Towards the Development of a Lodging Service Recovery Strategy

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Towards the Development of a Lodging Service Recovery Strategy John W. O’Neill Anna S. Mattila

ABSTRACT. This article presents findings from a survey of 613 hotel guests and indicates that guests’ overall satisfaction regarding service failure and service recovery are higher when they believe that service failure is unstable and recovery is stable. Moreover, guests indicate they are more likely to return to the same hotel when they believe that service failure is unstable and recovery is stable. Finally, our results indicate that guests are actually more satisfied with their guest room when they believe that recovery is stable. Implications for managers’ strategies are discussed. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: © 2004 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]

KEYWORDS. Service failure, service recovery, hotel, strategy John W. O’Neill, PhD, is Assistant Professor, School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management, The Pennsylvania State University, 233 Mateer Building, University Park, PA 16802-1307 (E-mail: jwo3@psu.edu). Anna S. Mattila, PhD, is Assistant Professor, School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management, The Pennsylvania State University, 224 Mateer Building, University Park, PA 16802-1307 (E-mail: asm6@psu.edu). Address correspondence to John W. O’Neill at the above address. The authors gratefully acknowledge Sookyung Kim’s assistance with data entry and management. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual CHRIE Convention in Orlando, Florida in August 2002 (Best Paper Award). Journal of Hospitality & Leisure Marketing, Vol. 11(1) 2004 http://www.haworthpress.com/store/product.asp?sku=J150  2004 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. 10.1300/J150v11n01_04

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JOURNAL OF HOSPITALITY & LEISURE MARKETING

INTRODUCTION Service recovery is now recognized as a significant determinant of customer satisfaction and loyalty (Fornell & Wernerfelt, 1987; Smith & Bolton, 1998; Tax & Brown, 1998; Smith et al., 1999). Consequently, many hospitality operators have developed service recovery policies to revive the endangered relationship with dissatisfied guests (e.g., Liu, Warden, Lee & Huang, 2001). In fact, most service organizations, including hotels, are forced to pay attention to service recovery because lingering dissatisfaction is not limited to the incident or customer at hand (Brown, 1997). Previous research indicates that upset customers will tell ten to twenty people about their bad experience with a service operation (Zemke, 1999). Despite its managerial importance, scholarly research in service recovery remains in its infancy stage (Johnston & Fern, 1999). The primary goal of this study is to explore the role of explanations in mitigating the negative effects of service failures. More specifically, we investigate how hotel guests’ stability attributions influence their post-recovery service perceptions and return intentions in a context of hotel overbooking. Our goal is to examine whether the way in which overbooking information is communicated to the guest influences his/her satisfaction with the hotel. To that end, we manipulate the stability of service failure (i.e., the frequency of overbooking) and the stability of the service recovery (the likelihood of upgrading to a suite, should overbooking occur in the future) in a hypothetical consumption experience with 613 actual hotel guests originating from 30 different countries. LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT When service goes awry, guests are concerned with explanations for service failure (Weiner, 2000). Attribution theory assumes that people are rational information processors whose actions are influenced by causal inferences (Folkes, 1984). Wiener (1980) developed a categorization scheme that classifies causes for product failures by three dimensions: locus of control, stability, and...
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