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Analyzing service quality in the hospitality industry: the case of Bahrain.
Author:
Almossawi, Mohammed
Pub Date:
12/01/2008
Publication:
Name: Indian Journal of Economics and Business Publisher: Indian Journal of Economics and Business Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Economics Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Indian Journal of Economics and Business ISSN: 0972-5784
Issue:
Date: Dec, 2008 Source Volume: 7 Source Issue: 2

Accession Number:
190889678
Full Text:
Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this research is to employ the SERVQUAL model and its collarry, the gap theory, in assessing the quality of services provided at one of the popular five star hotels in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel.

Methodology: The sample of this study represents two groups: First, 395 hotel guests who have stayed at the hotel for a period of two or more nights Second, 11 managers from different departments of the hotel.

The required data were gathered through personal interviews with the sample, using two sets of specially designed questionnaires, one for the guests sample and the other one for the managers sample.

Findings: The Reliability test, using cronbruch Alpha Coefficient, indicates that all SERVQUAL dimensions (i.e. Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, and Empathy J, for both guests and managers, scored high which means that items in each dimension are highly correlated, therefore, reliable.

Gap analysis (gap 5) indicates customer dissatisfaction with the service quality in terms of 55% if the SERVQUAL attributes (i.e. 12 items out of 22). Fore such items, customers' perceptions fell short of their expectations.

Another gap analysis (gap 1) shows that management are not fully aware of what may satisfy guests. They overestimated guests' expectations in terms of items pertaining to Reliability and Empathy, while underestimating the dimension of Assurance.

Implications: The findings of this research might be taken by the decision markers at the hotel as a base on which they can design the right strategies and policies o reduce or even close the gaps, therefore achieve more customer satisfaction.

I. INTRODUCTION

In today's competitive environment examining service quality is considered an important strategy. Service quality is an important determinant of success in attracting repeat business. While the reasons for the initial visit to a firm may be due to factors partly outside the control of management, the ability to create a satisfactory experience for the customers will rest, to a considerable degree, within the hands of both management and staff.

This research intends to investigate service quality in one of the five-star hotels in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel. To measure the service quality an instrument named SERVQUAL shall be used. Since its inception in 1988 (parasuraman, Zithmal and Berry, 1985, 1991, 1994), the SERVQUAL has been extensively used in service quality research and has become a popular measure of service quality within the hospitality industry (Luk & Layton, 2004; Nadiri & Hussai, 2005; Antony et al., 2004; Johns and Tyas,1996, 1997; Knuston et al., 1991; Lee and Hing 1995; Mels et al., 1997; Saleh & Ryan, 1991). SERVQUAL assumes that service quality is a comparison of expected performance with perceived performance. As a result, SERVQUAL includes 22 items representing expectations and 22 items representing perceptions. The developers of SERVQUAL suggest that analyzing the gaps between expectations and perceptions offer diagnostic insights useful in assessing and improving service quality. Furthermore, their research revealed that there are five dimensions of service quality where gaps between expectation and perception may exist, and the narrowing or elimination of these gaps would lead to improved service quality. The five dimensions of service quality were identified as:

* Tangibles: the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials related to the service.

* Reliability: the ability of the service to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.

* Responsiveness: the willingness.of the service to help customers and provide prompt service.

* Assurance: the competence of the service and its security, credibility and courtesy.

* Empathy: the ease of access, approachability and effort taken to understand customers' requirements.

II. OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT

The main purpose of this research project is to employ the SERVQUAL model and its collary, the gap theory, in assessing the quality of service provided at a five star hotel in Bahrain, named the Gulf Hotel.

More specifically, the objectives of the proposed study are to employ the following tools and procedures to measure service quality:

1. The concept of the SERVQUAL model, as originally developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) and especially its modified newer version (1988);

2. The five dimensions of tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy;

3. The concept of gaps between expectation and perception of the hotel service package. The service quality gaps to be measured in this study will be confined to the following two major gaps suggested by Parasuraman et al (1985):

Gap 1: The Management Perception Gap. Relates to the management perception of guests' expectations and guests' actual expectations.

Gap 2: The perceived service quality gap. Relates to the guests' expectations and guests' perceptions of the service quality.

III. THE LITERATURE REVIEW

Importance of Service Quality Assessment

Service quality is generally understood as the gap between consumers' expectations about a service and their subsequent perception of service performance (Williams, 1999; Gronroos, 1984; Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1991; parasuraman et al., 1985).

Most service organizations today realize that delivering excellent service is important to the success of their business, and hotel industry is no exception. Interest in service quality research has been ongoing for more than two decades (Webb, 2000), resulted in having a literature rich of various studies dealing with this crucial issue from different dimensions (e.g. Briggs et al., 2007; Mohsin, 2007; Park et al., 2006; Pyo, 2005; Tsaur et al., 2004; Parasuraman, Zeithmal, and Berry, 1985, 1988, 1994; Gronroos, 1982, 1984; Cronin & Taylor, 1992, 1994; Donnelly, Hull, and Will, 2000; Saleh & Ryan, 1991).

Indeed, the improvement of product and service quality has been widely discussed in the literature as an appropriate competitive strategy for achieving sustainable competitive advantage (Morgan & Piercy, 1996). This requires management to continuously examine current processes against the demands of customers in the marketplace and then update their operations in line with market requirements (Wilds & Parks, 2004; Ndubisi, 2004; Heskett et al., 1990; Fehy, 1992).

Improving service quality will intensify customers' satisfaction (Kim et al., 2005; Hu & Kai, 2004; Yoon & Suh, 2004; Karatepe & Ekiz, 2004; Unzicker, 1999; Metawa & Almossawi, 1998; Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Taylor et al., 1994), help to retain existing customers and attract new ones (Rahman, 2006; Arasli et al., 2005; Keiser, 1993; Lian, 1994 a, b), lead to both market expansion and gains in market share (Lee & Lin, 2005; Chow & Luk, 2005; Buzzel and Gale, 1987), and improve profit (Mohsin, 2007; Briggs et al., 2007; Park et al., 2006; Nandish, 2000; Zeithmal, 2000; Rust et al., 1992; Nelson et al., 1992; Aaker and Jacobson, 1994; Ittner and Larcher, 1996). The importance of service quality to the success of business is best concluded in this sound statement: "Excellent service is a profit strategy because it results in more new customers, more business with existing customers, fewer lost customers, more insulation from price competition, and fewer mistakes requiring reperformance of services" (Shepherd, 1999).

To achieve the fruits of improvements in quality it has to be investigated with an understanding of its competitive implications (Porter, 1987). The importance of service quality necessitates examining service quality in the context of strategic management of firms (Powell, 1995; Pruett & Thomas, 1996). This led many firms to pursue service quality as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, thus gaining competitive advantage (Karatepe et al 2005; Tsaur & Lin, 2004; Clark et al., 1994; Zairi et al., 1994; Kerfoot & Kerfoot, 1995). However, the issue of how the implementation of quality strategies might lead to the attainment of one's firm competitive advantage is perhaps inadequately covered in the service marketing literature (Hill & Wilkinson, 1995; Longbottom and Zairi, 1996; Rust & Oliver, 1994).

Implementation of service quality strategies relies, to a large extent, on the role of middle managers (Harrington & Akehurst, 1996, 2000). Olyan and Rynes (1991) ensure the importance of middle managers in the implementation of service quality programs by claiming that 'the characteristics of successful quality implementations is that the support of middle managers is gained'.

Service quality literature is replete with examples of service quality assessment in different industries. For example: online shopping (Lee & Lin, 2005); IT consulting (Yoon & Suh, 2004); transportation (Disney, 1999; Tranick, 2000); Education (Lin, 2005; Paulins, 2005); libraries (Farris, 1999); retail outlets (Heung and Cheng 2000) health care (Lee, 2000; O'Connor, 2000; Glasscoff, 2000; Shemwell, 1999); human resources development (Mafi, 2000); banking (Arasli et al, 2005; Karatepe et al, 2005; Jabnoun & Khaifa, 2005; Metawa & Almossawi, 1984; Jun, 1999); construction industry (Al-Moamani, 2000); market research agencies (Donnelly, 2000); Telecommunications (Rahman, 2006); and hospitality industry (Briggs et al., 2007; Nadiri & Hussain, 2005; Pyo, 2005; Karatepe & Ekiz, 2004; Tsaur & Lin, 2004; Lewis & McCann, 2004; Saleh & Ryan, 1991; Don and Melvin, 1992; Callan, 1998; Hartline and Jones, 1996).

Service Quality and Hotel Industry

Service quality has become a focus for many hotel industry researchers. (e.g. Yucelt & Marcella, 1996; Enz and Siguaw, 2000; Saleh and Ryan, 1991; Callan, 1998). The combined effect of the worldwide economic recession, technological advancement, and globalization have increased the competitive pressures on hotel organizations (Harrington & Akehurst, 2000). All these pressures led the hotels to be more concerned about service quality ethic. On the other hand, how consumers perceive the quality of products and services and how those perceptions influence their buying decisions is a vital issue for marketing managers (Heung et al., 2000). This is because service quality is an influential factor in attracting repeat business for a hotel (Saleh & Ryan, 1991).

A number of" researchers have examined the quality of services offered in the hotel industry through the relative importance of various attributes to customers. Such attributes act as determinant factors for hotel selection and preference and for customers' judgement upon service quality (Nadiri & Hussain, 2005; Callan, 1998). This was confirmed by Williams (1999). In her study she stated that 'it has been noted that consumers use a variety of cues to form an overall evaluation of the quality of products and services. These cues used by consumers relate to perceived product/service attributes or features'. The same was assured by Hartline & Jones, 1996; and Ziethmal, 1988. Dealing with the same issue, some studies found that even though products and services have many attributes, consumers tend to base their judgement of the quality on few attributes or sometimes on just one (Olshavsky, 1985; Zeithmal, 1988).

Saleh and Ryan (1992) surveyed 145 guests of a Canadian hotel and found that, for guests, quality is mainly judged through the interior and exterior aesthetics of the hotel, then comes range of facilities provided.

Ananth et al. (1992) studied the mature travelers market segment by interviewing 222 members of the Alumni Association of the Pennsylvania State University (median age = 59). The findings of that study revealed that for mature travelers, the most influential factors of service quality are dietary menus, early dining hours, the availability of medical facilities, and more legible print and signage.

Atkinson (1988) conducted a study on Days Inn customers at 51 hotels in the USA. The study revealed a number of influential attributes that were separated into two general groups: those related to employees' efficiency and attitude and those related to guests' perception of hotel ambience and room comfort.

Lewis (1987) conducted a study through which he measured the gaps between U.S.A. hotel management and guests' expectations and perceptions. He recruited a sample of 116 customers and 23 managers. The findings of that study revealed eight service quality gaps. Among other findings, that study found a significant correlation (r =.69, p < 0.01) between satisfaction scores and quality scores.

Tunstall (1989) conducted a study on 210 businesswomen travelers and found that for this market segment, security is the major concern (e.g. peepholes, security chains, training front office staff not to announce the guest's room number).

Enz and Siguaw (2000) surveyed 13 hotels in the U.S.A., called them champions, and concluded that these hotels (Champions) managed to improve their businesses through adopting service excellence philosophy. These champions managed to enhance service quality to customers through various initiatives such as: creating a service culture, building an empowered service-delivery system, facilitating a "customer listening" orientation, and developing responsive service guarantee. According to this study, the service quality programs cannot be successful unless employers are willing to take whatever actions to ensure guest satisfaction.

A number of studies found that definition of service quality in the airline industry varies depending on the purpose of the travel (Park et al., 2006; Mehta & Vera, 1990; Lewis and Pizman, 1981; Lewis 1984a & 1984b).

One of the attributes playing a major role in the customers' perception of service quality is the employee performance (Zhu et al., 2007; Williams, 1999; Bittner, 1990; Gronroos, 1984; Parasuraman et al., 1985). For instance, Lynch (1988) reported that in forming their perception of the service provision, customers relied on attributes related to employee cues such as courtesy, competence, responsiveness and interpersonal skills. The importance of employee courtesy was also reported by Bolton & Drew (1991) and Enz and Siguaw (2000). These studies and others assume the positive relationship between employee performance and consumer perception of service quality (Briggs et al., 2007; Darden & Babin, 1994; Keaveney, 1995; Zeithmal et al., 1996).

Role and importance of middle managers in implementing service quality programs should not be overlooked. Nebel & Schaffer (1992), writing within the context of hotel industry, confirm this by arguing : 'Since an individual hotel is itself a profit center, its middle manager can be thought of as its CEO..... individual managers of most medium -sized and larger hotels have ample opportunity to engage in a variety of strategic decisions affecting the profitability of their hotels'.

In the changed environment of the hotel industry, it is important that hotels explore the implementation of quality management initiatives in order to gain competitive advantage (Harrington & Akehurst, 2000). In his article, Callan (1998) emphasizes that hospitality providers should move along the road of Total Quality Management (TQM) to satisfy the shifting demands of a discerning public. Similarly, Olsen (1992) points out, 'there is a need to evolve a sole dependence on the development of previously published work in other industries to the identification and analysis of observed and hypothesized relationships peculiar to the hospitality industry'.

IV. RESEARCH DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

The Study Sample

Two main groups were interviewed for the purpose of this study. They represent:

(i) A sample of the hotel guests who have stayed at the hotel under study for a period of two or more nights. The total number of completed interviews is set at 395.

(ii) A sample of the hotel management staff starting from senior top management positions of General Manager, Housekeeping Manager, Marketing and Sales Manager, Food & Beverage Manager, down the ladder to include their subordinates of middle (supervisory) level of assistant managers. Given the size of the Gulf Hotel management staff, we targeted 15 management staff but managed to interview 11.

The Survey Instruments

Two distinct sets of questionnaires were used to gather the necessary information needed to achieve the objectives of this study:

The Hotel Guest Questionnaire set consists mainly of two different sets of scales. One intended to measure guests' expectation of service quality from an excellent (world class) five star hotel as pertaining to the five determinants of service quality, namely tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. This set of guests' expectation is labeled GES (Guests' Expectation Scale). In addition, a Complementary Scale measuring guests' perception of service delivery was also administered. The latter is labeled GPS (Guests' Perception of Service Quality Scale). To complete the guest questionnaire, a third section has been included known as GD (Guests' Demographics and Behavioral Attributes) which contained a select number of questions pertaining to demographic and behavioral data from the hotel guests participating in the survey.

The Hotel Management Questionnaire: To gauge management views of guest expectations of service quality, as well as their feedback as to the quality delivered or received by the hotel guests, another questionnaire was administered. This questionnaire also consists of three main sections. Section one is related to management expectations of guests' expectation regarding predetermined attributes of service quality. This section is labeled MES (Management Expectation Scale). This was followed by section two, which deals with management perception of the level of service delivery provided to hotel guests. This section is labeled MPS (Management Perception Scale). A third section of the management questionnaire is designed to elicit classification data from the hotel management staff as well as to gain additional insight into the operating culture of the surveyed organization. The latter data may prove to be quite useful in understanding the result of the survey, as such a select number of unstructured (open-ended) questions are incorporated in this instrument.

Data Analysis

In analyzing the research data for a study of this nature, a number of steps will be performed. They include the following procedures:

(i) To assess the reliability of the scores obtained from both the guests, as well as the hotel management, by conducting the Alpha coefficient of each service construct that contains the designated group of questions (items). To assure the internal consistency of each service dimension (e.g. tangibles), a targeted Alpha coefficient of .5 or better should be obtained. This minimum value of Alpha is considered acceptable as an indication of reliability (Nunally, 1967; Jawaheer & Ross, 2003).

(ii) A gap analysis should then be performed on all the items of the questionnaire. From the five gaps suggested by Parasuruman et al (1985), gap 1 (the management perception gap) and gap 5 (the perceived service quality gap) will be measured.

A two-tail (t-test) would then be run on all the differences obtained for the various service attribute gaps on an item-by-item basis to check the statistical significance of the results obtained.

V. THE FINDINGS

The study findings are presented in the following order: Characteristics of guests sample; characteristics of management sample; Reliability test; and gap analysis.

Characteristics of Guests Sample

* The total number of guests sample is 395 subjects from 46 different nationalities, 77% of them were male and 23% female. 65% of them were married.

* The age category of the sample ranged between 25 and 63 years. Specifically, 42% (25-34 years), 34% (35-44 years), 18% (45-54 years), 4% (55-59 years), and 2% (60 years and over).

* For 39% of the guests sample, it was the first time staying in the Gulf hotel, while 61% of them claimed to have past experience with the hotel. The number of times this latter segment stayed in the hotel ranged between 1-17 times, with the majority (69%) laying in the range of 2-6 times. The duration of the their stay ranged from 2 -14 nights, with the majority (71%) laying in the range of 2-5 nights.

* 22% of the sample were visiting Bahrain on their own. For the rest, their situation was as follows: 19% with friends, 18% with tourist groups, 17% with a professional group conference, 13% accompanied by a spouse, and 11% with a family group.

* The main purpose of their visits to Bahrain was: pleasure/vacation (33%), convention/ Conference/Workshops (22%), strictly business (16%), vacation and business (18%), visiting friends / relations (8%), and for other purposes (3%).

* The guests sample gave various reasons for choosing the Gulf Hotel, such as: satisfaction with previous stays at the hotel (24%), travel agent recommendations (17%), advertisements/hotel brochures and pamphlets (8%), friends/relatives recommendations (33%), and other reasons (18%).

* The annual family income of the sample is as follows : 28% (under $50,000), 18% ($50,000-under $60,000), 16% ($60,000-under $70,000), 12% ($70,000-under $80,000), 8% ($80,000-under $90,000), 6% (90,000-under 100,000), and 12% (100,000 and over).

Characteristics of Management Sample

* Total number of management sample was 11 managers, 9 male and 2 female. This sample represents 73% of the total managers at the Gulf Hotel.

* The majority (46%) of the management sample belong to the middle age group of 45 -54 years. The rest belong to the following age categories: 9% (under 35 years), 36% (35-44 years), and 9% (55-59 years).

* The length of their service in the Gulf Hotel ranges from 2-30 years. However, their experience in the hospitality industry ranges from 6-30 years.

Reliability Test

The analysis started by assessing the reliability of the data. The reliability analysis allows us to study the properties of measurement scale and the items that make them up. It also provides information about the relationships between individual items in the scale. There are different models for assessing data reliability. In this study we depended on the widely used model of Cronbach Alpha coefficient (Cronbach 1951). This is known as a model of internal consistency, based on the average inter-item correlation. The reliability results obtained for both guests and management are illustrated in Table 1

As indicated in Table 1, all dimensions scored high alpha which means that items in each dimensions are highly correlated, therefore, reliable.

Gap Analysis

For measuring service quality, Parasuraman et al. (1985) proposed five quality gaps reflecting perceptions and expectations of service recipients (i.e. customers) and service providers (i.e. managers). These five gaps are:

Gap 1: The management perception gap. Pertains to the management perception of customers' expectations versus customers' expectations.

Gap 2: The quality specification gap. Relates to the management perception of consumers' expectations and the translations of those perceptions into service quality specifications.

Gap 3: The service delivery gap. Difference between specifications of service quality and the delivery of those specifications to the customers.

Gap 4: The market communication gap. The difference between promises given by market communication activities and the service delivered to the customers.

Gap 5: The perceived service quality gap. The difference between customers' perceptions and expectations of service quality.

The literature indicates that researchers adopted the concept of gap analysis for measuring service quality vary in terms of number of gaps as indicators of service quality. For example: Saleh and Ryan (1991) relied on five gaps; Ingram & Daskalkis (1999) analyzed three gaps; Juwaheer & Ross (2003) measured two gaps; and Douglas & Connor (2003) measured one gap only.

In this study, the questionnaires completed by the Gulf hotel guests and mangers make it possible to evaluate two major service quality gaps suggested by parasuraman et al. (1985) five gaps: gap 1 and gap 5. These two gaps represent the controllable service elements. They reflect perceptions and expectations of guests and management in terms of service quality. The analysis and discussion of these two controllable gaps (i.e. gap 1 & gap 5) was undertaken by two methods, the first being to look at the each of the 22 statements of the SERVQUAL (as shown on Tables 1 & 3), while the second was on the basis of the five dimensions of SERVQUAL (as shown on Tables 2 & 4).

Gap 5 analysis: Gap between guests' expectations and their perceived service provision.

Table 1 lists the mean scores of the guests' expectations and perceptions for each of the 22 service quality attributes and the mean gap scores. Furthermore, the last column of the table shows the result of the paired t-test through which Judgement can be made on the significance of mean difference (i.e. gap) between guests' expectations and perceptions of service quality. On the other hand, Table 2 outlines the outcome based on the five dimensions of the service quality proposed by parasuraman et al. (1985).

Table 2 indicates that, in general, guests' expectations (mean = 4.983) of service quality in the Gulf Hotel exceeding their perceptions (mean = 4.721) and the difference between the two is significant (t = 12.230; P = 0.000). This is not a good sign for the hotel as it may lead to customers' dissatisfaction. Such a finding is more confirmed if we look at Table 1 where for 55% of the attributes (i.e. 12 items out of 22) guests' perceptions fall short of their expectations.

However, for decision-making purposes, it is more useful looking at the phenomena dimension-wise and item-wise per demission so the hotel's decision-makers put their hands on exactly the problematic areas. Then, they can propose the required strategies for reducing the gaps, closing them, or turning them into positive (i.e. perception > expectation)

Table 2 indicates that for 3 out 5 dimensions (i.e. Tangibles, Reliability, and Assurance) customers' expectations exceeding their actual perceptions of service attributes. Although this dimension-wise outcome is crucial to know, but for decision making, it is also necessary to analyze each problematic dimension to single out the attribUtes leading to customers' dissatisfaction. Surprisingly, Table 1 indicates that all Tangible items (1-4), all Reliability items (5-9) and 3 out of 4 of Assurance items (14-16) are contributing to the problem. This hotel should seriously review its policies in servicing its guests. The hotel should apply strategies to reduce the negative gaps between customers' perceptions and expectations (P-E).

On the other hand, Table 2 shows that for the other two dimensions (i.e. Responsiveness and Empathy) the gap is positive, which indicates that what customers perceived in terms of these attributes exceed what they expected. This is a good indicator of satisfaction. Such satisfaction (i.e. perceptions > expectations) can be observed in Table 1 in terms of all elements making up Responsiveness dimension (items 10-13) and those making up Empathy dimension (items 18-22).

Gap 1 analysis: Gap between management perception of guests' expectations and recorded guests' expectations.

As done in analyzing gap 5, let us illustrate item-wise and dimension-wise gap details for gap 1 (Tables 3 & 4 respectively) and then discuss the outcome.

Table 4 shows that, in general, there is no significant difference between guests' expectations and management perceptions of guests' expectations. However, by looking at the outcome dimension-wise, it is noticed that for two dimensions (i.e. Reliability and Empathy), management is overestimating guests' expectations, and for one of the dimensions (i.e. Assurance) they are underestimating guests' expectations. For the other two dimensions (i.e. Responsiveness and Tangibles) the difference between the two responses is not significant. In the rest of this section, let us discuss the three dimensions in which overestimation and underestimation was observed. In such a discussion, Table 3 is a good source of information. As mentioned earlier, management overestimated guests' expectations in terms of Reliability. As per Table 3, such overestimation is noticed in 4 out of 5 items included in the Reliability dimension. These items, in terms of magnitude of difference, are: (i) keeping accurate records by management, (ii) dependability of staff, (iii) delivering services as promised without delay, and (iv) keeping promises by service providers. The other dimension in which management overestimated guests' expectations is Empathy. Table 1 shows that in the case of Empathy elements, overestimation is noticed in 4 out of 5 of them. In terms of magnitude of difference such items are : (i) individual attention given by the staff to the guests, (ii) having guests' best interest at heart, (iii) knowing needs of the guests, and (iv) personal attention given to the guests.

On the other hand, for the Assurance dimension, where findings show underestimation by management, Table 3 shows that 3 out of 4 elements of Assurance are recording such underestimation. These elements, in terms of size of difference are: (i) feeling safe when dealing with staff, (ii) trusting the staff, and (iii) politeness of the staff.

VI. CONCLUSION

This study aimed at measuring the service quality in one of the oldest and the most popular five-star hotels in the kingdom of Bahrain (i.e. Gulf Hotel) using SERVQUAL model. In measuring the hotel service quality, the study relied on examining two gaps: one related to customers (gap 5) and the other one related to the management (gap 1). The outcome of gap 5 indicates that customers are dissatisfied with the service quality (i.e. their expectations exceed their perceptions) in 55% of the SERVQUAL service attributes belonging to 3 dimensions: Tangibles, Reliability, and Assurance.

With respect to gap 1, findings indicate that management is overestimating (i.e. their perceptions of guests' expectations exceed guests' expectations) for the dimensions of Reliability and Empathy, while underestimating for the dimension of Assurance. Many managers think they know what their customers want but are mistaken. For instance, in this study, findings show that what managers think the most important five attributes preferred by customers differ from what customers expect, as shown in Table 5.

The outcome related to gap i and gap 5 is a good base for the hotel decision-makers to analyze, identity problems, and then design strategies for achieving more customer satisfaction.

VII. RECOMMENDATIONS

As explained earlier, the outcome of gap I and gap 5 shows that some gaps (i.e. problems) exist in the views of customers and management toward the service quality in the hotel. Here, we shall recommend ways to manage gap 1 and 5, therefore, improving service quality in the hotel.

Managing Gap 1

The discrepancy between what customers want and what managers think customers want is critical and must be dealt with carefully. The occurrence of gap i may lead to a number of mistakes and wrong decisions by management such as : providing wrong facilities, focusing on unnecessary (to customers) service attributes, hiring wrong service providers, giving wrong training programs to the staff.... etc. Because of this gap, management may spend a lot of time, effort, and money providing services that customers have no use for, while failing to provide services that customers really desire to have. Reducing this gap means serving customers in a way to achieve their maximum satisfaction.

Here are some recommendations to reduce gap 1:

1. Investing more in marketing research. It is necessary to conduct research regularly in order to identify customers' perceptions and expectations, which may vary over time. Neglecting research may lead to incorrect or incomplete manager perceptions. More investment in consumer research means more knowledge about customers' expectations, therefore less gap between what customers want and what managers think customers want.

2. More interaction with customers. Managers need to directly interact with customers in order to gain an insight into customer expectations. To achieve this, managers need to be involved in delivering services to customers (e.g. working as a receptionist or a waiter in a hotel), or being directly involved in in-depth research.

3. Facilitating upward communication. The flow of information from those employees deal directly with customers (i.e. front-line personnel) to upper levels of the organization (i.e. the management) must increase and be without restrictions. Front line personnel are directly in touch with customers so they are a good source of information. The management should carefully and regularly listen to them and encourage them to convey information related to customer expectations to the management.

4. Reducing levels of management between the top mangers and front-line personnel. More management levels in the organizational hierarchy means more complexity and more distance from customers and day-to-day activities of the organization. On the other hand, more levels mean less objectivity of the information that finally reaches management due to the possible different interpretations given by each level.

Managing Gap 5

Reducing this gap is dependent on reducing gap 1. If management managed to reduce gap 1, they will be in a better position to understand what exactly customers expect. Such a knowledge will enable them to provide services as desired by the customers, therefore reducing, or even closing, the gap between customers' perceptions and their expectations.

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MOHAMMED ALMOSSAWI

University of Bahrain, Kingdom of Bahrain
Table 1
Test Results of Survey Internal Reliability

Dimensions        No. of Items      Guest responses
                                  (sample size = 395)
                                         Alpha

Tangibles             4                 0.8108
Reliability           5                 0.7681
Responsiveness        4                 0.8020
Assurance             4                 0.6532
Empathy               5                 0.7493

Dimensions          Management responses
                     (sample size = 11)
                            Alpha

Tangibles                  0.8247
Reliability                0.6781
Responsiveness             0.7835
Assurance                  0.6508
Empathy                    0.9155

Table 2
Service Quality Gap Between Guests' Perceptions and Expectations
in The Gulf Hotel (n = 395) (based on Individual Service Attributes)

                                     Perceptions (b)   Expectations (b)
 Attributes                             (P) means         (E) means

 1. Having up-to-date service              5.85              6.60
    equipment
 2. Having visually appealing              5.89              6.58
    physical facilities (premises)
 3. Good appearance of employees           6.25              6.70
 4. Cleanliness and well-                  5.82              6.78
    maintenance  of physical
    facilities
 5. Keeping promises by                    5.74              6.65
    service providers
 6. Staff concerns in solving              5.76              6.49
    problems
 7. Dependability of staff                 5.88              6.52
 8. Commitment of staff in                 5.87              6.72
    delivering services as
    promised without delay
 9. Keeping accurate records               5.77              6.54
    by management
10. Giving guests the exact                3.82              3.05
    time of performing a
    service
11. Prompt service by staff                3.03              2.58
12. Staff willingness to                   2.48              2.09
    help guests
13. Staff ignorance of guest               2.57              1.70
    requests
14. Trusting hotel staff                   5.52              6.32
15. Feeling safe when dealing              5.88              6.44
    with hotel staff

16. Politeness of staff                    5.62              6.57
17. Staff good performance                 3.34              3.03
    require management support
18. Individual attention given             3.18              2.82
    by the staff to their guests
19. Personal attention given by            3.34              3.13
    the staff to their guests
20. Staff knowing needs of the             3.27              3.02
    guests
21. Staff having guests best               4.52              4.31
    interests at their hear
22. Availability of facilities             3.87              3.68
    and services to all
    customers 24 hours around
    the clock

                                     Gap (a)
 Attributes                           (P-E)    t-value

 1. Having up-to-date service          -.75    12.790 *
    equipment
 2. Having visually appealing          -.69    11.163 *
    physical facilities (premises)
 3. Good appearance of employees       -.45     9.352 *
 4. Cleanliness and well-              -.96    16.147 *
    maintenance  of physical
    facilities
 5. Keeping promises by                -.91    12.862 *
    service providers
 6. Staff concerns in solving          -.73    11.019 *
    problems
 7. Dependability of staff             -.64     9.820 *
 8. Commitment of staff in             -.85    13.688 *
    delivering services as
    promised without delay
 9. Keeping accurate records           -.77    11.144 *
    by management
10. Giving guests the exact             .77     6.128 *
    time of performing a
    service
11. Prompt service by staff             .45     4.305 *
12. Staff willingness to                .39     9.148 *
    help guests
13. Staff ignorance of guest            .88     8.776 *
    requests
14. Trusting hotel staff               -.80     6.744 *
15. Feeling safe when dealing          -.56    12.837 *
    with hotel staff

16. Politeness of staff                -.94     2.721 **
17. Staff good performance              .31     3.437 **
    require management support
18. Individual attention given          .36     2.011 **
    by the staff to their guests
19. Personal attention given by         .21     2.021 **
    the staff to their guests
20. Staff knowing needs of the          .25      1.28 ***
    guests
21. Staff having guests best            .21      1.02 ***
    interests at their hear
22. Availability of facilities          .19       .98 ***
    and services to all
    customers 24 hours around
    the clock

Notes: (a) A negative gap indicates that guests' expectation of
service attribute is more than their perception. while a positive gap
shows that their perception is exceeding their expectation.
The possible gap values range from -6 to +b. (b) perceptions and
expectations scores are measured on a seven-point scale on which
higher values mean better perceptions or expectations. (*) significant
at 99% (P = .01). (**) significant at 95% (P = .05) . (***) not
significant.

Table 3
Service Quality Gap Between Guests' Perceptions and
Expectations In The Gulf Hotel (n = 395)
(based on service dimensions)

Dimension        Mean score    Mean score    Difference   t-test
                 for Guests'   for Guests'     (1-2)      score
                 perception    expectation
                     (1)           (2)

All dimensions      4.721         4.983        -0.262     12.230
Tangibles           5.948         6.663        -0.715     20.106
Reliability         5.799         6.588        -0.789     24.749
Responsiveness      2.976         2.353         0.623     17.517
Assurance           5.818         6.511        -0.693     19.497
Empathy             3.265         2.929         0.336     10.571
Sample size          395           395

Dimension          P     Conclusion

All dimensions   0.000       S
Tangibles        0.000       S
Reliability      0.000       S
Responsiveness   0.000       S
Assurance        0.000       S
Empathy          0.000       S
Sample size

Table 4
Service Quality Gap Between Management Perception of Guests'
Expectations and Recorded Guests' Expectations
(based on individual service attributes)

Attributes                            Mean op (b)    Means of (b)
                                        guests'       managers'
                                      expectations   perceptions
                                       (n = 395)      (n = 11)
                                          (1)            (2)

1. Having up-to-date service              6.60           6.91
   equipment
2. Having visually appealing              6.58           6.45
   physical facilities (premises)
3. Good appearance of employees           6.70           7.00
4. Cleanliness and well-maintenance       6.78           7.00
   of physical facilities
5. Keeping promises by service            6.66           6.91
   providers
6. Staff concerns in solving              6.49           6.64
   problems
7. Dependability of staff                 6.52           6.91
8. Commitment of staff in                 6.72           7.00
   delivering services as
   promised without delay
9  Keeping accurate records by            6.55           700
   management
10 Giving guests the exact time           3.04           2.45
   of performing a service
11 Prompt service by staff                2.58           2.45
12 Staff willingness to help              2.09           2.36
   guests
13 Staff ignorance of guest               1.70           2.91
   requests
14 Trusting hotel staff                   6.82           6.32
15 Feeling safe when dealing with         7.00           6.44
   hotel staff
16 Politeness of staff                    7.00           6.71
17 Staff good performance require         6.45           6.57
   management support
18 Individual attention given by          2.45           3.02
   the staff to their guests
19 Personal attention given by            2.55           2.82
   the staff to their guests
20 Staff knowing needs of the             2.73           3.14
   guests
21 Staff having guests best               2.09           2.65
   interests at their hear
22 Availability of facilities             3.45           3.03
   and services to all customers
   24 hours around the clock

                                      Gap (a)    t-value
                                       (1-2)

1. Having up-to-date service             -.31    3.122 *
   equipment
2. Having visually appealing              .13     .599 ***
   physical facilities (premises)
3. Good appearance of employees          -.30    8.359 *
4. Cleanliness and well-maintenance      -.22    6.655 *
   of physical facilities
5. Keeping promises by service           -.25    2.571 **
   providers
6. Staff concerns in solving             -.15     .579 ***
   problems
7. Dependability of staff                -.39    3.816 *
8. Commitment of staff in                -.28    8.871 *
   delivering services as
   promised without delay
9  Keeping accurate records by           -.45   10.842 *
   management
10 Giving guests the exact time           .59     .948 ***
   of performing a service
11 Prompt service by staff                .22     .298 ***
12 Staff willingness to help             -.82     .995 ***
   guests
13 Staff ignorance of guest             -1.85    2.261 **
   requests
14 Trusting hotel staff                   .49    3.662 *
15 Feeling safe when dealing with         .56    9.648 *
   hotel staff
16 Politeness of staff                    .29    8.556 *
17 Staff good performance require        -.11     .206 ***
   management support
18 Individual attention given by         -.57    3.792 *
   the staff to their guests
19 Personal attention given by           -.27    7.400 *
   the staff to their guests
20 Staff knowing needs of the            -.41    2.641 **
   guests
21 Staff having guests best              -.56    4.033 **
   interests at their hear
22 Availability of facilities             .43     .746 ***
   and services to all customers
   24 hours around the clock

Notes: (a) A negative gap indicates that managers' perceptions of
guests' expectations of service attribute is more than the guests'
expectations (i.e. mangers underestimate guests' expectations), while
a positive gap shows that managers' perceptions of guests' expectations
is exceeding guests' expectations (i.e. managers overestimate guests'
expectations). The possible gap values range from -6 to +6. (b)
perceptions and expectations scores are measured on a seven-point scale
on which higher values mean better perceptions or expectations.
(*) significant at 99% (P = .01). (**) significant at 95% (P = .05).
(***) not significant.

Table 5
Service Quality Gap Between Management Perception of Guests'
Expectations and Recorded Guests' Expectations (based on
individual service attributes)

Dimensions       Mean scar e       Mean score for      Difference
                 for Guests'         Management          (Gap)
                 expectations      perception of         (1-2)
                     (1)        Guests' expectations
                                        (2)

All dimensions      4.990              5.170             -0.180
Tangibles           6.671              6.843             -0.172
Reliability         6.591              6.890             -0.299
Responsiveness      2.352              2.823             -0.471
Assurance           6.829              6.511             0.318
Empathy             2.610              2.929             -0.319
Sample size          395                 11

Dimensions       t-test     P     Conclusion
                 scores

All dimensions   1.090    0.259       Ns
Tangibles        1.543    0.123       Ns
Reliability      5.167    0.004       S
Responsiveness   1.261    0.214       Ns
Assurance        2.149    0.031       S
Empathy          2.414    0.015       S
Sample size

Table 6
The Most Important Five Attributes Determining Customers' Satisfaction

According to managers             According to customers

1. Good appearance of employees   1. Feeling safe when dealing
                                     with staff
2. Cleanliness of physical        2. Staff politeness
   facilities
3. Staff commitment in service    3. Trusting the staff
   delivery
4. Keeping accurate records by    4. Cleanliness of physical
   management                        facilities
5. staff dependability            5. Staff commitment in service
                                     delivery
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