Guest’s Quality Perceptions
This research article written by Patrik Hellstrand, Managing Director & Hospitality Consultant of SQInsight Hospitality Consulting, discusses guest satisfaction, and the importance of studies pertaining to guest’s quality perceptions of the guest experience.
Quality comes first
Quality of the guest experience is the antecedent to both satisfaction and perceived value (Petrick, 2004, p. 399). This statement is supported by several empirical studies that found that price and quality perceptions influence value perceptions (Matzler et al., 2006, p. 181). It has also clear that quality has both a moderated and direct effect on behavioral intentions (Petrick, 2004, p. 398), such as repurchase intentions. Therefore, satisfaction is a direct result of quality, which is supported by Caruna, Money and Berthon (Cited in Petrick, 2004, p. 398). Research shows that quality of service is more important than price in telling hospitality companies such as hotels and cruise lines apart for one another. It is also more important for promoting guest loyalty (Matzler et al., 2006, p. 180). There is a clear distinction between satisfaction and quality which is worth mentioning for clarity purposes. Quality in hospitality is as a measure of the hospitality provider’s performance, while satisfaction is a global measure of how the provider’s performance (the service experience) makes the guest feel (Petrick, 2004, p. 399). It is important to note that quality is not embedded in perceived value, it is however a direct antecedent and can therefore be regarded as the best predictor for perceived value (Ibid). Though the patterns surrounding satisfaction, value and quality are unique, there are strong proven relationships between these variables. Research has shown over again that quality leads to both satisfaction and perceived value (Petrick, 2004, p. 400). Therefore it is safe to assume that guests will overall be more satisfied with products and services that uphold high quality. Most studies on the relationship between value and satisfaction are however inconclusive (Ibid) which is why it important for hospitality providers to understand how guests see and recognize service quality.
It is argued that service quality is what differentiates hospitality establishments, but there is not an agreed definition of what service quality is (Presbury et al., 2005, p. 359). There is however a few different suggestions of how to define service quality. One is to divide service into technical, functional and image components; another is that service quality is determined by its fitness for use by internal and external customers (Ibid). Though no agreed definition exists, it is accepted that service quality is dependent on guest’s needs and expectations. One definition of service quality state that quality is simply conformance to specifications, which would mean that positive quality is when a product or service specific quality meet or exceed preset standards or promises (Ekinci et al., 2004, p. 192). This however seems like a simplistic view, especially within the hospitality industry. There are therefore other definitions specifically for the hospitality industry which state that service quality must be guest oriented (Ekinci et al., 2004, p. 192). The alternative definitions read as follows: 1) quality is excellence; 2) quality is value for money; 3) quality is meeting or exceeding expectations (Ibid). This appears better aligned with ideas which exist within hospitality management than the first mentioned simplistic approach. It is however worth noting that some research argues that service quality and value are two distinct constructs where service quality is measured by the disconfirmation scale whereas value cannot be measured this way (Ekinci et al., 2004, p. 193). Considering that both service quality and value is rather difficult to measure, hospitality companies must therefore heavily rely on guest’s quality perceptions and expectations to get reliable results. This is best achieved by asking guest’s questions related to expectations and their perceptions of the service quality, which can effectively be achieved through carefully designed surveys.
Guest’s perception of service is because of its nature difficult to assess, and it is necessary to rely on guest’s satisfaction related to their expectations to communicate what their perception are of the service. When measuring guest’s opinions through surveys, guests perceptions become a vital part of guest satisfaction within a hospitality environment as it is the actual judgment of the service experiences; which can be positive or negative. Some research argues that guest perception should be defined as a comparison to excellence in service by the guest and that these perceptions only exist post-consumption. This however seems rather unrealistic within a hospitality environment where guest’s perceptions toward the service they are receiving surely change continuously. Most hospitality professionals agree with this notion and understand that it is probable that perceptions are being made during the entire service delivery process, and then again after the service delivery.
In conclusion, quality of the guest experience is the antecedent to both satisfaction and perceived value. Guest satisfaction is therefore a direct result of quality. Quality is also more important than price in telling hospitality companies apart from one another. Though no agreed definition of what service quality is exists, it is generally accepted that service quality is dependent of guest’s needs and expectations. Because service quality and value is difficult to measure, hospitality companies must rely on guest perceptions which can be measured effectively through carefully designed surveys that ask questions related to their expectations.
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