QUIS 12 Researchers and Practitioners Hear Top Keynotes and Share Research Findings

Jun 13, 2011

Contact:  Jane Henion, 607.255.9780, jmh222@cornell.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
QUIS 12 Researchers and Practitioners Hear Top Keynotes and Share Research Findings

Biennial conference focuses on service quality research and concepts 

Ithaca, NY, June 13, 2011 – Four keynote speeches highlighted QUIS 12, the top-level conference on quality in service, held at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, June 2–5, under the theme of "advances in service quality, innovation, and excellence." Over 250 participants from 30 countries heard keynote speeches on service excellence, radio-frequency ID applications, customer engagement, and customer satisfaction. Additionally, participants presented papers on the application of service to durable goods businesses (known as servitization), the importance of employees in service quality, interaction with the customer (known as co-creation), and the effects of social media and sustainability concerns on service, among other topics. The conference was produced by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR), with co-chairs Stephen Brown, Arizona State University, Bo Edvardsson, Karlstad University, Robert Johnston, University of Warwick, Richard Metters, Emory University, and Rohit Verma, CHR executive director, and professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Service excellence. Keynote speaker Ted Teng, CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd., explained the four pillars of service excellence. He was introduced by Dean Michael Johnson, E.M. Statler Professor, who welcomed the researchers and chaired an invited panel discussion of journal editors. Teng discussed service excellence in terms of four inter-related pillars: culture, personality, training, and motivation. Although culture varies from nation to nation and region to region, one can find genuine hospitality in every culture, Teng explained. However, that hospitality is expressed in different ways. In some ways, personality is like a culture of one person, and it's well known that those with certain personalities are more likely to deliver excellent service, notably, those who like people. Training is critical, because service excellence does not come naturally to everyone. A danger in training is that service will become robotic, when it should come from the heart. Finally, motivation stems from many sources, including the chance to earn money, pride in accomplishment, and recognition for a job well done. These four pillars must be managed with one additional point in mind, and that is the guest's definition of service excellence. Every service interaction must be based on the four service pillars and then personalized for the guest, Teng concluded.

RFID applications. Operations managers seek to eliminate errors in the supply chain and distribution process, all of which is highly labor intensive. Until now tracking down the sources of error has been a challenge and the tide of inventory is often hard to manage. Knowledge is power, however, particularly when it comes to logistical operations, and one way to acquire knowledge about product movements is to tag each product with its own radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. In a keynote speech, MIT professor Sanjay Sarma explained the application of RFID tags to identify supply chain errors. The core concept is to deliver the appropriate inventory to the correct store at the correct time. With RFID tags, individual items can be tracked and operations can be controlled. Hospitals are an example of operations that are using RFID to track patients, equipment, and pharmaceuticals. For hotels, RFID could be used for employee check-in, baggage tracking, networking HVAC and utilities, and maintenance items, among other applications.

Consumer engagement. Conny Kalcher, global leader of consumer experience, The LEGO Group, focused on consumer engagement by developing a wide range of LEGO experiences. One way to think about consumer segmentation is to gauge consumers' affinity with the product, including those who are engaged with the LEGO product and, further, those who want to influence the company and promote the product. The key is to understand the consumer so that the firm can emphasize the experience around the product. In short, the strategy is to create fans of the product, including ensuring continuous improvement and bringing like-minded fans together. Such an approach requires the creation of consistent experiences that engage consumers, including various membership and loyalty programs. The LEGO Group uses a net promoter score (NPS)  to gauge consumer engagement and the consumer feedback from the program to improve the customer experience. This includes direct responses to customers who have registered dissatisfaction with their experience. Those who are higher on the NPS scale are more satisfied, recommend more and spend more.

Customer satisfaction. Despite the remarkable turbulence in the economy and world events of the past decade, consumer satisfaction has generally improved across several of the industries tracked by J.D. Power and Associates, according to Gina Pingitore, chief research officer, and Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice. They analyzed a decade of consumer satisfaction results in industries tracked by J.D. Power and Associates, including automotive, financial services, hospitality, insurance, telecom, and electric utilities. Although these industries are vastly different, with some industries focused on delivering a durable good and others a service, Pingitore and Grief used a conceptual framework termed the 5Ps (product, process, people, presentation, and price) to compare consumers' satisfaction results across these industries. The results from their analyses indicate that improving customer satisfaction is a greater challenge for service industries than for manufacturing firms. For durable goods, the product itself is overwhelmingly the largest driver of customer satisfaction. For service industries, however, the 5Ps are more evenly matched, meaning that service companies have to do all of these things right in order to deliver an outstanding customer experience. A key finding in the J.D. Power and Associates data is that although the mean satisfaction results for most service industries seems relatively favorable, the variance between individual brands is considerable. The results showed that service brands that started the decade with high levels of customer satisfaction, ended the decade with even better results. In contrast, companies that struggled at the beginning of the decade to satisfy their customers, ended the decade with even poorer satisfaction results. In short, brands that were good at delivering on customer needs became ever better, but brands that struggled experienced diminished customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction directly influences the bottom line, according to research by Pingitore and Greif. Based on a survey of hotel customers, those who report an outstanding experience are most likely to return to a property, spend more on their current stay as well as on future stays. One inexpensive and effective way to improve hotel guest satisfaction is increased interactions with staff members. However, guests seem to appreciate effective technology, and a hotel must strategically determine how to integrate technology with customer contact.

The next quality in services conference, QUIS 13, will be held in 2013 in Karlstad, Sweden, the city where the conference series began in 1988.

About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 82 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu.

Center Senior Partners: ASAE Foundation, Hilton Worldwide, McDonald's USA, Philips Hospitality, SAS, STR, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and TIG Global

Center Partners: Davis & Gilbert LLP, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, Denihan Hospitality Group, eCornell & Executive Education, Expedia, Inc., Forbes Travel Guide, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fox Rothschild LLP, French Quarter Holdings, Inc., HVS, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, LRP Publications, Maritz, Marriott International, Inc., Marsh's Hospitality Practice, priceline.com, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proskauer, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Schneider Electric, Thayer Lodging Group, Thompson Hotels, Travelport, and WATG

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