Analyzing service quality in the hospitality industry: the case of Bahrain.

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this research is to employ the SERVQUAL model and its collarry, the gap theory, in assessing the quality of services provided at one of the popular five star hotels in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel.

Methodology: The sample of this study represents two groups: First, 395 hotel guests who have stayed at the hotel for a period of two or more nights Second, 11 managers from different departments of the hotel.

The required data were gathered through personal interviews with the sample, using two sets of specially designed questionnaires, one for the guests sample and the other one for the managers sample.

Findings: The Reliability test, using cronbruch Alpha Coefficient, indicates that all SERVQUAL dimensions (i.e. Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, and Empathy J, for both guests and managers, scored high which means that items in each dimension are highly correlated, therefore, reliable.

Gap analysis (gap 5) indicates customer dissatisfaction with the service quality in terms of 55% if the SERVQUAL attributes (i.e. 12 items out of 22). Fore such items, customers' perceptions fell short of their expectations.

Another gap analysis (gap 1) shows that management are not fully aware of what may satisfy guests. They overestimated guests' expectations in terms of items pertaining to Reliability and Empathy, while underestimating the dimension of Assurance.

Implications: The findings of this research might be taken by the decision markers at the hotel as a base on which they can design the right strategies and policies o reduce or even close the gaps, therefore achieve more customer satisfaction.

I. INTRODUCTION

In today's competitive environment examining service quality is considered an important strategy. Service quality is an important determinant of success in attracting repeat business. While the reasons for the initial visit to a firm may be due to factors partly outside the control of management, the ability to create a satisfactory experience for the customers will rest, to a considerable degree, within the hands of both management and staff.

This research intends to investigate service quality in one of the five-star hotels in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel. To measure the service quality an instrument named SERVQUAL shall be used. Since its inception in 1988 (parasuraman, Zithmal and Berry, 1985, 1991, 1994), the SERVQUAL has been extensively used in service quality research and has become a popular measure of service quality within the hospitality industry (Luk & Layton, 2004; Nadiri & Hussai, 2005; Antony et al., 2004; Johns and Tyas,1996, 1997; Knuston et al., 1991; Lee and Hing 1995; Mels et al., 1997; Saleh & Ryan, 1991). SERVQUAL assumes that service quality is a comparison of expected performance with perceived performance. As a result, SERVQUAL includes 22 items representing expectations and 22 items representing perceptions. The developers of SERVQUAL suggest that analyzing the gaps between expectations and perceptions offer diagnostic insights useful in assessing and improving service quality. Furthermore, their research revealed that there are five dimensions of service quality where gaps between expectation and perception may exist, and the narrowing or elimination of these gaps would lead to improved service quality. The five dimensions of service quality were identified as:

* Tangibles: the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials related to the service.

* Reliability: the ability of the service to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.

* Responsiveness: the willingness.of the service to help customers and provide prompt service.

* Assurance: the competence of the service and its security, credibility and courtesy.

* Empathy: the ease of access, approachability and effort taken to understand customers' requirements.

II. OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT

The main purpose of this research project is to employ the SERVQUAL model and its collary, the gap theory, in assessing the quality of service provided at a five star hotel in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel.

More specifically, the objectives of the proposed study are to employ the following tools and procedures to measure service quality:

1. The concept of the SERVQUAL model, as originally developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) and especially its modified newer version (1988);

2. The five dimensions of tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy;

3. The concept of gaps between expectation and perception of the hotel service package. The service quality gaps to be measured in this study will be confined to the following two major gaps suggested by Parasuraman et al (1985):

Gap 1: The Management Perception Gap. Relates to the management perception of guests' expectations and guests' actual expectations.

Gap 2: The perceived service quality gap. Relates to the guests' expectations and guests' perceptions of the service quality.

III. THE LITERATURE REVIEW

Importance of Service Quality Assessment

Service quality is generally understood as the gap between consumers' expectations about a service and their subsequent perception of service performance (Williams, 1999; Gronroos, 1984; Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1991; parasuraman et al., 1985).

Most service organizations today realize that delivering excellent service is important to the success of their business, and hotel industry is no exception. Interest in service quality research has been ongoing for more than two decades (Webb, 2000), resulted in having a literature rich of various studies dealing with this crucial issue from different dimensions (e.g. Briggs et al., 2007; Mohsin, 2007; Park et al., 2006; Pyo, 2005; Tsaur et al., 2004; Parasuraman, Zeithmal, and Berry, 1985, 1988, 1994; Gronroos, 1982, 1984; Cronin & Taylor, 1992, 1994; Donnelly, Hull, and Will, 2000; Saleh & Ryan, 1991).

Indeed, the improvement of product and service quality has been widely discussed in the literature as an appropriate competitive strategy for achieving sustainable competitive advantage (Morgan & Piercy, 1996). This requires management to continuously examine current processes against the demands of customers in the marketplace and then update their operations in line with market requirements (Wilds & Parks, 2004; Ndubisi, 2004; Heskett et al., 1990; Fehy, 1992).

Improving service quality will intensify customers' satisfaction (Kim et al., 2005; Hu & Kai, 2004; Yoon & Suh, 2004; Karatepe & Ekiz, 2004; Unzicker, 1999; Metawa & Almossawi, 1998; Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Taylor et al., 1994), help to retain existing customers and attract new ones (Rahman, 2006; Arasli et al., 2005; Keiser, 1993; Lian, 1994 a, b), lead to both market expansion and gains in market share (Lee & Lin, 2005; Chow & Luk, 2005; Buzzel and Gale, 1987), and improve profit (Mohsin, 2007; Briggs et al., 2007; Park et al., 2006; Nandish, 2000; Zeithmal, 2000; Rust et al., 1992; Nelson et al., 1992; Aaker and Jacobson, 1994; Ittner and Larcher, 1996). The importance of service quality to the success of business is best concluded in this sound statement: "Excellent service is a profit strategy because it results in more new customers, more business with existing customers, fewer lost customers, more insulation from price competition, and fewer mistakes requiring reperformance of services" (Shepherd, 1999).

To achieve the fruits of improvements in quality it has to be investigated with an understanding of its competitive implications (Porter, 1987). The importance of service quality necessitates examining service quality in the context of strategic management of firms (Powell, 1995; Pruett & Thomas, 1996). This led many firms to pursue service quality as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, thus gaining competitive advantage (Karatepe et al 2005; Tsaur & Lin, 2004; Clark et al., 1994; Zairi et al., 1994; Kerfoot & Kerfoot, 1995). However, the issue of how the implementation of quality strategies might lead to the attainment of one's firm competitive advantage is perhaps inadequately covered in the service marketing literature (Hill & Wilkinson, 1995; Longbottom and Zairi, 1996; Rust & Oliver, 1994).

Implementation of service quality strategies relies, to a large extent, on the role of middle managers (Harrington & Akehurst, 1996, 2000). Olyan and Rynes (1991) ensure the importance of middle managers in the implementation of service quality programs by claiming that 'the characteristics of successful quality implementations is that the support of middle managers is gained'.

Service quality literature is replete with examples of service quality assessment in different industries. For example: online shopping (Lee & Lin, 2005); IT consulting (Yoon & Suh, 2004); transportation (Disney, 1999; Tranick, 2000); Education (Lin, 2005; Paulins, 2005); libraries (Farris, 1999); retail outlets (Heung and Cheng 2000) health care (Lee, 2000; O'Connor, 2000; Glasscoff, 2000; Shemwell, 1999); human resources development (Mafi, 2000); banking (Arasli et al, 2005; Karatepe et al, 2005; Jabnoun & Khaifa, 2005; Metawa & Almossawi, 1984; Jun, 1999); construction industry (Al-Moamani, 2000); market research agencies (Donnelly, 2000); Telecommunications (Rahman, 2006); and hospitality industry (Briggs et al., 2007; Nadiri & Hussain, 2005; Pyo, 2005; Karatepe & Ekiz, 2004; Tsaur & Lin, 2004; Lewis & McCann, 2004; Saleh & Ryan, 1991; Don and Melvin, 1992; Callan, 1998; Hartline and Jones, 1996).

Service Quality and Hotel Industry

Service quality has become a focus for many hotel industry researchers. (e.g. Yucelt & Marcella, 1996; Enz and Siguaw, 2000; Saleh and Ryan, 1991; Callan, 1998). The combined effect of the worldwide economic recession, technological advancement, and globalization have increased the competitive pressures on hotel organizations (Harrington & Akehurst, 2000). All these pressures led the hotels to be more...

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