Hospitality and tourism are important sectors of any economy. In the service sector, achieving a level of service quality that satisfies customers usually results in a competitive advantage in the market. The concept of service quality in hotels has been the subject of many research studies and there are numerous published works in the field. However, only a few studies have focused on the determinants of service quality for hotels using a set of comprehensive criteria. Thus, conceptualizing a service quality model that identifies the dimensions of service quality that affect customers' satisfaction is needed for hotels. In addition, the role of operations management practices in managing service quality cannot be denied. The available literature on the hotel industry in terms of managerial practices is unfortunately poor and needs to be enriched. Logically, better operations management practices in managing hotels' service quality would have a direct positive impact on performance, but there could also be some indirect (mediating) impact on performance through customer satisfaction.
The purpose of this research is to build an effective model for measuring service quality in the hotel industry through critical evaluation of the available literature in service in general and hotels in particular. The built model has aspects of customer's perceptions of service quality, management's perceptions of operations management practices and of performance.
The existing literature has been used to conceptualize a service quality model that meets the purpose of this research. The conceptualized model has eleven dimensions; seven for customer perceptions on service quality and four for management perceptions of operations management practices in managing service and on performance. The dimensions of customer's perceptions are: employee behaviour/attitude, price fairness, non-technological tangibility, technological tangibility, in-consumption positive emotions, in-consumption negative emotions and overall customer satisfaction. The introductions of technology and in-consumption emotions are one of the main contributions of this research. Though previous researchers have supported the use of these two criteria in evaluating service quality of hotels, the researcher is not aware of any quantitative service quality study that used these two dimensions. Of particular note is that emotion is evaluated in terms of its frequency of occurrence during the service experience, unlike previous studies.
The dimensions of operations management practices are managing employees, managing process and customer feedback. Managers' perceptions on hotel performance were also included in the conceptualized model. Linking operations management practices to overall customer satisfaction is another contribution of this research. Many previous studies attempted to understand the direct link between service quality and performance; although there is an equally dominant view in the literature that the relationship between service quality and performance could be more complex. Hence, there could also be some indirect (mediating) impact on performance through customer satisfaction. This research tested whether there is a mediating effect by customer satisfaction between operations management practices and performance. This test also contributed to the existing literature on service as a whole and on hotels in particular. Moreover, a moderation test of customers' characteristics; gender, purpose of hotel stay, age and education, is also performed in this research, further strengthening the value of this research.
Responses from two independently administered surveys have been used in this research, one for hotel customers and a second for hotel managers. Data has been collected in two international airports and a number of hotels in Oman. A sample size of 689 observations was used to test the relationships developed in the conceptualized model. First, factor analysis was carried out on the data to validate the developed dimensions. Exploratory factor analysis (EF A) was performed to explore the dimensions and then confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed to confirm the validity of the dimensions. The measurement model has been checked for its reliability and validity using criteria developed from the available literature. Then, the developed hypotheses were tested using a structural equation model (SEM) using partial least square approach (PLS-SEM).
The results have generally confirmed the original conceptualizations. All service quality dimensions, namely employee behaviour/attitude, non-technological tangibility, technological tangibility, positive in-consumption emotions and negative in-consumption emotions and operations management practices, namely managing employees, managing process and customer feedback, have been found to have a statistically significant influence on the overall satisfaction of guests. The hypotheses on the moderating effects of customers' characteristics were partially supported. The results proved that management practices have direct and significant effects on performance. In addition, customer satisfaction was found to be partially mediating the relationship between operations management practices and performance.
Knowledge about the dimensions of service quality and operations management practices in hotel industry is valuable for managers in the context of managing and assessing the quality of their service. This research has used the available literature to build a model that has interrelationships between operations management practices, customer perceptions of service quality and performance in the hotel industry. The model has introduced two new dimensions, technology and emotions, which has enriched the literature of service quality evaluation. There is no doubt that managerial awareness of the dimensions influencing customer satisfaction will help in developing competitive advantages for their hotels. In addition, linking operational management practices to overall customer satisfaction and testing its direct and indirect effect on performance has also contributed to knowledge. Thus, in order for managers to increase the hotels' performance in terms of customer satisfaction, special considerations need to be carried through their practices. Moreover, managers' awareness of the moderating role of the customers' characteristics will help in better managing the quality of service provided. The findings of this study in particular will open new directions for future research in the hotel industry in particular and the service industries as a whole.
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