Customer Contribution to Improving Service Quality in the Hospitality Industry

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Quality Management in Services

Drago Constantin Vasile The Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, Romania E-mail:

Abstract The actors on the today business stage have no more well-defined roles with clear and rigid borders between them. Hospitality industry in particular is a good example how it has been blurred the roles that customers play in dealing with service providers. The study reveals that customers can influence the quality of hospitality service through performing a qualitycontrol function. This involves a series of activities to be achieved by them: (1) on-the-spot quality control, (2) service failure control, (3) quality consultancy, and (4) co-production control. However there are some difficulties and the hospitality organizations need a structured approach to overcome them. Developing a strategy to enhance the effectiveness in performing this function is an important challenge for the hospitality organization management. Our study recommends five courses of actions to be included in such a strategy. They envisage (1) increasing the customer`s knowledge of the firm`s quality standards,(2) encouraging customers to voice their concerns, (3) training customers (and employees) to manage the interpersonal encounter, (4) motivating customers to involve in performing the quality-control function and (5) training customers about their tasks in coproduction. Keywords: quality, hospitality industry, hospitality service, service, customer JEL Classification: L83, M31, M11 Introduction The issue of quality has taken an increased importance in business, being associated with a competitive advantage that can ensure the firm`s profitability and survival (Maddern et al., 2007). The recognition of the nature and the important role of quality in business is the result of an evolution of quality ideas over time. To this respect, Dale and Cooper (1992) describe four stages (i) quality inspection, (ii) quality control, (iii) quality assurance, and (iv) total quality management. The last involves a shift of paradigm: a changing culture where quality is a basic value of the organization and the goal is a steady improvement in quality, as a strategy to gain competitive advantage. The assumption is that suggestions for improvements may come from any level in the organization (Barnes, 1995). But, in our opinion an important aspect is that valuable suggestions may come from the exterior of the organization, in particular from customers. The aim of this study is to discuss the challenge caused by managing service quality in the hospitality industry. The key questions are how customers may contribute to improving Vol XI • Nr. 26 • June 2009 441

Customer Contribution to improving Service Quality in the Hospitality Industry quality and what approach should adopt the hospitality organizations to enhance their contribution. The specific characteristics of the hospitality services cause an inherent involvement of the customer into their design and/or provision. In this context we claim that customers may perform a quality-control function and the actions firms can take regarding the co-option of customers` competence must be encouraged because of their beneficial effects. Our line of reasoning relies on theories and concepts from the international scientific literature and on the practice in the hospitality organizations. The evaluation of the issue of customers` contribution is made from the original perspective of integrating separate aspects within a function of quality control that can be assigned to customers of the hospitality services. The first section of the study presents the characteristics of hospitality services which provides the main explanation of the customer`s participation. The second section describes the activities that are included in the quality-control function. The last section discusses the difficulties that may be encountered in performing this function and it is presented a model of a...
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