The hospitality industry to a large extent relies on building of positive customer experiences. To attain this, it is very important to understand the significance of the times when a client comes into contact with the business and particularly the service personnel. These points of contacts are commonly referred to as “moments of truth” and play an important role as occasions where customers assess whether the business is meeting their expectations. A “moment of truth’s” key component encompasses what is commonly referred to as a service encounter and is a representation of the times when staff and customers meet (Kotler & Makens, 2006). The hospitality industry is quite different from other service sectors arguably due to the fact it is basically about creating core, positive experiences. This paper therefore discusses why service encounter is very important in hospitality marketing and the indicators of high service quality.
Service encounter is defined as that period of period of time through which the service firm and the customer interact over telephone in person or through other forms of media. Or it is basically a social interaction entailing one person interacting with the other. Considering the high degree of “person-to-person interaction and, quite often the absence of an exchange of tangible goods, the service encounter becomes a very crucial aspect of service quality” (Sparks, 2008.) The outcome of the any service encounter is shaped by three key players: the firm, which formulates guidelines and policies; the employees who enact the firm’s policies; and the customer, seeking to satisfy a range of wants and needs.
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Service encounter if well exercised enhances services relationships typified by “providers and customers who have personal knowledge of each other before interaction and anticipated future” (Nikolich & Sparks, 2009). It acts as an important way of establishing dedication among employees to serve the customers in a better way and go ahead to goes ahead to look after individual customers. There is an increased customer loyalty and eventually increases the turnover of a firm. Additionally, service encounter is very important because it enables the firm to build personal relationship with the customer and also enables the service firms to build customer knowledge through developing customer databases.
Service encounter is advantageous to the firm because it is efficient in management of time and cost and allows and ensures that customers can easily access and engage in service encounter at their own convenient time. The service encounters have also be established to satisfy expressive and instrumental needs of the customer other offering greater customization (Sandie, 2005). Through the customer-provider interaction, the service provider will have a picture of the actual needs of the customer and in the end tailor a package that will suit their needs. For instance the package for a couple wanting to go on a vacation alone will be prepared differently from that one entailing a vacation together with children.
Kotler & Makens (2005) asserts that it is also very important to note that service encounters are very important because they greatly help to a firm to draw clear distinction between it and its competitors as this can be obtained through customer comments and shared experiences in other firms. It some cases, it also enhances innovation and creativity within a firm due to the fact different customer needs can facilitate coming up with ideas to ensure that the firm fulfils them in the best way possible.
The indicators for high service quality from the customer’s point of view biases on various aspects including the perceived competence of the service provider (expertise) noticed from the way various operations entailing the service delivery are performed, for example smooth handling of the booking services, proper arrangements for accommodation, transportation and other various services within a particular package.
According to Sparks (2008), dedication is another indicator of high service quality. The service provider has to show commitment in ensuring that the needs and services of customers are satisfied as a sign of being dedicated to the clients. It is very important to note that when someone decides to go on vacation, they want to keep away from many forms of disturbances and just relax. A good service provider will be dedicated to offering that to the customers through facilitating a smooth process of various activities involved in the vacation.
Communication is another key component in service encounter that serves as an indicator of high service quality. Good communication is a determinant of an effective and smooth interaction between customers and the industry’s service staff. As already looked at the process of service encounter involves two parties meeting either in person or through telephone and other forms of media and communication plays a very important role in the encounter (Sandie, 2005). It is through communication that a customer will consider using the services of a particular firm because it serves as a reflection of what actually happens within the firm. Most customers are attracted to firms whose personnel good have enhanced communication skills. On the other hand, customers tend to avoid those firms whose communication is bad because of the perceived improper treatment and poor hospitality.
In line with communication, listening skills are an additional standard of determining the quality of services provided. A customer would like to be listened to carefully as the staff tries to understand their needs and seek various ways of satisfying their needs (Noone & Mattila, 2009). Consequently, a customer will feel satisfied and relieved just through being listened to even before the vacation or the holiday begins. Good listening is one way appreciating the fact that a particular customer has picked on you as a service provider as opposed to many other service providers in the industry.
Customer courtesy – a key aspect
The employees also can be used to understand whether the services provided are of high quality and are appreciated by the customer. The only way they can establish this is through assessing various aspects of behavior employee behavior to assess the quality their services is up to date. For this reason, customer courtesy is a key aspect and the customers should be subjected to many problems while trying to make reservations for example (Noone & Mattila, 2010). Even though technology has taken communication by storm, it is good to ensure that no all phone calls are answered by machine and also customers are not kept waiting for long to get a real attendant. Courtesy has to be entailed in all forms of communication within the industry. It is also very crucial that whenever a customer asks for services and because of one or another reason the company is not in a position to or does not offer it, the attendant has to concern and a willingness to help even if it is not possible.
Efficiency with regard to getting the transaction completed serves as an additional way of establishing whether there is high quality service provision. Some players within the tourism industry take a very long time in completing a transaction for instance as far as particular reservations are concerned. They also take ages to get back to customers for important information, this the kind of laxity disliked by many customers and often downplays the efforts to retain customers (Noone & Mattila, 2009).
To sum up the whole discussion, the dispensation of hospitality services always entail people and all the issues and activities base on management of people particularly on the interactions between staff and guests, referred to as service encounters. Consequently, within the eyes of customers, the hospitality industry will fail or succeed depending on the collective impact of the service encounters in which they have been involved in.