This research is based on Holiday Inn Harare which is situated in the center of Zimbabwe’s capital city. It is an international franchise brand under the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) (African Sun, 2017). It is a three-star hotel and ideal for business and leisure. Its products and services include accommodation, guest room information, restaurant and bars, hotel services, conferencing, meeting room facilities and leisure and sport activities and these products and services meet customers who visit for business and leisure (see appendix). They have plans as an organization which includes increasing in the market share and their profits or sales to expand.
1. Evaluation of customer service management and complaints resolution
· Customers’ needs and preferences
Customers’ needs include fairness, being given full information, friendliness, welcomed and many more. Anticipating customers’ needs and preferences result in customer satisfaction which leads to customer loyalty. Customers’ needs at Holiday Inn are being met by providing good hotel services, good customer care and good quality of food. This has led to customer satisfaction hence led to customer loyalty. Loyal customers are easy to deal with because they require less service time than new customers, they will be familiar with the hotel’s products and procedures and also spread positive word of mouth about the hotel.
Through anticipating customers’ needs and preferences the hotel could find out their customer’s needs, anticipate their work demands and average income. Also they are able to price their products and services according to their customers’ origin (see appendix).
· Implementation of customer service standards
The management team at Holiday Inn Harare is responsible for providing leadership so the hotel train them in order to make them accountable. They also train and empower new employees with values and skills according to their departments following the training program of the hotel. The hotel delivers quality products and services to the customers who visit for business and leisure like providing free Wi-Fi, 24-hour safe parking, 24-hour reception desk, room service, housekeeping and many more.
The phones at Holiday Inn are answered as quickly as possible. Emails and faxes are answered within 24-hours. All visitors are welcomed nicely with a smile in a positive manner and professional.
The customer service staff at Holiday Inn listen to the complaint from the customer and reassuring the customer that they understand the complaint. Before they offer solutions, customer service staff start investigating the complaint in order to understand want really happened. In their investigations, if they found out that the situation is greater their control, they report to the manager and they follow up to make sure that the situation is solved.
The customer service of the hotel offers an after-sales service. According to Gillian Dale (2007), after-sales service is when the customer service staff telephones the customer on their return to check if they have a good time, will give them the opportunity to find out more about the resort they went to and improve the product knowledge and will get the opportunity to ask them where they want to go next and see if they get another sale.
· Resource allocation
The hotel has the customer service department whereby it deals with the treatment of customers and how are they taken care of. The management is trained so that they will be able to manage the staff with knowledge and professionalism. The hotel also train customer service staff using attachment training whereby trainees will be assistance to senior members in various departments in order to gain knowledge and experience. Also they do job rotation whereby trainees will be rotating in different department to gain experience.
The hotel provides speed and accuracy of service. They always have time with the customers whether they need information or help with the products and services of the hotel. The staff have good skills in technology and this enables them to provide efficient service. This makes their marketing, advertising and reservation system to become easier.
· Problem resolution
Holiday Inn Harare develop a computerized customer response where they analyze complaints and check if action has been taken. Some of the actions include pro-active customer service. They send questionnaires to guest rooms or tables to try and get information from the customers about their products and services before they make complaints.
Another action includes recruitment and selection. Selecting suitable applicants increase the probability having employees who have good customer service knowledge and reduces the complaints. Supportive leadership is another action whereby managers solve disagreements between the frontline staff and the customer. This help to prevent the exposing their staff to the customer and this will affect the worker’s performance. Internal marketing is another possible action they take whereby employees are being told about the hotel and its customer. This help the employees to gain knowledge about the hotel.
· Complaint handling
Complaints are mostly caused by poor quality products and services. When processes are slow at the Holiday Inn like having slow reservation system, customers’ complaints. Also when the staff use jargon that the customer would not understand. When the hotel makes changes without informing customers in time, customers complain.
The Holiday Inn Harare has a complaint procedure that is when they figure out ways to handle customer complaints to help in improving the relationship with their customers. They created a complaint form and all the complaints are taken down on this form. It shows the date when the complaint has been received, personal details of the customer who files the complaint, department, service or product that the customer is complaining about and a brief summary of what really happens and cause the complaint.
The staff then assess the complaint finding out whether it is a minor or major complaint. When they are finished with the assessing, immediate steps should follow to solve the complaint. The first step is to apologize to the customer and solutions follow like allowing the customer to exchange the product or get a refund. Also the hotel decides on internal corrective whereby the hotel assess whether any system or training of staff need to improve to reduce complaints.
The hotel maintains the records of the complaints. They keep the records of the complaints at the customer service department, some are records are computerized, kept in disc and in hotel files. The records help the hotel in improving the hotel and whether they need new systems or staff needs to be trained.
· Customer feedback processes
The hotel uses customer feedback to make improvements. The customer feedback is the response given by the customers to the products and services of the hotel. The Holiday Inn get their feedback through emails, comment boxes, questionnaires and interviews and this enable the hotel to know where they need improvements.
The frontline staff take note of customers’ complaints and comments, then the feedback is given to the management through the reporting channels. Also they have focus group discussions whereby the hotel’s loyal customers became representatives of other customers. The hotel enters into a meeting with these representatives to get feedback from them.
The negative feedback shows the weaknesses of the hotel, where they need improvements and they can be notified about competitors. The positive feedback motivates the staff to reach the hotel’s targets and when customer comments are published in the media, it attracts more customers to the hotel.
2. Analysis of customer services and quality systems
· Managing customer complaints
According to the Brown University (n.d), an evaluation plan is an integral part of a grant proposal that provides information to improve a project during development and implementation. An evaluation plan helps to come up with the information really needed and it has guidelines throughout the evaluation.
The hotel goes on a market research and the research is carried out through questionnaires, frontline staff and surveys to collect information about their services. Questionnaires are placed in guest rooms, at the reception area and in restaurants in order to collect customers’ feedback. The frontline staff take note of customer’s comments and complaints and they channel the feedback to the management for them to analyze the information.
The gap model of service quality can be used to analyze information of the hotel. The gap model was developed by Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml (1985). According to Parasuraman, et al. (1985), the model identifies four specific gaps leading to a fifth overall gap between customers’ expectations and perceived service. Customers’ expectations for the service experienced are used by the hotel to measure the service quality and include it in their judgement of the service quality.
The first gap is called the knowledge gap and it is the difference in customer expectations and management’s perception of customer expectation (Parasuraman, et al., 1985). Holiday Inn managers researches on what their customers really desire during their stay in the hotel. They also analyze the complaints to see where they are lacking in their service.
The second gap is known as the design gap and it is measured by how well the service design specifications match up to management’s perception of customer expectations (Parasuraman, et al., 1985). The managers of the hotel are trained to be the leaders of the service quality. The hotel’s management set and strengthen the customer service standards and they form service quality goals.
The third gap is referred to as the performance gap (Parasuraman, et al., 1985). Holiday Inn Harare selects the right employees. They support their employees by training them, provide suitable equipment and technology, empower them, build and encourage teamwork and they do internal marketing. The hotel reward and measure service quality achievements achieved by its employees.
The fourth gap is referred to as the communication gap and it shows what the hotel has promised to the customers and what is being delivered to them (Parasuraman, et al., 1985). The hotel advertises what they really have like their real employees and their real conditions. By doing so, they gain communication with their customers and communications between their sales and operations.
The fifth gap represents the difference between customers’ expectations from the hotel and the service quality they received from the hotel.
The gap model of service quality
Source: Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985).
The strength of the Holiday Inn Harare includes; it has a good reservation system, it has access to all its customers to get customer feedback and this enables them to make improvements in their hotel, it is well known because of its excellent advertising, the parent company has an excellent brand quality.
The hotel also has weaknesses which include; some of the branch hotels do not follow the Holiday Inn set standards like the recruitment process, complaint handling procedures and accounting systems of the hotel, it has a large number of competitors and this means their market share will be limited.
The repeated customer complaints of the Holiday Inn Harare are mostly on the food department. Some of the complaints is when the customers’ food ordered came with some additional to it that the customer did not order. For example, when a customer orders an ice cream for dessert then they put some fruits in the ice cream which is not needed by the customer.
Some of repeated customer complaints of the hotel are on their staff members. Some of them are not friendly and not welcoming to the guest. Some of the frontline staff at the Holiday Inn Harare does not provide much information of what the customer need to know about their products and services.
The Holiday Inn hotel should do induction on a regular basis so that the staff would know how to handle customers and to be able to satisfy them. Also should have a supportive leadership which enables the staff not to be exposed in front of the customers and avoiding the staff with stress which could affect the worker’s performance.
· Quality analysis and standards
ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of products or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs”.
There are many attributes of quality in customer service which includes;
§ Reliability – measures if the hotel’s products and services are suitable in any condition and repeated measurements should give the same result.
§ Maintainability – different forms of the hotel’s products should be easy to maintain, easy to upgrade with new technology from time to time.
§ Usable – the hotel’s applications should be easy to use
§ Portability – the capability of employees to change their schemes without losing it.
§ Correctness – applications should be attached to working requirements.
§ Efficiency – the extent to which time is required to complete the intended task given to the system
§ Integrity – security of the system should be adequate to prevent unauthorized access to the system.
§ Testability – systems should be testable so that faults can be easily found within it.
§ Flexibility – system should be flexible in order to make changes to the system.
§ Reusability – the system should be usable and this saves time.
Service quality can be measured using the following methods;
§ Role modelling – it is when the hotel identifies the market leaders of the industry and analyze how they deliver their customer service comparing with their customer service. They then try to follow the ideas of their market leaders which becomes the role model of the hotel.
§ Bench-marking – it is when the hotel collects information about the competitor then takes the information as the standards of the industry.
§ Service Level Agreements – these are the agreements between the service provider and the supplier of the service. The hotel sets the level of service that it expects from the supplier.
§ Customer Charters – this is a commitment given to the customers by the hotel and it is established in the hotel’s statement and procedures. It shows how the hotel will provide information to the customers and how they resolve their complaints.
§ Codes of Practice – the hotel get certification from standards setting boards.
§ Mystery shopping – the hotel hires trained researchers to visit the hotel so as to get first hand customer feedback from the real customers of the hotel and they then write reports of the customers’ views and their own views on how the customers are being served with the customer service staff.
· Quality systems
The hotel knows their customers’ needs and wants who visit for business and leisure. The Holiday Inn Harare offer accommodation, guest room information, restaurant and bars, hotel services, conferencing, meeting room facilities, leisure and sports activities.
According to Linda Ray (2017), guests expect quality service and reward it with loyalty and referrals. Effective quality systems begin at the hiring process. The Holiday Inn Harare include strict policies of hiring the managers and they can be placed on a probation for a period of time. All the employees firstly undergo training for them to deliver excellent customer service and staff members are rewarded and promoted based on individual’s performance. Managers also include customer service appraisal in their reviews.
The employees, suppliers and customers of the hotel are there to support the hotel. Factors are identified by the hotel like customer satisfaction, product quality, the market share and employee’s satisfaction. The hotel’s services and products are based on customer and suppliers’ requirements. Also technology, the hotel’s website is easy to move from page to page and it can be easily understood. The effective quality system encourages team work and this improves the quality service they provide.
According to Shruti Bhat (2014), there are seven main tools that helps to identify quality problems and are the most commonly used and most effective tools for overcoming problems in terms of quality. The main tools used to identify quality problem suggested by Shruti Bhat (2014), include;
§ Check sheet – it is where the information is collected regarding the quality issues. The check sheets for quality problems scores the amount of problems for a number of predetermined defect causes (Shruti Bhat, 2014).
§ Cause-and-effect diagrams – it depicts the causes of individual events and the connection between the events and they are used to pinpoint the cause of a specific quality problem in order to fix the issue (Shruti Bhat, 2014).
§ Control charts – are made up of a horizontal line that represents the norm of the process and there is a line above and below to represent upper and lower regulation boundaries (Shruti Bhat, 2014).
§ Pareto charts – contain line graph and bars in order to graph data and it is a method of finding out where the sources for defects come from and pinpointing the source of largest reoccurring defect (Shruti Bhat, 2014).
§ Histogram – Shruti Bhat (2014) states that they are used to give a rough assessment for the probability of a source of a problem and it shows the occurrences of observations that occur amongst the subject focus point.
§ Flow chart – depicts the stages involved in a process and they allow viewers to easily identify and solve issues of quality problems by clearly showing the details of a certain procedure (Shruti Bhat, 2014).
§ Scatter diagrams – Shruti Bhat (2014) state that it depicts the connection between variables and it is easy to see where there is a correlation or where one is lacking.
Holiday Inn hotel has many quality standards that can be used to improve the quality of its services to its customers. These quality standards include;
§ Its standards are rated with the star rating and it is a three-star hotel.
§ They offer online services and this enables them to stay in touch with their customers.
§ Customers complaints are solved in time and their suggestions are listened to.
§ Excellent customer care – customers are treated with respect.
§ Good communication channel – the hotel’s management is always in touch with its suppliers, workers, customers and potential customers.
§ Dos and don’ts – the hotel has rules that control the hotel workers.
§ Train staff – they train their employees on how to use technology and how to deliver excellent customer service.
§ Motivate staff – the management rewards and promotes employees according to their performance and this helps in motivating the staff.
All these quality standards can be used to make improvements in the hotel.
The Holiday Inn Harare meets their customers’ needs and this will lead the customers to be satisfied hence became loyal. When customers are satisfied they spread good word of mouth and they are cheap to service because they will be familiar with the hotel’s products and services. Good customer service result in creating new customers, cuts cost in maintaining old customers and this will boost their sales. Customer complaints records are kept safely and this helps in the hotel’s improvements.
The customer service staff should have skills which includes friendliness and excellent product knowledge and this will help them to set their service standards and reduce business risk. For the hotel to have good quality standards they should regularly train their staff and motive them through delegation, empowerment and internal marketing.
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Parasuraman, et al., (1985) Gap Model of Service Quality Available at: https://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/-mullins/servicequality/ServQualmodel.pdf (Accessed on 29September 2017).
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