The lodging industry comprises businesses that offer accommodation services to tourists and guests. It is a key component of the hospitality industry alongside the recreation, food, and tourism industries. It is a bustling industry given an individual’s need for shelter when they travel to a new location for leisure, business, or personal purposes. The providers of accommodation services in the lodging industry include hotels, motels, and vacation rentals.
The type of service selected is accommodation service. The potential service gap is the gap between the delivery of accommodation services and external communication with the guests. The owners of the hotels and motels are likely to make false claims regarding the type of accommodation services they offer, leading to high customer expectations. In this respect, there is likely to be a gap between what the guest expects and what they receive.
Review of Theory
There is extensive evidence regarding the gap between accommodation service delivery and external communication. Zeithmal et al. indicate that the communication gap exists when there is a difference between service delivery and external communication to the entity’s customers. Businesses are keen on informing customers of their offerings and services through advertising. The entity can either communicate the information accurately or exaggerate its claims. The entity advertisements influence customer expectations. The entity can fail to meet the client’s expectations if the communications in the advertisement regarding the service do not match with what the entity delivers to the customer. The entity can also fail to deliver with respect to pricing. The entity can communicate a price that differs from the actual price listed for the service. The researchers indicate that a communication gap is difficult to close due to the presence of various communication channels and modes used to send messages from the entity to the customers. Examples of numerous communication channels used include conventional websites, personal sales, print media, mobile advertisements, radio, social networks, blogs and forums, and direct mail (Zeithmal et al.). Service customers obtain additional communication from other sources such as servicescapes, employees, and client service representatives. The challenge is ensuring that all the channels communicate consistently and effectively in providing customers with the same message. However, the individuals that use the various communication channels and modes are located in different departments leading to the dissemination of conflicting messages.
The researchers also indicate that the communication gap arises due to the nature of services, given their extended time frame with respect to delivery. The extended service experiences frequently change over time. The original service that was promised to the customer may change due to business realities for the service provider or client customer. Such realities may modify the service nature, client needs, and financial pressures that may lead to price increments or modifications to the service contracts. In this respect, the communication gap exists when communications to customers fail to evolve through time. The researchers also argue that the pricing of services exacerbates the communication gap challenge. For packaged goods, consumers possess sufficient price knowledge before purchase and, in effect, can determine whether the price is fair or in line with the competition. For services, consumers have no internal reference points for the established prices before purchase and consumption of the service. The determination of the value of the service provided to customers can be complex. Moreover, pricing strategies, including discounting and couponing, need to be different with respect to service cases in which the consumer does not possess any initial knowledge of prices. The cost-oriented methods for developing prices for offerings are more complex than those for pricing packaged goods due to the fact that the dominant expense variable is labor.
Bitner et al. indicate that the communication gap is caused by overpromising carried out by the sales and marketing team (215). A specific level of promotion is required in many cases to obtain a sale. Excessive advertising activity can be damaging when it surpasses the service provider’s ability to keep the promises it makes to the customers. The new customers gained in the short run as a result of the excessive promises can be easily lost through the service provider’s failure to deliver. Effective vertical communication is required to keep the employees informed of the entity’s corporate strategy and marketing information to ensure accurate communication. The researchers contend that the increase in the number of communication channels and modes has exacerbated the difficulty of offering consistent messages to customers. Channels such as blogs, client communities, targeted emails, and online customer chats are not simply alternatives that service entities can consider, but they have become expected by clients as a means of communication. Nowadays, customers can easily compare prices for services due to technology influx. The current age of easy, fast, and accessible communication allows consumers to move between websites, examine photos, and obtain virtual experiences that provide them with cues regarding the relative price they expect to pay for the service. Service firms have a significant challenge attributed to the relative ease with which better service, beautiful images, and highly qualified employees can be depicted online. It is significantly difficult to ensure that the aforementioned online experiences are matched to actual service delivery.
Shahin and Samea indicate that the communication gap is concerned with whether the promises made to customers match service delivery (1). Specifications are valuable in defining what quality means and are needed in guiding employees in their activities. They are also needed as instruments of comparison for effective quality assessment. Establishing adequate specifications is not equal to total standardization. It is vital to consider external communications when setting correct specifications. In external communication, it is vital to utilize communication means and channels to inform the customers regarding the service. Communication is also required to convince and educate the consumer and to derive information regarding the specifications that must be established by the organization keen on designing a client-oriented service. A service quality gap may arise in a situation in which the organization provides external communication which does not match service specifications. In this respect, the service quality levels that the consumer experiences are likely to differ from the service quality levels portrayed by the organization through their communication channels.
Questionnaire Design/Interview Protocol
The interview, which will involve five respondents, will seek to obtain information regarding how the communication gap occurs in the lodging industry. The questions will reveal the discrepancies between the accommodation services the service provider tells the guests they provide and the actual accommodation services the guests actually receive when they visit hotels, motels, or rental vacation premises. The interview questions will identify whether service providers in the lodging industry exaggerate the claims regarding the services they offer when advertising their services to guests and tourists. Essentially, the interview questions will determine whether the accommodation service providers deliver on the promises made to customers with regard to the service offerings. The questions will enable the measurement of the accuracy of the information shared with guests through advertisements and formal statements concerning the service offerings. They will provide evidence regarding whether accommodation service providers, for instance, hotels, exaggerate when advertising facilities such as spas, Wi-Fi, swimming, public computer, jacuzzi, high-quality food, parking, and sufficient security.
The data from the interview sessions will be analyzed through thematic analysis, a vital technique for analyzing qualitative information. Thematic analysis will be performed through the examination of the interview responses to identify common themes, ideas, and recurring patterns. An inductive approach to thematic analysis will be used. In this approach, the data will be scrutinized in an in-depth manner, with the data determining the themes. The interview data will be coded in the process of identifying themes.
The results of the data analysis indicate that the content and the message of the advertisements, salespersons, and customer service representatives significantly influence the decision-making of the respondents when selecting a hotel, motel, or rental vacation premise. The major theme derived from the first question is the strong impact of the advertisers, salespersons, and customer service representatives who use communication channels to reveal the type of facilities offered by accommodation service providers. The results also show that all the respondents have had to deal with dishonest claims when they are dealing with providers of accommodation services. The key theme identified is a mismatch between the quality of service promised and the one that is offered. Respondents have had to deal with dirty rooms, slow room service, closed amenities, lack of complimentary guest supplies, unexpected fees, and lack of food items listed on the menu. The findings also show that the exaggerated or dishonest claims have lowered the guest’s perception of the accommodation service provider making the false claims. They also show that guests do not fully rely on advertisements and customer representatives after experiencing accommodation service that does not meet their expectations.
Overall, deviations in the service industry can occur in the process of delivering services such as accommodation services to customers. The research shows that accommodation service providers such as hotels, motels, and rental vacation premises are likely to experience a communication gap when they overpromise on the type and quality of the facilities and services they provide to guests. In most cases, the accommodation service providers typically fail to meet customer expectations by promising quality services and actually providing slow customer service, advertising closed amenities, issuing unexpected charges, failing to offer complimentary guest supplies, and failing to provide food indicated on the menu. The gap between what the accommodation service provider communicates and what the customer actually receives leads to guest dissatisfaction. Travelers and guests tend to seek alternative service providers when they are dissatisfied. Addressing the communication gap can lead to increased service quality from the guest’s perspective. High service quality has become a necessity for ensuring high room occupancy rates in the highly competitive lodging industry. Accommodation service providers can earn high revenues and profits if they can guarantee high room occupancy rates.
Service providers in the lodging industry can eliminate the communication gap, ensuring proper and consistent internal communication among the employees. The accommodation service providers can implement an integrated service marketing communication strategy. Essentially, all the employees working in the hotel or motel should receive the same message regarding the services and facilities offered. All the employees should be able to access the online chat groups used by the accommodation service provider to provide key information to the employees. The accommodation service provider should encourage consistent communication among all the employees. The salespersons, managers, supervisors, and cleaners should constantly communicate with each other to ensure all employees have correct and up-to-date information regarding the availability and condition of the hotel’s services and facilities. In this respect, the salespersons and customer service representatives are likely to provide accurate information to the guests visiting the hotel. The accommodation service providers should also constantly review all communications they put out to the customers to ensure accurate and consistent information. In addition, the accommodation service providers should implement reality-check reviews of their facilities and services, which can be conducted monthly or before a new advertising campaign is launched. It is also recommended that the accommodation service providers also carry out mock guest interactions to evaluate how salespersons and other employees interact with guests. After such sessions, the managers should provide coaching regarding point-of-contact interactions to ensure the services and facilities are being presented realistically. In addition, the accommodation service providers should regularly examine employee input and customer reviews before launching new advertisements to obtain a reality check. Resultantly, new advertisements can provide factual information regarding the available services and facilities, leading to high client satisfaction given that the client’s expectations will be met.
Bitner, Mary Jo, Valarie A. Zeithaml, and Dwayne D. Gremler. “Technology’s Impact on the Gaps Model of Service Quality.” Handbook of Service Science, 2010, pp. 197-218.
Shahin, Arash, and Monireh Samea. “Developing The Models of Service Quality Gaps: A Critical Discussion.” Business Management and Strategy, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2010, p. 1.
Zeithaml, Valarie A., Mary Jo Bitner, and Dwayne D. Gremler. “Services marketing strategy.” Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing, 2010.
|1||What is the impact of advertisements, salespersons, and customer service representatives on your decision-making when selecting a hotel, motel, or rental vacation premise?|
|2||Have you had to deal with exaggerated or dishonest claims regarding the facilities offered by the accommodation service provider? Please elaborate on the nature of the exaggerated or dishonest claims|
|3||How do the exaggerated or dishonest claims regarding the facilities offered by the accommodation service provider affect your perception of the hotel, motel, or rental vacation premise?|
|4||After your experiences with accommodation service providers, to what extent do you trust advertisements and customer representatives?|