Unit 3 Customer Service

This solution is for Customer Service Assignment given in Nelson College in the course of Hospitality Management.

Introduction

After having reviewed the customer service policy of Le Meridien and having practically understood why each hotel needs to have a specially designed one, we shall now move onto evaluate a customer policy. Policies of customer service help in shaping the quality of service delivery and adhering to standards of the same. It further helps in serving as a yardstick to the measurement and self-evaluation of the brand. Hotels being highly customer-sensitive with a large room for contact with the customer should be vigilant and cautious of the shortfalls that their lapses in delivery can cause.

TASK 1

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SERVICE POLICIES
  • Provision of service to the customer and in turn assuring satisfaction of the customer of the service or of a transaction
  • Service Policy – set of rules for the employees to enhance their customer interaction
  • Strong brand – Efficient service – Increased customer satisfaction – Better loyalty to the brand – Increased Revenues & Publicity – Augmented Brand Value
  • Policies vary across organizations based on the customer profile and needs

Customer Service is the assurance that a customer expects for the revenue doled by them for the service that they buy. The duty of the service provider is to assure that the customer leaves satisfied and returns back. As a framework for guidance of the actions of the employees in delivering service to the customer, a policy is to be defined, which the customer service policy is. Service delivery to the customer and business growth is a continuous cycle as shown. (Abraham & Taylor, 1999)

OVERVIEW OF LE MERIDIEN, LONDON
  • Owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a global proprietary concern in hospitality
  • Rich legacy of forty years with over 120 hotels in 50 nations
  • Known for its warmth and cordiality in all genres of hospitality
  • Signature brand in delivery of quality food and beverages as well
  • Extraordinary property collections resulting in high customer satisfaction and loyalty

Le MERIDIEN & Starwood Hotels need no special introduction due to their popularity and reputation worldwide across all classes of people. Accommodation, food and beverage, concierge, recreation, relaxation, they have all options under single with multiple options under one type. This is a classic example of the cycle shown in the previous slide. Meridian has built its brand through service and exemplary service has assured them greater footfall and revenues which in turn has helped in strengthening their brand. (John,1994)

CUSTOMER SERVICE POLICY OF LE MERIDIEN
  • Focus on the customer and customer-centric initiatives
  • Emphasis on building up on the value offered to the customer
  • Unique program rewarding the customer for their loyalty – lifetime redemption options, free nights on special days
  • Extraordinary boutique of hotels catered to all kinds of needs
  • Ever-welcoming frequent guests without any restrictions or waitlists for them

Le Meriden is built on five pillars of customer service, four of which attract new customers to the hotel and the fifth one is central to their revisiting the hotel and eventually tying them up to the brand without having to look for other options. Probably it is the only landmark hotel across the world that rewards the customers for their expenditure. The customer here is no more a customer after they choose to avail a service and henceforth become the guests of Le Meridien. The Preferred Guest program ensures that they continuously return without any apprehension and are welcomed at all times with the same vigour and warmth

REVIEW OF THE POLICY
  • Customer is the driving force of business at Le Meridien
  • Quality of service delivery pivotal to efficient marketing planning of services
  • Good services -> Positive word-of-mouth -> Increase publicity
  • Bad/ineffective service -> Bad Breath -> Decreased sales and negative publicity even amongst existing customers
  • Requirement of a guiding force handy at all times to ensure that at no point of time they deviate from set standards
  • Pre-defined standards required for accurate service delivery and self-evaluation

Business is not just about producing, selling and revenue generation and neither is it attracting new customers through plain publicity. It is a cycle of events beginning from the product/service and ending with brand equity. In the case of a hotel since the deliverable is intangible, the intricacy of service delivery is important with utmost care exercised to ensure that nothing goes out of place. Moreover to warranty uniformity of service delivery a customer service policy is required.

“The Le Meridien Group of Hotels is a legendary service provider of hospitality services that has, shall and will focus only on the customer at all times. The customer shall guide and lead the business and any extent of customization of the framed services may be done to increase their level of satisfaction, augment their value and ultimately achieve their brand loyalty” (Ove & Marie, 2004)

“The Berkeley being a superfluous property needs to uphold its service levels at all times through which they may attract and retain customers. Any slight flaw is also bound to decrease the number of stars awarded to them. To ensure that they do not deviate from the assured standard of service to the customer and always adhere to their quality, a policy of customer service is thus developed.”

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TASK 2

Customer-Needs Analysis of the Hotel

Different hotels and in fact different properties too have diverse range of customers with varied sets of needs. Here we may divide the customers into three classes – business, tourists and the opulent. Needs analysis serves as a means for analyzing the needs of the customer and classifying their needs. In this case we shall pin down the needs of the customer as –

  • Simple needs
  • Complex needs
  • Extraordinary needs

The needs of the customer have been classified into simple, complex and extraordinary needs. Simple ones are those that are basic in nature and are needlessly a part of the service like a clean room, proper amenities and efficient check-in, check-out to name a few. Complex needs go a step beyond like the customer wanting a wakeup call every-day or breakfast served to him at an early hour. The class of extraordinary needs requires the efforts of the hotel to specifically look into and shall not be the case of every customer, like need of a special menu, a dedicated personnel attending to him, and so on. (Anne &Andrew, 2011)

Questionnaire for Customer Feedback

Dear Guest, We request you to spare 5 minutes of your time to fill in this survey so that we may help to serve you better. Your personal details shall remain confidential. You may choose to leave those blank or any other response which you feel is inappropriate to you. Name Gender Age Type of customer Domestic/National/International (pls. specify nationality) Profession
  • How frequently do you visit this property?
Monthly/Bi-annually/Annually
  • Please rate your overall experience on 1 to 5 where 1 relates to worst and 5 to excellent
  • What is the chance of your coming back to this hotel?
Surely/Could Be/May Be/ Surely Not/Never Again
  • Will you refer this place to your friends or known people?
Surely/Could Be/May Be/ Surely Not/Never Again Please cite reasons for 3 and 4 for any option that you may mark
  • Any other comments or suggestions
  • What is the maximum that you have waited for a service in this hotel?
  • Have you faced any situation where any of queries have been unhandled or problems not been solved?
  • Generally how fast is your service request processed?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5 please rate the overall efficiency of our staff.
Thank you very much. (John, Bing & Andrew, 2008)

Draft of Customer Service Policy

Key points Current practice Proposed new practice
Recognition and categorisation of customer needs Continual interaction with customer Periodic training of staff and keeping them updated
Measurement of service quality Questionnaires/surveys answered by them at the end of their visit Professional models like SERVQUAL
Data evaluation and use of feedback Macro-analysis with Excel In-depth market research and use of quantitative tools for micro-analysis
(Jay, 2006) The customer service policy of the hotel shall be as follows-
  • To continuously update the staff on their knowledge through training and evaluation
  • Self-monitoring and evaluation techniques for the staff to improve on themselves
  • Conduct surveys and research on the needs and wants of the customer and then design services
  • Direct customer interaction – reminders for bookings and other stuff
  • Research-oriented policy to be implemented at all levels
  • More focus on customer.

Since the new model of business and the service policy is basically a remodelling exercise not much of new staff would be required. The task is a path from moving from the state of good to great and thus would require modification of existing people, policies and procedures rather than incepting new ones. The focus of customer-centricity shall be strengthened through formal research and the results of the same shall be affected in all layers of the organization. (Riadh, 2009)

Alternatively customer data may be collected through social networking sites where users may freely post their comments and opinions. The ratings on these sites may also help in ascertaining the levels of satisfaction. Hence the main idea should be to promote through networking which shall also serve as a means of publicity as well. Questions like “Please rate our hotel on a scale of 1 to 5” or “Please describe your experience with our hotel” or “Kindly rate and review our hotel”

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TASK 3

Effective communication is a critical aspect of service delivery and customer satisfaction in a customer-sensitive organization like a hotel. The efforts of customer service are designed so as to be able to deliver the services that the customer requires efficiently and promptly and in turn take feedback from them and be able to solve any service delivery related issues. As a result, communication whether in person or not, is important for the true success of businesses (John & Edmund 1999). Furthermore it is the best tool for assessing the wants and needs of the customer and accordingly shaping the offerings of a business, thereby making it more customer-centric.

Advantages of good communication

The need for good communication is called for when there needs to be quality and clarity in the communication to the customer. Each individual hence will have to develop their own style of communication so that they may effectively and comfortably interact with the customer (Claire 1989). On the other hand poor and ineffective communication may act adversely on the customer and prove a loss to the business and thereby service personnel should be able to take utmost care in the interaction with the customer. As a result the different types of communication have been listed below so that each staff may choose the type comfortable to them and then develop themselves accordingly (Richard 1977).

Communication Type Quality criteria Benefits
Intrapersonal Direct Face to Face or over the phone Good for one-on-one or communication amongst small groups
Interpersonal Communication with others over the phone or other medium Ideally suited for all situations
Group Direct communication within a group Effective for decision making and brainstorming sessions
Organizational Multichannel (Computer, Laptop, Email, Visuals, Face to Face) Ultimate form of interaction with customer through message boards, leaflets, etc…
Other electronic devices like EPOS and touch screen system Timely interaction with customer and ability to collate communication from various points Efficient and effective communication especially when customer is involved
(Claire, 1989)
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Self-assessment Questionnaire

This questionnaire is designed to address the communications needs of the staff by effectively identifying their style and level of communication and accordingly tackle the situation. Alongside the questionnaire is also a tool for self-assessment of the staff so that they may place themselves in the shoes of the customer and thereby effectively respond to customer queries.

Name Department Designation Gender Indicate your response to the following questions from amongst - Strongly Disagree/Somewhat Disagree/Neutral/Somewhat Agree/Strongly Agree
  1. I express my opinions honestly and freely at all times
  2. I think my style of communication and working is better than others
  3. I maintain a good eye contact with people while speaking
  4. I find it difficult to look into someone’s eyes while speaking, if it is my higher authority
  5. I am good at speaking and negotiations
  6. I am an equally good listener
  7. If I do not agree with the customer on a certain point or request given, I shall strongly express my dislike openly
  8. I do not hesitate in being direct with others, even if they feel that I am rude
  9. I like to take charge of situations
  10. I like to be in control of situations
  11. I am uncomfortable to ask for help in case of doubt
  12. I am willing to lend help to others while they need it
  13. I am not able to speak fluently and clearly in large groups
  14. It is difficult for me to say ‘no’
  15. I frequently talk about people behind their backs
  16. I shall take a step beyond to understand my customer’s needs or shall conveniently put them away.

TASK 4

CUSTOMER SERVICE – SUMMARY OF THE CONCEPT
  • Lifetime experience of the customer post, prior and during the delivery of services
  • Service delivery <-> Satisfaction <-> Loyalty
  • Differs across organizations in the same hospitality industry
  • Major driver of business parameters like revenue and profit
  • Factor influencing brand image, publicity and brand value

Customer service is the delivery of services to the customers at the required time and style as desired by the customer. The quantifiable part of the experience is the length of time that the customer interacts with the service provider. This in turn shapes their perceived image of the brand and thereby the loyalty towards the brand. Customer service additionally affects the revenue generation capability of the organization and consequentially the brand value. Since it is customer-specific it is bound to vary from hotel to hotel. ( Chandana, Anthony,Valerie, Chris, & Wanjohi,2013)

WHY A SERVICE POLICY?
  • Better services -> Better sales -> Agreeability of the customer to pay more -> Better revenue -> Accelerated business growth
  • Service delivery and policy takes the gap between the value that the customer perceives of the service and the actual value
  • To understand the customer and their needs in depth

The prime motive of a business is to generate profits and growth which is dependent on what they provide to the customer. The service-sales-revenue-growth cycle shows this. Revenue is always not assured through increased sales but also with steepness in price. Since the customers base of this hotel is opulent, they are obviously not price sensitive and are ready to pay more once they perceive that they value they are getting is more. The value can be augmented through better levels of service. When there is a positive/negative gap between the actual and perceived value service delivery and policy play the role (Yuanqiong, Wenli & Kin, 2011)

ROLE PLAY: CUSTOMER SERVICE IN A BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
  • Scenario – Housekeeping Manager of the hotel with 25 reportees
  • Required to maintain cleanliness and décor of the rooms
  • Need to deal with an angry and frequent customer who has sighted bugs in his bed and threatens to leave at once and never return
  • Immediately apologises and reallocates the room; further asks for enquiry on the situation from the team
  • Modifies the plan of action to ensure that such instances are not repeated in the future
  • Effectiveness of Management

In this situation I play the role of a housekeeping manager with 25 subordinates who look into the management of the rooms, their cleanliness and other ambience related aspects. This is an integral talent management component of the delivery since most of it is evident and tangible. It so happens that one of our frequent customers who has been visiting the hotel since 10 years, once spots a bug in his bed that has caused him inconvenience and at no cost agrees to stay further in the hotel.

The matter escalated to me was required to be handled efficiently to avoid negative publicity and loss of a valued customer. To solve the matter I initially convinced him to move into another of our premium suites after his inspection of the room, which shall be offered to him at a nominal price. Further all the concerned staff and I apologised to him and assured that never in the future such a situation would ever happen to any guest.

Effective communication with management styles were used to solve the matter without any tarnish to the reputation of the brand. Furthermore the entire scene was revisited to inspect how a bug had got in and who was responsible for that. Based on the feedback provided by the staff we were required to alter the cleaning processes for the room, increasing the frequency however.

REFERENCES

Abraham, P., Taylor, E., 1999 Customer satisfaction and its measurement in hospitality enterprises, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 11 Iss: 7, pp.326 - 339 Anne, P., Andrew, S.,2011 Hospitality quality: new directions and new challenges, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 23 Iss: 4, pp.463 – 478 Chandana, J., Anthony, P., Valerie, C., Chris, C., Wanjohi, K. 2013 Trends and sustainability in the Canadian tourism and hospitality industry, Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 5 Iss: 2, pp.132 - 150 Claire, P., 1989How do Customers Express Dissatisfaction and What can Service Marketers do About it?, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 3 Iss: 2, pp.5 – 23 Jay, K., 2006 The new customer-centered business model for the hospitality industry, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 18 Iss: 3, pp.173 – 187 John, C., Bing, P., Andrew, E., 2008A survey method for identifying key drivers of guest delight, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 4, pp.462 – 470 John, G., 1994 Baby Bell Grows up: How MCI Has Turned to Face the Customer" Managing Service Quality, Vol. 4 Iss: 2, pp.36 – 39 John, M.T, Edmund, R., 1999 Corporate identity and corporate communications: creating a competitive advantage, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 4 Iss: 4, pp.171 – 177 Ove, C., Marie, A., 2004 Customer satisfaction and retention: the experiences of individual employees, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 14 Iss: 1, pp.40 – 57

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