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Choose a real-life service organisation that you are familiar with.

Prepare a flowchart of the back-stage as well as the front-stage operations of this business. Using this flowchart, explain the significance of the service encounter, and its managerial implications. The written component of the essay should not exceed 2000 words (12 font, Arial or Times New Roman single spaced

Discussion

A resort service industry like Esplanade Resort & Spa comprises of numerous elements of service design and operations such as attitude and response to customers, which literally takes place when the entire range of service activity is received by them whenever customers visit the property for stays or avail spa services. Take for example, the behaviour and response of a customer/guest begins right from the time they make an entrance into the resort’s premises where they are greeted by the doorman and further directed towards the reception desk, interactions starts with the front desk staffs for confirming their room bookings or spa appointment (Gregory and Weinland 2016).  In case of resort stays, the front stage activities at the front desk revolves around room allocation, bellboy shifting luggage to rooms and handover of keys to the guests.  Often some international guests do seek transportation and travelling services information from the staffs. Besides, recreation amenities like boutique-style accommodation or fully self-contained apartment, outdoor tennis court, indoor pool, bar etc. are sought after by guests as part of the resort services and they seek help of resort executives for all these service assistance. According to Sampson and Money (2015) support operations is another key element, which takes place at the back stage and does not involves direction interaction with guests nor can they see it but a crucial role is played by this element to ensure consistency of the resort’s services that revolves around IT, human resources and accounting operations.

As opined by Kaushik and Rahman (2017) visible and invisible touch points of services are main elements where one to one activities are included in the former touch point where a front level executive interact with guests/customers and address information and enquire guests seek for expediting their actions through suitable response and satisfaction. Front desk interactions, housekeeping services, food court, spa and recreational service interactions are few examples of visible touch point activities in the resort. According to Ustrov, Valverde and Ryan (2016) the later element includes invisible back stage intercommunication amidst the executives and guests through telephonic calls, emailing etc. Physical surroundings are also a main element and encompasses of everything that guests can see and absorb further influencing their thought process in making decisions about the resort’s service arrangements. For example, the greetings guests receive from the doorman, front desk staffs friendly mannerisms direct the resort’s physical ambience further reflecting its cordial services. 

Front stage and Back stage service operations

According to Golubovskaya, Robinson and Solnet (2017) a sharp difference in the interactions made between customers and the provider of the services included in the service business and activities’ following it is what implies focus on the service encounter. One can widely categorize the operations of service businesses into two elements namely front stage and back stage service operations. Customers’ or service consumers’ interaction with the service is represented by the front stage while a service that cannot be seen by consumers represents the back stage, which is considered as a part of the service value chain. As opined by Duggal and Verma (2013) activities or operations that can get connected and interact directly with the guests are included into the operations of front stage. Esplanade Resort & Spa’s executives handling the front stage operations are capable of performing all types of service encounters, be it remote encounters, phone encounters or face-to-face encounters incorporated into the resort service arrangements. Besides, they are highly skilled and well trained in addressing customer queries for delivering a quality service delivery model with flawless front stage support that is backed by strong back stage information updates (Giovanis, Athanasopoulou and Tsoukatos 2015).  The activities that do not involve direct contact or interaction of the resort’s staffs with guests/customers are bracketed under the back stage operations category. Such activities are largely carried behind the doors and guests cannot see them. Back stage operations play a vital role in supporting the service operations of front stage for facilitating customer interactions and encounters. The key behind Esplanade Resort & Spa’s phenomenal delivery of services lies in the robust coordination amidst its front stage and back stage service operations (Zhang, Joglekar and Verma 2012).

Fig 1: Front stage of Esplanade resort & spa

Source: Author

The above flowchart represents front stage process in Esplanade resort & spa’s operations where guests have direct interaction with staffs of resort during service encounters. As soon guest arrive the premise of resort they are greeted at car parking and then escorted through lobby towards reception area. Here guests are assisted in their reservation by face to face interaction with receptionists and they verify details of guest and confirm bookings. Next guest are handed room keys and escorted by concierges to their rooms and their baggages are sent to allocated rooms to complete the check-in process. Additionally if guests have any service queries these are responded at front desk services. In each activity of front stage guests have encounter with physical evidences of resort such as exterior, lobby, elevator, rooms and even with resort staffs. These encounters influence customer sensations through stimulating their fulfilment.  Hence front stage is depiction of resort’s services as these are initial point of contacts.  

Front stage flowchart

Fig 2: Backstage of Esplanade resort & spa

Source: Author

The above flowchart represents the backstage service process of Esplanade resorts which are support activities that are behind the line of visibility. Hence do not have direct interaction with customers and they support front stage process. Like housekeeping service, guest’s registration data and enter data fed into ERP system of resort, HR and Accounts service etc are all support activities at backstage which helps effective management and delivery of services. Moreover kitchen service, inventories, security service too are back end services that together with front stage completes service delivery process.

According to Tam, Sharma and Kim (2014) one can describe service encounter as chain of events where it is expected that organizations operating within a service industry deliver consistent performance during a service encounter however it may not be truly necessary. Besides the average performance, the peaks within a performance are significant. The importance of a happy ending is also stressed by service researchers by testing a model on the contributions of an event on the comprehensive assessment of a series of events further demonstrating the relevance of average performance during the encounter. As stated by Webber, Payne and Taylor (2012) the importance of pinnacle experiences to form satisfaction is also stressed from the results. Hence, not only the overall performance of a service encounter should be managed by the managers of service business but also offers should be made to ensure long lasting experiences for elevating satisfaction of customers. An impression is created by service encounters on customers’ minds further influencing their decisions or opinions towards the service delivery or brand awareness (Batra 2016). For Esplanade Resort & Spa service encounters play an important part by cultivating a two-way association amidst the management and guests/customers where the latter’s behaviour is stimulated by positive service encounters further inspiring them in positively responding to the resort’s services to make them visit repeatedly and do word of mouth publicity. For example, the resort’s online services in the form of user friendly website and navigation suitability during booking systems generates a service encounter which affects guests perceptions before they actual consume the service. Moreover, the front stage operations in the service delivery process of Esplanade resort & spas are also key service encounters components. According to Maguire, Kawas and Geiger (2015) service encounters are influential since it can be pleasant or unpleasant although enhancing appeasing and positive service encounters for delivering better service experiences to guests and meet their expectations is vital for resort’s success. The main incentive for satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction revolves around the resort’s market share against its competitors. The level of customers’ contentment gets determined by the big or small share in the market owing to the services delivered at the resort.  Profitability in terms of revenues is another direct stimulus of the guests’ higher level of fulfilment followed by the number of repeated visits. Guests preferring the Esplanade resort’s whenever they visit Victoria reflect their high level of contentment, brand’s delivery of promise and higher level of service delivery.

Back stage flowchart

As service products of Esplanade resorts & Spa are intangible in nature so managers of the resort are required to create smooth demand through effective promotion, dynamic pricing and booking facilities, so that operational process of resort is well executed to meet needs and expectations of customers. According to Gazzoli, Hancer and BeomCheol (Peter) Kim (2013) effective strategies and management is significant to improve service encounters as customers of service products tend to turn away if the process is in-convenient. As such to generate better idea of offerings of Esplanade resorts & spas it is significant for their managers to develop strategic directions that can deliver worthy service encounters and hence they give priority to improve service encounters with better approaches and practices to assure that international standards are maintained in context to quality of services. At Esplanade resorts & spas it is intrinsic culture where employees work dedicatedly to deliver pursuits that can meet customer presumptions and managers allow their teams full support and authority to control their tasks with individual decisions that can best support the fulfilment deliverables of their jobs to create highest level of performance.  Further as intangible services of Esplanade resorts & spas usually prevails over value creation so managers of the resort ensures that their services are made tangible through increased attention on physical clues. Due to this prospective customers of their resorts can evaluate service offerings of Esplanade resorts & spas and can distinguish from rivals. As such managers make decisions and strategic planning to apply concrete allegory and impressive images in advertising, branding etc to communicate effectively value creation aspect of their offerings. Unique service encounters are necessary to generate better business growth in future hence managers of Esplanade resorts & spas made conscious efforts to create valuable encounters to capture interest and memories of their customers (Söderlund 2013).  Also as services are difficult to be visualised and interpret so managers of Esplanade resorts & spa ensures to create good awareness of valued choices for their customer by describing them best deal, service guarantees and performance benchmarks to meet their expectations. Also managers of the resort make sure that service encounters between resort executives and guests are of highest possible standards so that delightful experiences are created and in case of any event of negative encounters managers make efforts to recompense for unfortunate services with additional offers like free one night stay on re-visit to resorts or service coupons to neutralise the perceptions with goodwill gesture and win them back in an attempt to not lose a valuable guest.    

Why service encounters are important?

Conclusion  

To conclude it can be said that effectiveness of service delivery and better service encounters are possible only when both front stage and back stage operations of service business combine and complement one another to enhance experiences of customers. Further a good alignment between all operations ensures timely delivery of service in proper manner at predefined standard levels which enhances brand image, commitment and leaves a favourable impression on guests to ensure future business and publicity to others. So, to remain competitive in business each service needs to ensure better delivery of services to establish strong rapport with customers. 

References  

Batra, M. M. (2016). Human sigma: What, why and why not. Competition Forum, [Online] 14(2), 200-209. Available: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1838503272?accountid=30552 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Duggal, E. and Verma, H. V. (2013). SERVICE QUALITY: CONSTRUCT COMPREHENSION AND EVOLUTION OVER TIME. Journal of Services Research, [Online] 13(1), 135-160. Available: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1355249331?accountid=30552 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Gazzoli, G., Hancer, M. and BeomCheol (Peter) Kim. (2013). Explaining why employee-customer orientation influences customers' perceptions of the service encounter. Journal of Service Management, [Online] 24(4), 382-400. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-09-2012-0192 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Giovanis, A., Athanasopoulou, P. and Tsoukatos, E. (2015). The role of service fairness in the service quality - relationship quality - customer loyalty chain. Journal of Service Theory and Practice, [Online] 25(6), 744-776. Available: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1768594127?accountid=30552 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Golubovskaya, M., Robinson, R. N. S. and Solnet, D. (2017). The meaning of hospitality: Do employees understand? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, [Online] 29(5), 1282-1304. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-11-2015-0667 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Gregory, A. M. and Weinland, J. (2016). Timeshare research: A synthesis of forty years of publications. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, [Online] 28(3), 438-470. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-12-2014-0614 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Kaushik, A. K. and Rahman, Z. (2017). An empirical investigation of tourist’s choice of service delivery options. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, [Online] 29(7), 1892-1913. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-08-2015-0438 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Maguire, L., Kawas, R. and Geiger, S. (2015). Emotional timescapes: The temporal perspective and consumption emotions in services. The Journal of Services Marketing, [Online] 29(3), 211-223. Available: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1674920341?accountid=30552 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Sampson, S. E. and Money, R. B. (2015). Modes of customer co-production for international service offerings. Journal of Service Management, [Online] 26(4), 625-647. Available: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1706243720?accountid=30552 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Söderlund, M. (2013). Positive social behaviours and suggestive selling in the same service encounter. Managing Service Quality, [Online] 23(4), 305-320. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/MSQ-03-2013-0045 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Tam, J., Sharma, P. and Kim, N. (2014). Examining the role of attribution and intercultural competence in intercultural service encounters. The Journal of Services Marketing, [Online] 28(2), 159-170. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JSM-12-2012-0266 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Ustrov, Y., Valverde, M. and Ryan, G. (2016). Insights into emotional contagion and its effects at the hotel front desk. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, [Online] 28(10), 2285-2309. Available:  doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-08-2014-0378 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Webber, S. S., Payne, S. C. and Taylor, A. B. (2012). Personality and trust fosters service quality. Journal of Business and Psychology, [Online] 27(2), 193-203. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10869-011-9235-4 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018]

Zhang, J. J., Joglekar, N. and Verma, R. (2012). Pushing the frontier of sustainable service operations management. Journal of Service Management, [Online] 23(3), 377-399. Available: doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09564231211248462 [Accessed on 28 Sep. 2018

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