The conference, which consists of five online symposia, will run throughout 2001. Each symposium will cover a key aspect of customer satisfaction research, and each topic will be “live” for two months. Interested parties can participate in the discussions by logging into www.hospitality-feedback.com and clicking on the conference link. Virtual delegates are able either to post an initial comment, or comment on someone else’s contribution. Results and an archive of past debates will also be available on the website.
Over 600 delegates participated in the first symposium, titled ‘What are the drivers of satisfaction in hotels?’ held in March and April 2001. Delegates from 20 countries worldwide contributed.
People were an important topic of discussion. Dr Getty (University of North Texas) argued that the study of customer satisfaction should also encompass employee satisfaction. Alluding to Heskett’s Service – Profit Chain, the argument was that employees need to experience quality service from the business itself as a prerequisite to delivering it to customers. Ms Lui (LSG Skychefs – Asia) supported this and added that sophisticated human resource management and training for employees was an important driver of customer satisfaction.
Professor Pizam (University of Central Florida) took the view that culture and the impact of nationality affect the rating of service experiences and underlying satisfaction. Mr v. Hahn (Ritz-Carlton Schlosshotel Berlin) shared this view, saying that understanding guests’ culture is the basis for understanding their perceptions. This issue will be further explored in the last of the five symposia.
Ms Footner (Grand Hyatt Melbourne) made the point that the drivers of satisfaction will vary across customer groups such as leisure versus business guests, and amongst users of different categories of hotel.
In a discussion about the categorisation of drivers of satisfaction, Professor Bowen presented a classification based upon benefits (functional) and trust (emotional) constructs. Mr v. Hahn supported a tangible versus intangible driver classification. Mr Nicolaou (Taylor Nelson Sofres) supported an approach based on a six-dimensional categorisation – material provision, technical operations, staff adaptability, staff/customer relations, image and value. Mr Rimmington (Oxford Brookes University) questions how many systems account for the fact that the range of factors leading to customer satisfaction is unstable.
Mr Scher (Taylor Nelson Sofres) questions what drives loyalty rather than satisfaction. Professor Bowen (University of Nevada) also believes that loyalty is more important than satisfaction. Ms Chan (Grand Hyatt Singapore) supports this argument and considers the issue of satisfaction in relation to brands. She believes that an increasingly sophisticated clientele may be ever more ready to find its satisfaction in design, form and lifestyle options offered by designer hotels rather than the established brands. This can make it very difficult for brands to generate loyalty, even if customers are satisfied.
Taylor Nelson Sofres Hospitality & Leisure also conducts global auditing and customer satisfaction and commitment tracking programmes.
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