In today‟s competitive hotel industry, service is the key ingredient that can help in creating and maintaining competitive advantage in the marketplace. The success of an organisation in the hospitality industry is wholly dependent on the service delivered and customer satisfaction (Haemoon, 1999). This report aims at discussing and suggesting how high service quality can be created and sustained at „Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch Hotel & Spa‟ to ensure consistency of effort and that customer expectations are met; and to recommend a service recovery plan for a service issue. This report will start by discussing about service quality in the hotel industry and throwing light on the literature and theoretical framework. Further to this, we will explain how high service quality can be continuously achieved by adopting Total Quality Management which will be followed by a discussion of the current issue at „Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch Hotel & Spa‟, analysis of the same with the GAPS model and designing a Service Recovery Plan using the technique of Service Blueprinting.
Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch Hotel & Spa, one of the hotels under the Mercure brand, is located at Dartford, England and is a 4 star hotel situated close to the world famous „Brands Hatch racing circuit‟ which is home to events like Formula one and British Superbike race. It has 121 bedrooms with the most modern facilities, a restaurant, three bars and a premium health and spa. The target customers are those arriving for a leisure countryside family trip, to organise and attend weddings, business and family events, to participate in the motor racing events or on official meetings and seminars (Website: Hotel DARTFORD) It has an active and vibrant management team which is centrally recruited by Mercure to ensure that the standards of quality and superior management are met at all of its hotels (Michelle Chenery, 2016) Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch Hotel & Spa promotes and advertises itself majorly by arranging events and providing online and offline discounts, festival offers on hotel stay, dining at the restaurant and bar access. Most of the guests to the hotel come on tours and weekend trips, business trips or to participate in events. Comfort, leisure and value for money are the key expectations from customers. The hotel has been praised by many in travel review sites but recently there is a trend being seen where customers express anger, regret and dissatisfaction for the service quality (TripAdvisor, 2016) the reason and recovery plan for which, we will discuss in this report.
„Service‟ refers to the intangible offering that takes place in interactions between customers and service providers, wherein the judgment on quality happens during the service delivery process (Shahin, 2006). Service quality is a subjective, multi-dimensional concept which can be on a general level defined as “the comparison customers make between their expectations and perceptions of the received service” (Parasuraman et al., 1988; Gronroos, 1982). It can also be defined as the customer‟s judgment about the overall service experience in terms of its excellence and distinction which can be viewed in the light of customer satisfaction or customer delight (Ueltschy et al., 2004). Service quality holds a very crucial position in the literature of the subject - Service marketing (Lee, Lee & Yoo, 2000) and therefore can be referred as the extent to which a service provider or organisation efficiently cater to customer needs (Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, 1990). Service quality, being a complex multi-dimensional concept, has been further instigated in to by various experts who proposed three dimensions to service quality; the physical or technical quality, the functional or interactive quality and the corporate quality/image (Lehtinen and Lehtinen, 1982). Another such description of service quality refers to quality as “the conformance to specifications” wherein positive service quality is when a service meets or exceeds preset standards or promises and negative service quality is when it goes below the conformed standards (Ekinci et al., 2004). The conceptualisation of service quality happens in an environment where there is a process of production-delivery-consumption. Hokey et. al., (2002) states that a hotel in the hospitality industry should recognize and meet the customer standards and expectations, the failure of which will lead the business to collapse within a time-frame of 7 to 9 years. The perceptions of a customer about the service quality, his expectations, previous experience with the service, positive and negative emotions all affect the quality of service experienced (O‟Neill & Palmer, 2003).
Service Quality perceptions and experiences are different in diverse industries. But service quality measurements everywhere help to identify quality issues and boost efficiency and Service Quality to go beyond customer expectations and create delighted customers. There are various theories and concepts of service and service quality related to the hospitality and hotel industry but the most relevant to the hospitality industry emphasises that “service quality must be guest oriented” (Ekinci and Riley, 1999). Service quality in the hotel industry will depend on the beliefs that quality is : (i) excellence (ii) value for money and (iii) meeting or exceeding expectations (Mugassa, 2014). It can be best measured best through quality surveys where the guests are questioned about their expectations and perceptions of service quality. The most widely recognised models of service quality are „The GAP model‟, „SERVQUAL‟/RATER theory and „Extended model of Service Quality‟. „The GAP model‟ was proposed by Parasuraman et.al. (1985) and it states that service quality is a result of the comparison between customer expectations from the service provider and his/her perceptions of the actual service performance. A service quality model of gap analysis was developed based on ten dimensions; reliability, accessibility, tangibles, responsiveness, security, competence, communication, credibility, courtesy and understanding customer.