RESEARCH OF EXPECTED AND PERCEIVED SERVICE QUALITY IN HOTEL MANAGEMENT
The paper examines the concept and measurement of quality of service in the hotel sector. The ratings of guests ‘expectations and calculations of SERVQUAL gap. The findings of questionnaire research aimed at measuring the service quality in spa hotels are presented in this paper. The research was conducted in hotels of the third category (three-star hotels) which are located in the most visited spa centers in Serbia: Vrnjačka banja, Niška banja, Soko banja and Mataruška banja, during the months of September – November 2009.
The main objective of this paper is to assess the expectations and perceptions of the guests staying in spa hotels, to calculate the discrepancy between the experienced and expected service quality and estimate which determiners are considered the most significant by the consumers.
Hotel that chose the application of quality concept as a key factor of success should experience the growth in the satisfaction of costumers. However, trying to reach the high level of the quality of hotel services, hotel managers very often meet with problems of an adequate measuring of the service quality. Hotel managers do not know what their guests concern & reliable methods for determining the expectations and perception of hotel guests when the service quality is concerned. As a solution to this problem, Nitin et al (2005) give detailed evaluation of 19 models of quality created in the period between 1984-2003. Although the research results did not lead us to one universally accepted model, the biggest support and the best complements were given to GAP model of quality and dimensions of quality presented in SERVQUAL model.
2. CONCEPT OF SERVICE QUALITY
High-class hotels render the highest standards and highest quality products and service, with the most extensive scope of expensive hotel service. Economy class hotels offer products and service of lower quality, with a limited scope of less expensive service. Quality must be driven by customers‟ demands. Moreover, quality is a complex set of features that define its level of appropriateness to the intended purpose.
2.1. Gap model
The model was first introduced in 1985 (Parasuraman et al, 1985). The errors emerge between the guest and the service provider, regarding the perceptions and expectations. This model primarily demonstrates the process of the emergence of service quality (Ljubojeviš, 2004).
The basic gap is the Consumer gap, which emerges as the discrepancy between customer expectation regarding service and customers perception of the service delivery in the hotel. Customer gap is the outcome of one of 4 gaps of a service company, which emerge as certain discrepancies within the design and delivery phases of service to the consumers.
Five key discrepancies were identified (Parasuraman et al, 1985):
Gap 1 – the gap between customer expectations and management's perceptions of those expectations;
Gap 2 – the gap between management's perception of what the customer wants and specifications of service quality;
Gap 3 – the gap between service managerial quality specifications (quality, standards, forms of delivery) and the actual delivery of the service;
Gap 4 – the gap between service delivery and what the company promises to the customer through external communication. All four influence the total perception of service quality and customer satisfaction;
Gap 5 – Represents difference between customers‟ expectations regarding the service and their perception about the specific service. The last gap is the result of all the previous gaps.
2.2. SERVQUAL model
When we take into consideration research of service quality in the sector of tourism and hotel management, most authors modify SERVQUAL model adapting it to the specific needs of these two fields. Ekinci et al (1998) tested SERVQUAL model based on the research carried out in the Turkish sea coast hotels. Their model is based on tangible and intangible determinants of quality. Getty and Thompson developed a scale called LODGQUAL (from lodging quality) for measuring quality of hotel accommodation (Getty and Thompson, 1994). Soriano (2002) conducted the research on service quality in restaurants in Spain, where he evaluated: quality of food, quality of service, quality of ambience and price/quality ratio. Stevens et al (1995), basing it on SERVQUAL model, developed a model called DINESERV, which consists of 29 questions, arranged according to 5 determinants of quality in SERVQUAL model. Snoj and Mumel carried out the research on service quality in spas in Slovenia in 1991 and 1999. The authors wrote 23 questions arranged in 5 determinants of SERVQUAL model (Snoj and Mumel, 2002).
2.3. Customers' satisfaction in hospitality
Moreover, customers‟ expectations vary according to the service type. The importance of customers‟ expectations highlights the fact that product quality represents its ranking according to established standards.
If a guest stays in a certain hotel, with high level of its personnel courtesy and low prices but the interior or ambience fail to match the expected level, the guest expectations will form according to the case.
Inappropriate ambience will cause with certain guests to decide not to stay in the hotel, but other guests, who are also aware of the modest interior, will decide to stay in the hotel since they expect courteous personnel and lower prices. That hotel meets minimum tolerable expectations to attract guests. However, for other profiles of guests, the level of expectations is higher since low price and courteous personnel cannot render compensation for inappropriate ambience (Veljkoviš, 2006).
The right parameter for success of service or a product is achieved once the perception meets expectations in terms of value. The confirmation of expectations is observed through the gap, i.e. the deviation which appeared between the guests‟ expectations and delivered service. If their expectations meet the perception that means the guests are "satisfied'. When the perception outweighs the expectations, the guests are “delighted”. In case, the expectations are higher then the perception, it is assumed that the guests are "dissatisfied" (Šosiš, 2006).
Based on the detailed analysis of the mentioned models, authors firstly made the list of 28 hotel attributes. The list of items was then sent to academic staff of the Department of Geography, Tourism and Hotel Management, University of Novi Sad, for comments.
The questionnaire used in this research consists of three parts. The first part of questionnaire consisted of 24 hotel attributes, for which guests were asked to indicate the perceived importance of the attributes when they choose a hotel, while the second part consisted of a serial of 24 questions whose aim was to examine their perceptions of actual hotel performance during their hotel stay. Attributes were measured a five-point Likert type scale ranging from 1, least important to 5, most important, in the Importance part, and from 1, strongly disagree, to 5, strongly agree, in the Performance part. The third part of the questionnaire included respondent demographic information.
4. DESCRIPTION OF A RESEARCH SAMPLE
The research was conducted in hotels of the third category (three-star hotels) which are located in the most visited spa centers in Serbia: Vrnjaţka banja, Niška banja, Soko banja and Mataruška banja, during the months of September – November 2009. The above mentioned spa centers record 65% of visits and 54% overnight stays of the total number of visits and overnight stays in all spa centers in Serbia in 2009 (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2010). Five researchers conducted the survey. In total, 500 questionnaires were distributed and 295 (59%) usable questionnaires were obtained. The average time spent for filling out the questionnaire was 10 minutes.