In today’s dynamic economy, competition is a matter of products and services. Firms in the service sector are focused on winning the loyalty of their consumers by providing innovative and superior quality products so that they can remain competitive in the market. It is no secrete that service quality is critical to the success of any company that offers services. Service quality is the global judgment or attitude about a service’ superiority. It is not easy to define what service quality.
Researchers argue that it should be defined from the customer’s perspective. Juran (1999) defines service quality as features of the service that meet and satisfy the needs of the customer hence resulting to customer satisfaction. The definition of service quality that is widely accepted delineates the disparity between customer’s expectations and their experience as well as perceptions of the performance of the service. Because customers take part in delivery as well as consumption of services, they intermingle very closely with different aspects of organizations. This experience and knowledge enables them to critically evaluate the services provided. They assess quality service by comparing the services the organization gives them with their desired or expected services. This definition of service quality is based on the expectancy disconfirmation/confirmation theory which is very prevalent in the area of service marketing and consumer behavior.
The paradigm on which the expectancy disconfirmation theory is founded on is referred to as the disconfirmation paradigm. The basis of this paradigm is the argument that a customer assesses and compares actual or rather perceived performance with a certain standard, that is expectation and disconfirmation is the disparity between performance and expectation. Confirmation therefore occurs when performance matches up expectation.
Every organization, particularly those in the service sector seek to attract, win and retain customer loyalty by providing quality services. Service quality therefore plays a very crucial role in adding value to service experience as a whole. To attain and sustain a competitive edge within the industry, service companies must realize a quality service that goes beyond the customer’s expectations. Service quality determines the success or failure of an organization. Most important, service quality determines customer satisfaction. The main focus of virtually all business organizations is customer satisfaction as it is understood that this is critical for the success and continuity of the business. Gursoy & Swanger (2007) explains that winning customer loyalty as well as satisfaction can be realized by providing quality services to consumers in a timely and effective manner.
The dynamic nature of today’s business environment has however complicated the determinants of service quality. Process quality, output quality and expectation of service quality, that is; the standards of service are determined by customers who form judgment based on their feelings and experience with the service. To attain service quality, support from all organizational levels and commitment from employees is very critical. It is important to note that human resource is the most valuable asset for any organization as its success virtually depends on it. In service firms, employees are virtually the service as services are provided by people. A study conducted by Christina & Gursoy (2009) reveals that service quality is dependent on employees. According to this study, “employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and financial performance of an organization are inseparable. The findings show that only a workforce that is motivated and satisfied can be committed to the organization’s goal where in most if not all firms within the service industry, this goal is to provide quality services so as to realize customer satisfaction.
According to Syed, Muhammad & Irfan (2009), organizations that have well structured human resource management policies and quality practices create a competitive working environment and a healthy culture which in turn create motivation as well as commitment among employees to achieving quality and financial objectives of the business. According to these authors, service quality strongly depends on the commitment of employees with the firm for providing superior services to customers to improve customer satisfaction. Research reveals that an organization’s policies and their implementation determine employee commitment hence motivation to offering quality services. Most business organizations have directed their focus on best product or better service and how this can be attained through use of human resources.
This study is centered on the concept that human resources and the HRM policies present affect service quality and consequently customer satisfaction in food and beverage department of hotels and restaurants. The study seeks to prove that human resources have a huge impact on service quality hence customer satisfaction. Case study of major companies that are well performers will be conducted where both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected. A conclusion and recommendations will be given based on the findings of the study.
1.1 Consultant Brief
The researcher of this study is hired by a hotel that is facing a major problem with hiring the most suitable food and beverage managers. The hotel’s food and beverage department has low service quality because of its management team that seems to be poor as far as human resource management is concerned. The client wants to understand how human resources affect service quality and the measures that should be put in place to enhance employee commitment to the hotel’s goal of providing quality services to customers to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Several studies reveal that a positive relationship exists between human resource management practices and service quality. Syed, Muhammad & Irfan (2009) emphasize that the success of organization whether in the service or industrial sector depends on the employees’ satisfaction and motivation which in turn depend on organizational practices. Service quality is therefore determined to a great extend by human resources and their attitudes as well as commitment to the organizational goals which in turn are determined by HRM practices and policies within the organization.
1.2 Aim of the Research Study
The aim of this study is to explore the impact of human resources on service quality hence customer satisfaction.
1.2 Research Objectives
- To identify customer expectations and satisfaction factors when being served with food or beverage.
- To establish the factors that motivate employees and increase their commitment towards the organizational goal of providing quality services to attract and maintain customers through customer satisfaction
- To identify the human resource practices that have been put in place to enhance employee motivation and job satisfaction.
2. Literature Review
Service quality is an attitude is an attitude that represents an eventual overall assessment of the service received. Sureshchander, Chandrasekharan, & Anantharaman (2002) note that the service quality perceived by the consumer sometimes is different from the quality provided by the service provider. They argue that employees are crucial as far as service quality is concerned. They explain that the way the employees perform their tasks when delivering the service, how they do it and what they say has a great impact on the way customer perceive the service as well as their experience. Another factor that influences how the customer views service is the atmosphere of the interaction between the employee and the customer. The way the service is delivered to the customer also influences their perception of the quality of service, the way they experience the concurrent production as well as consumption of the service is a dimension of quality which are all determined by the employees delivering the service (Zithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2006).
Syed, Muhammad & Irfan (2009) argue that employees in a firm that provides service and in particular those who have regular contacts with the customer act as the representatives of the firm as well as its products to customers and consumers at the point of contact. The customer derives satisfaction and service quality from the overall service experience (Sureshchander, Chandrasekharan & Anantharaman 2002). According top these authors, employees must be empowered for them to portray a positive picture to the customers through their services.
Based on this, a satisfied employee is just as important to an organization as a satisfied customer is. These authors emphasize on the need for the management to come up with a system that will satisfaction from the employees as this will ultimately generate customer satisfaction through quality service. This is because employees are the determinants of whether the customer will enjoy the service experience and come back or make referenced, or whether they will turn to the firm’s competitor for better services and solutions. Zithaml, Bitner & Gremler (2006) note that, businesses today are aware that the most effective way of competing in the market is by distinguishing themselves through service with regard to service quality and customer satisfaction. Organizations therefore have to re-think their strategy as far as human resources are concerned.
Most of the services provided in the hotel industry are the same in every organization. The only way an organization can achieve a higher competitive edge by attracting and retaining more customers is by increasing the quality of these services. Because services are intangible, hotels are not able to assess them and weed out those which are unsatisfactory prior to presenting them to customers. Employees thus become the organization’s face and voice. According to Honold (1997), in addition to being trained to provide superior service, employees must also know what to do in any situation and how to do it. It is crucial that they have the necessary authority to make decisions concerning customer satisfaction. This is amongst the main arguments for employee empowerment within service organizations as they are the interface between the organization and the employees.
Zithaml, Bitner & Gremler (2006) argue that employee empowerment which is delineated in relation to the employee’s leadership and independence as regards service encounters is important in achieving quality service. Empowerment in this case implies allowing those employees that provide services enough autonomy to handle unforeseen problematic situations such as complaints. It means employees being more self-sufficient as well as proactive in helping the organization to realize its business goals.
There are various dimensions of empowerment which act as a driving force of work motivation among employees. According to Honold (1997), they include competence which refers to the extent to which an employee feels confident about their capabilities to execute the task. The quality of services offered by employees who are competent are of more quality than those offered by those who lack competence. Competence allows an employ to understand what is expected of their work and the desired results.
Another empowerment dimension that affects the quality of the service delivered by an employee is self determination. This is the level of influence that an employee has on how to perform and execute the task. Other dimensions include strategic autonomy which is the degree of control an employee has on the content of the task/job, and impact which refers to the level of control an individual has on the their direct work environment (Honold (1997).
At organizational level, dimensions of empowerment include sharing information, knowledge and competence development through training and rewards (Pun & Ho 2001). Presence of these factors within the organization motivates employees to provide quality services to customers enhancing customer satisfaction. This is achieved through more direct and faster response to the needs of customers and to dis-satisfied customers in the event of service failure (Dayang, Munna & Rozario 2010). They do not have to wait for the supervisor to intervene. These factors also ensure that employees are feel good about themselves are satisfied with their jobs which reduces absenteeism as well as turnover rates. The motivating effect of empowerment will cause employees to appreciate and treat customers in a manner that is more enthusiastic (Dayang, Munna & Rozario 2010). Empowered employees can be important sources of new ideas. Because of the experience they have with customers due to the direct contacts, they have ideas, wishes as well as insights into problems that affect customers which they could with the firm’s management hence facilitating improvements (Dayang, Munna & Rozario 2010).
In the hospitality industries such as hotels, the contact employee is perceived as the service. This is because the employee is the one being offered to the customer. Investing in the employee therefore means investing in the service. Employees also are the brand. Customers form an opinion or image about the form based on their interactions with the service employees. Employees must therefore be satisfied with their job for them to play effectively play these roles which affect service quality.
In the hotel industry, there is normally a direct interaction between the service providers and the customers. This becomes even more pronounced when it comes to the food and beverage department of the hotel. This contact occurs during order placement, order processing as well as order delivery. It is therefore worthy to mention that the hotel human resource has an impact on the quality of service delivered and also customer satisfaction.
In the food and beverage department, the behavior and attitude of employees has a significant and direct influence on the quality of services offered and also the level of customer satisfaction. In to human resources management practices, employee behavior and attitude have been found to be dependent on a number of factors. Key among these factors is employee motivation.
Motivation is an intrinsic force that compels an employee to engage themselves willingly at times without supervision towards achieving certain organizational objectives. It is worthy to note that a highly motivated employee will always be well behaved as far as job is concerned. They are also likely to have a positive attitude towards their work. These combined together translates to better service delivery to the clients and as such improve on customer satisfaction.
Employee motivation encourages innovation hence new ideas are normally brought on board. In a food and beverage department, employee motivation can lead to the development of new menus, recipes and formulas for preparation of food and drinks (Soriano 2002). This leads to improved quality of food and drinks that are delivered to the customers and as such, customer satisfaction is enhanced. Even though employees differ in terms of what motivates them, it is important for the hotel management to find ways of motivating them so that they can pass it on to the clients in terms of service delivery (Dayang, Munna & Rozario 2010).
In order to maintain brilliance in customer service and as such improve on customer satisfaction, it is important to involve/engage the employees and also providing them with the necessary skills. Human resource training has a direct impact on the quality of service delivered since the employees are given the necessary skills that enable them prepare and offer the best to the customer. For a hotel and beverage department, acquired skills on food and drinks preparation enables the employees to prepare and serve high quality products to their customers (Kim, Moreo & Yeh 2004). Training on professional management skills enables the employees to handle the customers in a dignified and professional manner thus enhancing satisfaction.
This study seeks to explore the impact of human resources on service quality and customer satisfaction in food and beverage industry. The researcher specifically wants to prove that management of human resources has an impact on the two variables, which are service quality and customer satisfaction in restaurants. Based on this, a survey will be conducted in which both qualitative and quantitative data will be collected. However, qualitative data will be the main data for the study as the researcher is more interested in the explanations given by managers and staff more than numerical data on performance. A combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies was chosen because such an approach provides findings that are more persuasive and conclusive (Creswell, 2007). Quantitative data or results give hard evidence that either opposes or supports the theories or themes that emerge from qualitative findings. This increases the validity as well as reliability of the final results and conclusion. In addition to conducting a primary research, this study will also use secondary data from prior research.
3.1 Research Methods Philosophy
To achieve the aim and objectives of the study, the researcher intends to take an interpretivist qualitative approach. An interpretivism philosophical approach was chosen because it argues that there are multiple realities of a phenomenon and which can vary across time and place. This approach is applicable to this study as it will enable the reader to understand the phenomena of human resource management and its impact on service quality and customer satisfaction in food and beverage department in hotels. Interprevitism requires the whole phenomena to be studied before any inferences can be made (Klein & Myers 1999).
This approach requires data from parts of the phenomena to collected and analyzed hence allows a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena to be obtained unlike its counterpart approach positivism which makes assumptions and hypotheses before conducting an in-depth research. It seeks to produce a comprehensive understanding or rather an awareness of the phenomena’s social context and the process in which the phenomena affects and is also affected by the social context (Klein & Myers 1999). In the case of the study, this approach will be applied in understanding how human resources affect the hotel and restaurant business in terms of ensuring service quality and customer satisfaction and why players in this industry need to up their human resource management for them to increase their competitive advantage. Interpretive approach views data as the researcher’s constructions of other people’s (respondents) constructions of what they and their colleagues/compatriots are doing, experiencing or up to.
An inductive approach will be used as the study seeks to develop meanings and theory from the data. This implies that the research will move from specific observations to what is more general.
3.2 Data Collection
3.2.1 Primary Data
- i) Qualitative Data
According to Saunders, Lewis& Thornhill (2007), research can be classified as exploratory, descriptive or explanatory. Based on the aim of the study, it can be perceived as a qualitative explanatory study as it seeks to explain the findings and draw conclusions based on the findings to prove that human resources indeed have an impact on service quality and customer satisfaction in the food and beverage department in hotels. Qualitative data is therefore essential as the researcher seeks to give evidence that is rich, in-depth and detailed (Shank, 2006). To collect this data, semi-structured interviews which will be administered directly (face-to-face) will be used. The interviews will be recorded as they take place for transcriptions to be made later for analysis. King (2004) recommends semi-structured interviews as the best tool to use when collecting data in a qualitative explanatory study.
In fact, he refers to them as qualitative interviews and explains that they are most often used in explanatory studies than any other types of qualitative studies. According to Flick et al., (2005), the nature of semi-structured interviews as a data collection toll allows the researcher to collect data that is rich and detailed. Semi-structured interviews are valued particularly for their flexibility which makes it possible for the complexity of the phenomenon to be analyzed (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). In semi-structured interviews, the researcher has a set of standard questions that cover various themes and which could vary from interview to interview depending on the subject. These questions are then followed by other individually tailored questions seeking to probe the reasoning of the subject or seeking further clarification based on the respond to the standard question (Maxwell, 2005). This allows in-depth data to be collected. In spite of this important advantage of using interviews to collect data, the researcher is aware that administering semi-structured interviews and analyzing such data is time consuming (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007).
In this study, semi-structured interviews will be used to collect data from human resource management of the various companies that will be studied. These interviews will be used to collect data on the human resource strategies used by major companies to enhance service quality and customer satisfaction.
- ii) Quantitative Data
A questionnaire will be used to collect quantitative data. This will make use of closed-ended questions where the respondents will respond to questions based on the choices (answers) given. This instrument will be used to collect data from employees of the various companies that will be studied. Likert five-point scale will be used to classify the responses given to the questions. The tool will use the following weights; 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to signify; strongly agree, agree, not sure, disagree and strongly disagree. Examples of such questions include the following; “Do you agree that training and development workshops affect the way you serve customers?” Do you agree that other motivation factors such as good salary, empowerment, responsibility and other benefits from the management enhance the way you serve customers? “Does the relationship between you and the management or the way you are supervised affect your service?”
According to Curwin & Slater (2007), it is easier and faster to collect data using closed ended questionnaires as compared to using other tools such as structured or semi-structured interviews. Data collected using this tool is also easier and faster to analyze as it employs excel statistical methods and tools of analysis (Creswell, 2007).
3.2.2 Secondary Data
To collect secondary data, articles (peer reviewed journals) on prior studies on the same topic in the last couple of years will be critically reviewed and appraised. To access these articles, a list of key words will be prepared and keyed in online libraries and databases such as ProQuest, Emarald, Ebsco, Questia and Mintel. The abstracts of the emerging articles will be read through and selected for review if found to be significant and relevant to the study. The review, analyses and interpretations will be presented in a logical manner in the paper.
Financial reports of the companies to be studies will also be reviewed to establish the impact of the strategies implemented to address human resources on performance.
Secondary data is much easier, faster and cheaper to collect as one uses data that has already been cleaned and stored. All one needs is to buy the paper which is much less expensive than conducting a primary research which requires use of assistants to collect the data hence consuming a lot time as well as financial resources on transport, printing the questionnaire and interview questions and paying the assistants. Using secondary data however compromises the validity and reliability of the findings as one can not tell for sure whether the right procedure was followed, if errors occurred and whether these errors had major impact on the findings. In this study, the researcher will review as many articles as possible and compare the findings before drawing a conclusion so as to address this limitation. Combining secondary with primary data increases validity of the finding s as the secondary data can be used to validate the findings of the primary research.
Strategic sampling will be used to select the managers in that only those concerned with human resources in the companies being studied and who will be availed to the researcher will used as subjects. Stratified random sampling will be used to select employee subjects. The employees/staff will be grouped according to their assignments and then selected from these groups randomly. This is to ensure that the findings are representative of the hotel and restaurant (food and beverage) industry as a whole.
3.4 Data Analysis
Thematic analysis will be used for qualitative data. Miles & Hurberman (1994) recommend this tool for analysis of qualitative data and describe it as being highly inductive. This is because in thematic analysis, data is derived from the data and is not in any way imposed by the researcher. In this method, data from different sources (respondents) is compared so as to identify any differences or similarities in a process that continues until the researcher is content that there are no more new themes emerging from the data. This makes it easier for the researcher to establish the main themes arising and any matching patterns within the data allowing quantification of data. In thematic analysis, data is coded according to the themes so that they can be considered of the same type.
The quantitative data collected using the likert tool will be analyzed using SPSS. This is a computer-assisted program that presents findings in terms of graphs, charts or polygons. This program is preferred to other programs such as excel because it is faster, applicable to descriptive statistics and allows use of more analysis tools.
3.5 Reliability and Validity
Validity issues are typical in most qualitative studies. To address such issues and increase the reliability of the findings of this study, the researcher intends to use multiple perspectives. Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill (2007) recommend this strategy for cases where triangulation is not available. In this case, the findings of the study will be taken back to those who were used as subjects so that they can give their views founded on their personal experiences. The other approach will be to compare the findings with those of other researchers who have conducted previous research on the same or similar topics.
In addition to secondary data, this data also involves using human subjects and as such, it could be characterized by ethical issues which might affect availability of data. There is likelihood of some companies refusing to give consent for their organizations to be used as case studies or some employees refusing to be used. Some of the subjects might also fail to respond to all the questions in the interview which would affect the adequacy of data. Others could also give false information affecting the accuracy of the findings.
It might also not be easy to generalize the findings of this study to the entire industry. This is because the researcher will only study a couple of companies as they do not have the resources to study many organizations.
This is likely to involve huge amounts of qualitative data which is often time consuming to collect and analyze. Compiling this data and deriving relevant information from it might become a challenge because of its sheer amount.
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