against which perceptions are compared to determine service quality gap. The instrument is applicable across a broad spectrum of services but it can be adapted or supplemented to fit the characteristics or specific research needs of an organisation.
the model has been criticized by a number of academics (Carman 1990; Babakus and Boller 1992; Teas 1994). Criticism was directed at the conceptual and operational base of the model, mostly its validity, reliability, operationalization of expectations, and dimensional structure. However, there is general agreement that servqual items are reliable predictors of overall service
quality (Khan 2003)
SERVPERF is quite a different approach from SERVQUAL in the sense that it tries to eliminate the expectations /perceptions problems ( Cronin and taylor, 1994 ) . It considers customer satisfaction, rather than service quality , as the sole construct determining purchase intentions . It is a performance-based model that considers service quality to be same as performance and Robledo (2001) confirmed that it is more appropriate for satisfaction measurement of Business` process by customers ( Baggs and Kleiner,1996)
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Importance -Performance Analysis ( IPA)
IPA is a technique used to identify attributes that are considered as important factors to customers. It measures their relative importance associated with a service/product and also indicates the degree of performance ,i.e level of satisfaction (Martilla and james ,1977). As SERVQUAL,IPA support the view that quality is a function of customer perceptions of performance.
Another model is the SERVPEX (Robledo ,2001), developed for airline services , which possess 26 attributes and a three -factor structure (tangibles, reliability and customer care). It is a basic tool for investigating perceived service quality and expectations.
Quality audit is also an instrument assessing quality . It is often carried out as part of quality standard certification processes (e.g ISO 9000) and in TQM programs ( Rajendra and Devadasan,2005). Various researches developed quality audit tools and techniques for specific fields ; chapman et al.,2002 ( cited in Rajendra et al., 2005), to enhance quality in libraries , while, Takeuchi et all,1983 ( cited in Chua Chow et al.,2005), to improve customer service.
Critical Incident Technique ( CIT)
A critical incident is an observable action or form of expression, which is complete enough in itself to allow inferences to be drawn ( Davis , 2006). CIT is a very useful technique in solving real workplace problems and Edvardsson and Roos (2001) confirmed its limitless capacities in dealing with these types of problems . For instance ,CIT provides a generic road map to identify and resolve organisational problems ,particularly customer- centered ones ( Davies,2006 ) . It is like analysing the interactions of customers with providers during a service delivery . As such , it can be applied to the total customer experience ( Williams and Buswell,2003). Unfortunately, CIT has had very little exposure in the practical sphere.
Direct Investigation Approach (DIA)
DIA is basically a qualitative technique , which is also known as mystery shopping . It involves disguising an inspector as a customer and allowing him to actually experience the service level of an organisation under evaluation ( Baggs and kleiner, 1996). It provides an objective snapshot of the service experience through the detailed report of encounters and observation that the inspector would submit.
QUALITROMETRO is a method on the service quality dimensions ,proposed by parasuraman et al.,1988, conceived for evaluation and “ON-LINE” service quality control(Francheschini and Rossetto, 1995b). It allows for the possibility of a separate measurement of expected (observed as ex-ante) and perceived (observed as ex-post) quality without the potential for cross-influence on the same questionnaire . But QUALITROMETRO is still under advanced experimentation ( Francheschinie et al.,1998).
Managing service quality
One road to success in this dynamic world of changing customer expectations is good management practices to maintain excellent quality levels. The pioneer in this field was an American ,W. Edwards Deming who developed quality management strategies for the Japanese. Quality strategies for the Japanese . Quality management came from two ideas about how to run organisations better ; the first is about customers and the second about efficiency . Service quality management is a philosophy of continuous evaluation and improvement ( Van Der Wagen,1997) . It encloses a blend of practices such as quality control , quality measurement and service management
Research done by Stephan and Yvonne Lagrosen (2003) on quality management revealed that the following core values were necessary to dash off on a quality journey.
1.Customer orientation . satisfaction of the needs and wants of customers is the ultimate goal ,being considered as the basis for quality management. Both internal and external customers are included . It is of most relevance for services as customer participation is often required in production is often required on production and also due to the high interaction level.
2. leadership commitment . an active and visible commitment from management is required . Managers need to act as role models for quality ; focus need to be more on the processes rather than the outcomes.
3. Participation of everybody . Development of quality requires the participation of each organizational member. Employees should be empowered and for services , this is particularly important for the front staffs, who perform their duties in direct interaction with customers.
4. Continuous improvements . It is important to have a sustainable development of quality and to adopt a learning culture in today`s dynamic environment. Companies should constantly renew and improve all their services processes . Focus should not be only on short-term benefits but also on long term ones.
5. Management by facts. Effective management information systems must be developed ; decisions should be based on reliable and well-documented facts. A selection of indicators related to quality and satisfaction should be used.
6. Process orientation . Firms should have processes designed to enhance customer satisfaction . The way services are produced and delivered are essential to achieve service quality. Service blueprinting is a valuable and adequate tool in this context.
Total Quality Management ( TQM )
TQM is one of the most common frameworks for managing quality. It can be regarded as the highest level of quality management ( Dale, 1999) . Development of this concept is largely attributed to Japanese manufacturing companies and to quality experts including W.Edward Deming , Joseph M. Juran and Philip Crosby ( cited in Peters, 1999 and Hutchins,1992 ) .TQM is principally designed to reduce an organisation`s defects , to determine its customers` requirements, and to satisfy these requirements ( Morrison,2001) . Five principles of TQM :
Commitment to quality. Quality is the top priority of any firm instituting a TQM program . Management must take the responsibility to participate and direct the TQM process to ensure its success.
Focus on customer satisfaction . TQM organisations recognise that customer care about quality and make the necessary efforts to find out their expected service quality levels. Upon determination of these standards, every effort is made to meet or exceed those expectations.
Assessment of organisational culture. The consistency of the existing organisational culture must be assessed with the TQM principles . A team of top executives and employees usually does this practice over a period of several months.
Empowerment of Employees and teams . The success of a TQM program is greatly due to the empowerment of employees that allows them to better satisfy each individual customer.
Measurement of Quality Efforts. TQM firms must be able to measure the outcomes of their quality improvement efforts . Various service quality indicators ( such as customer satisfaction and employee performance measurements) should be utilized.
Mei et al.., (1999) brought about some amendements to SERVQUAL and developed HOLSERV to fit the Australian hospitality industry . Three items were deleted and eight others were either modified or added to the initial measurement tool, transforming it to 27 items , divided into three dimensions ( employees, tangibles and reliability ) as a final scale. It is also more user friendly and reliable but the technique needs to be supplemented with qualitative research.
JUWAHEER`S ADAPTED SERVQUAL
Juwaheer ( 2004) modified the servqual to explore the international tourists` perception of hotel operations in Mauritius . 39 attributes were developed through nine hotel factors , which were identified as service quality and customer satisfaction determinants.
Q-sort method ( Ekinci and Riley , 1999) serves the purpose of improving surveys . It addresses problems like where is no consensus on the meaning of a particular concept ( e.g service quality).
Q-Sort technique can assess the validity of quality dimensions before they are used in measurement tools but its results must be subject to factors analysis to ensure reliability. It must further be noted that it is only a preliminary approach in scale development.
Service Quality in tourism
When we talk about tourism, we must also talk about quality issues to provide a quality tourism product. Among the service industries tourism is especially significant in terms of its sensitivity to quality issues and in fact, service quality is one of the goal tourism policy issues in the light of the rapid growth of the industry. Valid approaches regarding service quality for the tourism industry is the customer oriented and the value-oriented approach of Garvin`s five definition of quality (Williams et al..,2003) since the specific issue of quality in tourism has not yet been address by management academics and no specific definitions have been attributed to the industry.
The customer-oriented approach views customers as central to the organisation and to all aspects of the operational procedures. This explains the necessity of constantly gathering information on guests` expectations (which Diaz-martin et al., 2000, considers as a segmentation variable in tourism), perceptions and complaints concerning services. Services are delivered according to the needs and wants of customers so as to enhance their holiday experience.
Moreover, the customer must derive value from the tourism product ; the quality in tourism must be both in terms of the physical product ( hotel design, room,restaurant, menu items , etc ) and the service being offered. According to Horst Schulze, president and chief executive of the ritz carlton hotel company, ( service can only be accomplished by people. The hotel can be breathe-takingly beautiful adn the food memorable, but a poor employee can quickly sour the experience).
The service element is crucial in enhancing the quality of the experience of the tourist , who will always be conscious of, and even assessing , the attitude , skills and competencies of the host delivering a particular service.
Gronroos (1984) , regarded service quality from 2 point of view : technical adn functional quality. The technical quality is the actual outcome of the service while the functional quality is all about the process that has been undergone to deliver the outcome. Both are considered equally important owing to their impact on customers and can surely be applied in the tourism context.
The world Tourism Organization (WTO, 2003b) has defined quality in tourism as :
… the result of a process which implies the satisfaction of all legitimate product and service needs, requirements and expectations of the customer , at an acceptable price , in conformity with the underlying quality determinants such as safety and security, hygiene , accessibility , transparency , authenticity and harmony of the tourism activity concerned with its human and natural environment.
In the above definition we can clearly find that elements of both the customer-oriented and value – oriented approach has been considered together with attributes which are directly connected with the tourism concept. Tourism quality is taken from a holistic perspective in this definition.
One universal truth about the tourism industry, it is that nothing
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