Assessing the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service.
Assessing the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service
TASK A – Carefully select one Travel and Tourism organisation whose Customer Service practices you can examine in detail.
The issue of customer service has become very important to companies in competitive industries such as travel and tourism. There is not much point in spending huge sums in advertising for new customers to grow the business if the existing customers are defecting to competitors because they are not satisfied.
On the other hand, a company, which has a solid base of satisfied loyal customers, will probably gain demand through personal recommendation which is the basis of a good reputation. It is clear, therefore, that good customer service which results in customer loyalty can have a direct impact on the long-term profitability of tourism enterprise.
To Assess the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service in ONE travel and Tourism organisation I selected the Holiday Inn Garden Court in Ashford, Kent because I have visited before so I already have a sound judgement on how efficient the customer service is. The hotel has 100 bedrooms, a lounge bar, restaurant, 6 small meeting rooms and a separate pub in the car park which is owned and operated by another company.
There are three main criteria’s that I will analyse in the organisations customer service quality, they are: -
What are their performance standards like?
Measuring to see if the standards are being met
Putting in place measure to correct any shortcomings
I will also be analysing the quality criteria using the spider diagram shown below: -
TASK B – give a full explanation of the key customer service quality criteria relevant to the organisation, giving examples of the procedures and practices used to achieve them.
The delivery of customer service in this hotel involves several parts:
The hotel is privately owned and operated under a franchise agreement with 6 Continents, the company which owns the Holiday Inn brand. This means that all of the brand quality standards and operating procedures specified in the Holiday Inn brand standards manual must be applied.
The hotel is inspected once per year by a Holiday Inn inspector who arrives as a secret shopper and inspects the whole hotel. The results are recorded in a lap top computer and added to the negative score of customer complaints received on customer comments cards. If the hotel fails to achieve an 85% score it will fail. In the case of a failed inspection the hotel has six weeks to put the problems right and pass a second inspection before it is thrown out of the brand. As a result of the scoring hotels can see where they rank against other hotels and learn from their ‘best’ practices.
This is a preview of the whole essay
There are other inspections by the Tourist Board and travel publications which force the hotel to provide specific standards to qualify for an official rating. The management give less importance to these inspections than brand standards.
There are regular weekly management and departmental meetings where complaints and inspection reports are reviewed and actions planned to resolve problems. The heads of department and staff feel that some of the problems occur because of the shortage of staff or low cost students in the summer peak season. There are also internal inspections by management to ensure standards such as hotel bedrooms inspected by the housekeeper.
This little table shows the accessibility for guests with special needs.
Another factor of accessibility is the availability of time that then hotel is open. Holiday in Garden Court choose to close all through December and up to the 6th January.
An even greater factor that greatly affects the accessibility of travel and tourism service is the process that the customer needs to go through to gain further information and actually buy it. Holiday Inn Garden Court increases their accessibility by promoting their hotel on teletext, the Internet, leaflets, tourist attractions brochures.
Value for Money
The set room price is: -
£65 a night for a normal room
£45 a night for corporate rate
10% off any room for a night if you’re a member of the Priority Club.
In my opinion the hotel is good value for money because the service provided is very efficient. I was watching a customer being served at reception and the overall service was very good. The receptionist was quick to notice the customer standing there, with a friendly smile on her face she was quick to deal with his request. I was impressed with the knowledge that the receptionist had of the hotel.
TASK C – identify and describe the methods used by the organisation to monitor the quality and effectiveness of their customer service delivery.
When we stay at any hotel we all have little benchmarks that we set in our minds. MVA’s research in 1995 shows us the essential features in hotel accommodation.
Staff attentive and efficient 78
High Standards of cleanliness throughout 76
High quality and well maintained bathroom 65
High quality bed, mattress, linen 63
Quiet bedroom, no disturbance 63
Attractive and pleasant bedroom to be in 63
Lighting in room and at bedside, good enough to
read by 63
Well-furnished bedroom, mirrors, chairs etc 63
Efficient and easy booking service 61
Well regulated temperature and atmosphere 60
Prompt and efficient check-in/out 60
The above are many benchmarks that we automatically set the hotel before visiting it. We compare these to other hotels we’ve stayed at.
Here is a list of a few of the benchmarks: -
Maintain their star rating
Answering calls within 8 rings
Take reservation and offer all information for example, room
service, take dinner reservation
In the restaurant, remember the guest’s names
Here is a list of the external benchmarks: -
The scores of inspections and complaints are compared against the hotels within the same area
The scores from the Tourist Board which gives diamond grading
Employees are sent to other hotels within the same area to their designated place to see how they work. For example receptionists are sent to other receptions to monitor how they interact with the customers
There are two questions in questionnaires which are compared within different hotels. They are:
- How were you satisfied with each are of the hotel
- Would you recommend the hotel to others
In this hotel the customer comments are sent directly to the Holiday Inn head office but the Duty Manager deals with other complaints while the guest is in the hotel. In most cases the problems are simple and can be fixed easily with a positive attitude. The biggest problems arise when customers think that nobody cares or pays any attention to them so they go away and write a complaint letter.
All complaint letters are passed to the General Manager who passes them to the department concerned and asks for an explanation. A reply is then prepared with compensation if necessary to protect the goodwill of the brand.
The most common problems come from booking errors where a customer has asked for a type of room and this is not available such as a family room, a quiet room, no smoking room or disabled room. This is because these rooms are sometimes already occupied by other guests or there are rooms out of service because of maintenance or redecoration. The attitude of the reception staff is important in handling these issues by listening to the customer, calming them down and then explaining what has caused the problem and what can be done about it. It is the responsibility of the Duty Manager to be on hand to check quality standards and to resolve these problems for customers.
Another source of complaints is when the restaurant is full and service becomes slow. There are also problems at peak times of the day in reception when everyone is checking in or checking out and the telephone is ringing or someone wants to change their room
Customer Care Training
Although the Garden Court is only a 3star quality level all staff are trained on the importance of customer care and basic complaint handling. There are also some skills training which is essential to show new staff how to do things properly. There are also courses online for staff with access to the Holiday Inn web site.
In the end, customers vote with the choices they make to come back or not. Holiday Inn has a loyalty card with points to give regular customers special attention. The card must be asked for by reception staff and upgraded rooms given when available.
The manager gives the staff at holiday Inn feedback at regular intervals. Their encouraged to raise suggestions and ideas for improvement whether in their own department or across the company to continuously improve the way that they do things. At least once a year the manager and the staff will discuss in detail their progress and further training if needed.
While I was in the reservations office the post arrived. Two of the reservations staff received certificates stating what percent they got by the mystery shopper. I found out that once a month a mystery shopper will ring one of the phone lines and try and book a room. They will have a checklist to confirm whether the reservation staff met each criteria. One of the staff showed me that they got 79%, which was quite good, but there was definitely room for improvement.
There is a visitor’s book in reception where customers can write in on the way out. This has become more and more popular as visitors also want to read other peoples comments, especially if and famous people have stayed at the hotel.
TASK D – Evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the customer service delivery in the organisation.
Although customer service is limited as a three star equivalent hotel, there is a concern among management about customer satisfaction motivated by the desire not to loose points through complaints on the brand inspection score. However, not all staff feel involved because they do not get a direct benefit or bonus when customers are happy compared to the telling off when there is a complaint. I would suggest a small bonus for everyone every day that there is not a single complaint.
I would also suggest more talking to customers and market research to define customer needs and feedback from outside of the hotel. How is the hotel perceived by local businesses and local residents? How does it sound to callers when the telephone is answered – these things do not get attention in the inspection of bedrooms and customer complaints.
As I couldn’t be a mystery shopper because I had already stayed at the hotel before, it was harder to set some benchmarks. I did take note of how long it took the receptionist to answer the phone, in my mind I thought maximum of 10 rings was sufficient, they answered in up to 10. I was also watching closely at how they treated me as a customer, they were friendly and willing to answer questions that I asked.