Assessing the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service


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Assessing the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service


The issue of customer service has become very important to companies
in competitive industries such as travel and tourism. There is not
much point in spending huge sums in advertising for new customers to
grow the business if the existing customers are defecting to
competitors because they are not satisfied.

On the other hand, a company, which has a solid base of satisfied
loyal customers, will probably gain demand through personal
recommendation which is the basis of a good reputation. It is clear,
therefore, that good customer service which results in customer
loyalty can have a direct impact on the long-term profitability of
tourism enterprise.

To Assess the Quality and Effectiveness of Customer Service in ONE
travel and Tourism organisation I selected the Holiday Inn Garden
Court in Ashford, Kent because I have visited before so I already have
a sound judgement on how efficient the customer service is. The hotel
has 100 bedrooms, a lounge bar, restaurant, 6 small meeting rooms and
a separate pub in the car park which is owned and operated by another
company.

There are three main criteria's that I will analyse in the
organisations customer service quality, they are: -

* What are their performance standards like?

* Measuring to see if the standards are being met

* Putting in place measure to correct any shortcomings

I will also be analysing the quality criteria using the spider diagram
shown below: -

Value for money

Staffing qualities/levels




Reliability

[IMAGE][IMAGE]

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TASK B - give a full explanation of the key customer service quality
criteria relevant to the organisation, giving examples of the
procedures and practices used to achieve them.

The delivery of customer service in this hotel involves several parts:

1-Brand Standards

The hotel is privately owned and operated under a franchise agreement
with 6 Continents, the company which owns the Holiday Inn brand. This
means that all of the brand quality standards and operating procedures

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specified in the Holiday Inn brand standards manual must be applied.

2-Inspections

The hotel is inspected once per year by a Holiday Inn inspector who
arrives as a secret shopper and inspects the whole hotel. The results
are recorded in a lap top computer and added to the negative score of
customer complaints received on customer comments cards. If the hotel
fails to achieve an 85% score it will fail. In the case of a failed
inspection the hotel has six weeks to put the problems right and pass
a second inspection before it is thrown out of the brand. As a result
of the scoring hotels can see where they rank against other hotels and
learn from their 'best' practices.

There are other inspections by the Tourist Board and travel
publications which force the hotel to provide specific standards to
qualify for an official rating. The management give less importance to
these inspections than brand standards.

3-Management

There are regular weekly management and departmental meetings where
complaints and inspection reports are reviewed and actions planned to
resolve problems. The heads of department and staff feel that some of
the problems occur because of the shortage of staff or low cost
students in the summer peak season. There are also internal
inspections by management to ensure standards such as hotel bedrooms
inspected by the housekeeper.

4-Accessibility

[IMAGE]

Holiday Inn Garden Court extend a warm welcome to all of our guests
with special needs and continually review our facilities to improve
access wherever possible. The Holiday Care Service has accredited our
hotels and as a guide please look for these symbols within each hotel
page.

[IMAGE]

Accessible to a wheelchair user travelling independently

[IMAGE]

Accessible to a wheelchair user travelling with assistance

[IMAGE]

Accessible to someone with limited mobility but able to walk a few
paces and up a maximum of three steps

This little table shows the accessibility for guests with special
needs.

Another factor of accessibility is the availability of time that then
hotel is open. Holiday in Garden Court choose to close all through
December and up to the 6th January.

An even greater factor that greatly affects the accessibility of
travel and tourism service is the process that the customer needs to
go through to gain further information and actually buy it. Holiday
Inn Garden Court increases their accessibility by promoting their
hotel on teletext, the Internet, leaflets, tourist attractions
brochures.

Value for Money

The set room price is: -

* £65 a night for a normal room

* £45 a night for corporate rate

* 10% off any room for a night if you're a member of the Priority
Club.

In my opinion the hotel is good value for money because the service
provided is very efficient. I was watching a customer being served at
reception and the overall service was very good. The receptionist was
quick to notice the customer standing there, with a friendly smile on
her face she was quick to deal with his request. I was impressed with
the knowledge that the receptionist had of the hotel.

TASK C - identify and describe the methods used by the organisation to
monitor the quality and effectiveness of their customer service
delivery.

When we stay at any hotel we all have little benchmarks that we set in
our minds. MVA's research in 1995 shows us the essential features in
hotel accommodation.

* Staff attentive and efficient 78

* High Standards of cleanliness throughout 76

* High quality and well maintained bathroom 65

* High quality bed, mattress, linen 63

* Quiet bedroom, no disturbance 63

* Attractive and pleasant bedroom to be in 63

* Lighting in room and at bedside, good enough to

read by 63

* Well-furnished bedroom, mirrors, chairs etc 63

* Efficient and easy booking service 61

* Well regulated temperature and atmosphere 60

* Prompt and efficient check-in/out 60

The above are many benchmarks that we automatically set the hotel
before visiting it. We compare these to other hotels we've stayed at.

Internal Benchmarking

Here is a list of a few of the benchmarks: -

* Maintain their star rating

* Answering calls within 8 rings

* Take reservation and offer all information for example, room

service, take dinner reservation

* In the restaurant, remember the guest's names

External Benchmarking

Here is a list of the external benchmarks: -

* The scores of inspections and complaints are compared against the
hotels within the same area

* The scores from the Tourist Board which gives diamond grading

* Employees are sent to other hotels within the same area to their
designated place to see how they work. For example receptionists are
sent to other receptions to monitor how they interact with the
customers

* There are two questions in questionnaires which are compared within
different hotels. They are:

1) How were you satisfied with each are of the hotel

2) Would you recommend the hotel to others

Customer Complaints

In this hotel the customer comments are sent directly to the Holiday
Inn head office but the Duty Manager deals with other complaints while
the guest is in the hotel. In most cases the problems are simple and
can be fixed easily with a positive attitude. The biggest problems
arise when customers think that nobody cares or pays any attention to
them so they go away and write a complaint letter.

All complaint letters are passed to the General Manager who passes
them to the department concerned and asks for an explanation. A reply
is then prepared with compensation if necessary to protect the
goodwill of the brand.

Common Problems

The most common problems come from booking errors where a customer has
asked for a type of room and this is not available such as a family
room, a quiet room, no smoking room or disabled room. This is because
these rooms are sometimes already occupied by other guests or there
are rooms out of service because of maintenance or redecoration. The
attitude of the reception staff is important in handling these issues
by listening to the customer, calming them down and then explaining
what has caused the problem and what can be done about it. It is the
responsibility of the Duty Manager to be on hand to check quality
standards and to resolve these problems for customers.

Another source of complaints is when the restaurant is full and
service becomes slow. There are also problems at peak times of the day
in reception when everyone is checking in or checking out and the
telephone is ringing or someone wants to change their room

Customer Care Training

Although the Garden Court is only a 3star quality level all staff are
trained on the importance of customer care and basic complaint
handling. There are also some skills training which is essential to
show new staff how to do things properly. There are also courses
online for staff with access to the Holiday Inn web site.

Customer Loyalty

In the end, customers vote with the choices they make to come back or
not. Holiday Inn has a loyalty card with points to give regular
customers special attention. The card must be asked for by reception
staff and upgraded rooms given when available.

Customer Feedback

Surveys

Observation



[IMAGE]

[IMAGE]



[IMAGE]


Informal Feedback

The manager gives the staff at holiday Inn feedback at regular
intervals. Their encouraged to raise suggestions and ideas for
improvement whether in their own department or across the company to
continuously improve the way that they do things. At least once a year
the manager and the staff will discuss in detail their progress and
further training if needed.

Mystery Shopper

While I was in the reservations office the post arrived. Two of the
reservations staff received certificates stating what percent they got
by the mystery shopper. I found out that once a month a mystery
shopper will ring one of the phone lines and try and book a room. They
will have a checklist to confirm whether the reservation staff met
each criteria. One of the staff showed me that they got 79%, which was
quite good, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Suggestion Boxes

There is a visitor's book in reception where customers can write in on
the way out. This has become more and more popular as visitors also
want to read other peoples comments, especially if and famous people
have stayed at the hotel.

TASK D - Evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the customer
service delivery in the organisation.

Suggested Improvements

Although customer service is limited as a three star equivalent hotel,
there is a concern among management about customer satisfaction
motivated by the desire not to loose points through complaints on the
brand inspection score. However, not all staff feel involved because
they do not get a direct benefit or bonus when customers are happy
compared to the telling off when there is a complaint. I would suggest
a small bonus for everyone every day that there is not a single
complaint.

I would also suggest more talking to customers and market research to
define customer needs and feedback from outside of the hotel. How is
the hotel perceived by local businesses and local residents? How does
it sound to callers when the telephone is answered - these things do
not get attention in the inspection of bedrooms and customer
complaints.

As I couldn't be a mystery shopper because I had already stayed at the
hotel before, it was harder to set some benchmarks. I did take note of
how long it took the receptionist to answer the phone, in my mind I
thought maximum of 10 rings was sufficient, they answered in up to 10.
I was also watching closely at how they treated me as a customer, they
were friendly and willing to answer questions that I asked.


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