There has been an endless debate among travelers concerning the standard of quality of service in the hospitality industry. It is worth noting that the debate is focusing on whether European hotels offer same level of services as their Asian counterparts.
There is no doubt that different people have different test when it comes to the quality of service they would like to receive from hotels as well as other hospitality industry. There are those of the view that whenever they are out of their country, they expect to receive services equal to what is offered back home while there are those who believe they need to receive a different level of service (Naraya et al., 2009).
Since the world has turned into a global village, travelling has been faster and cheaper, thus people find themselves out of their motherland more often. This kind of travelling has offered hospitality industry with an opportunity to grow. One area that scholars have noted to be of interest and can be successfully used as competitive advantage is to provide customers with very high standard of service; this can be attained through incorporating cultural aspects.
As a result of rising significance of service quality in the hotel industry, scholars in the hospitality industry dedicated their efforts to come up with a framework as well as measurable scales to help determine perception of service quality. As a result SERVQUAL model was developing and up to date it is well known and has been applied in various studies. The model is made up of 5 service quality dimensions and includes the following; tangible, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and reliability (Tse, 2009).
Tangibles are those physical facilities; equipment as well as how the employees of a hotel look, when the expectations of a customer are met this will contribute to satisfaction.
Reliability means the ability to accomplish and provide customers with services initially promised, responsiveness defines the willingness of hotel workers to help customers and give them prompt services, assurance refers to knowledge and courtesy of workers towards visitors finally empathy is the caring and personalized attention that customers are provided with by service providers.
Ideally service quality has been simply thought of as the difference between perceptions of customers and his or her expectations. Therefore service quality is one way to help manage business process in order to ensure that total satisfaction to customers on all levels is attained. Ideally the concept ultimately results in higher level of competitiveness, effectiveness as well as flexibility.
According to Robinson, 2003, he asserts that every nation has realized the importance of tourism and has embarked on efforts to attract more tourists. To match the demands and aspiration of the visitors, hotels are in the forefront to ensure that the visitors are satisfied with everything which will ensure customer loyalty as well as retention.
Asian hotels has the advantage of being considerably less expensive compared to those in America and Europe zone. For this reason, every individual can afford to enjoy the services of the hotel industry.
However in Europe, individual of lower income level can only share room with many other visitors. Similarly, hotels in Asia tend to give much better services as compared to their European counterparts. Additionally the facilities are better too (Tse, 2009).
For instance room are relatively larger in size, they are new bathroom are also newer and larger. Visitors have indicated that they love to spend their holidays in Asian hotels since it is affordable. They claim that they can stay in a hotel in a beach or a block away from the beach at relatively lower cost. Taking dinner every single night is fun and affordable too. Interestingly visitors indicate that they are more attracted to the unique culture of the region.
Hotels in Europe are quite expensive as compared to those in Asian countries. From previous studies, it has been revealed that most of the hotels in this region are smaller; however visitors find it to be charming as well as offer local hospitality. Nonetheless, there have been cases where visitors were of the view that the rooms and bathroom were quite smaller, with poor ventilation. Other visitors were unsatisfied with the quality of linen offered to them as well as lack of view from their room (Akbaba, 2006).
Factor impacting on customer satisfaction (culture)
It has been shown that service quality or customer satisfaction with regards to services in the hospitality industry is dictated by a number of factors. The encountered services, employee training and culture are the three most important factors that lead to quality service.
As suggested by Yi, Marcelo & Tyler, 2008 more emphasis has been put on culture and quality service particularly when comparing European and Asian hotels. This is because culture significantly plays an important role in dictating how customers expect services to be delivered.
Similarly cultural differences play an important role in understanding differences between customers and more often than not act as a factor in affecting the preferences as well as values of the customer in deciding to use a service. For that matter service managers need to be fully aware of not only their ability to leverage culture-driven expectations but also the cost associated with ignoring cultural norms and beliefs.
Previous studies have shown that when dealing with Japanese service should be tailored to ensure safety and the service provider should give more attention to them. Additionally customers with western culture have been shown to be more likely to depend on the tangible cues from the physical environment as compared to their Asian counterpart.
Similarly hedonic dimension of the consumption experience is more important to those having western culture as compared to those of Asian culture. Other studies particularly the one carried out by Hsu & Kang, 2003 and Tsang & Qu, 2007 clearly indicates that Asian visitors exhibit higher level of expectations and tend to evaluate perceived service quality more unfavorably than the non Asian visitors.
This has been shown to be directly linked to money that they spend on a service. It is from this cultural background that most of the Asian hotels seem to emphasis on providing their customers with more attention, guarantee security and put less emphasis on tangible aspect. However due to globalization, Asian hotels have managed to bring in the concept of tangible more central to their operation in order to appeal to western visitors.
This kind of combination has been shown to auger well with better quality service. Similarly the findings of Donthu & Yoo, 1998 revealed that individualistic customers tend to exhibit higher levels of expectations of assurance from hotels as compared to collectivist since they expect to receive confidence about the service they have paid for from service providers.
Another study done by Mittila, 1999 which centered on perception of service quality between western and Asian customers concerning communication and power distance, it was apparent that culture resulted in bias on how individuals evaluated their goals to purchasing a service.
According to Furrer et al., 2000, perception of service quality indeed varies with the culture of the customers. Thus individualists prefer to keep distance between them and those providing the service and to that effect tangible attributes of service industry comes in handy. There is no doubt that there is a close relationship between culture and service quality.
Interestingly, people in Asia strongly believe in harmony and are of the view that open expression of dissatisfaction is inappropriate as well as not socially acceptable. The reason is that this might lead to confrontations which will ultimately jeopardize the relationship between customers and service providers. For this reason, Asian hotels have mastered ways of understanding their customers need and expectations hence providing them with services that satisfy them.
However, in situations where visitors from Europe visit Asian hotels, when they express their concerns about certain issues, workers seem to be offended with such open expression of dissatisfaction. As noted previously visitors have mixed demands, there are those who will call for services which are in line with their culture while others will demand services that are unique. It has been shown that visitors from Asian countries when they go outside the region demand for services which uphold their culture (Tanvir, 2011).
On the other hand, western visitors more often than note demand for high value indigenous culture based services. In Asian hotel, culture dictates a lot and this might make western visitors feel unsatisfied. For instance, it is not allowed to openly take liquor forcing them to be restricted in their room; to them this denies them the chance to enjoy the scenic beauty.
Additionally hand shake to women is not allowed, this seems weird to western visitors since they are used to hugging and even kissing females in public. All these cultural attributes in one way or the other contributes to differences in perceive quality service in Europe and Asian hotels (Winsted, 1997).
Research questions and objectives
The main research question is to establish the effect of cultural differences on perceived service quality between Europe and Asian hotels. This is guided by the fact that previous studies have indeed worked in trying to establish the relationship or significance of culture of service quality, however there has been no effort directed in determining the effect of culture on perceived service quality.
The specify objective of the study will include;
Establishing the cultural differences between western and Asian visitors.
To find out the extent to which these cultural differences impact on how an individual perceive quality service.
To develop recommendations that will help hotels in Asia and Europe reduce the quality service difference gap.
It is no doubt that due to the nature of globalization, there is need for service providers to be fully aware of how cultural difference impacts on how individuals perceive quality service. If hotel managers fail to accommodate the demands and aspirations of their customers who come from every corner of the world, then there are higher chances that they may run out of business (Cheng-Shiung, Chin-Tsai & Sheng-Hshiung, 2005)
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