The aim of this report is to describe the characteristics of a specific service within the chosen organisation, it will critically assess the essential skills required to deliver effective service operations, this report will discuss the challenges or potential problems for operations staff and how they may be overcome. In addition, it will identify the reasons why this operation should consider measuring and monitoring the quality of its service, the report will discuss 4 specific techniques that this service provider could use to measure or monitor their service and suggest how these might be implemented and finally it will provide a summary of the key specific issues for the discussed organisation to take in hand to achieve a better operation and customer satisfaction.
1.1 Introduction to the Service Organisation
For the purpose of this report the chosen service organisation is a restaurant called La Tasca. The original La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant opened in Manchester city centre in 1993 and is as popular as ever. Since then they have successfully opened their distinctive style of restaurants throughout the UK from Glasgow to Portsmouth and Bristol to Norwich. La Tasca is a careful blend of everything that is good about Spanish style, cuisine and hospitality that go together to create a unique authentic atmosphere.
1.2 Characteristics of the Service
The restaurant chosen for this report comprises of characteristics which make a well managed service organisation. This service cannot take place without people requesting it and production and consumption take place. As soon as a customer enters the restaurant they are experiencing the service, provide by the waiters and waitresses; therefore this is simultaneity of production and consumption. The service begins when the customer/s interacts with a member of staff, i.e. requesting a table for two or the staff member welcoming the customer/s into the restaurant.
The nature of this product is heterogeneous meaning always different as oppose to homogeneous meaning always the same. Each and every customer that enters the restaurant will be different and have a different experience completely. This could be that the staff has changed; it may be a different chef. The restaurant itself may be quieter, a waiter or waitress could have called in sick.
This type of organisation provides both a service and a tangible product. The product is physical can be seen and can be touched. The product the customer is receiving within this organisation is the meal they have ordered however, the product is not perishable as it cannot be store in a warehouse to be consumed at a later date.
A customer at the restaurant only has access to the facility at the time of visit; therefore this indicates a characteristic of lack of ownership suggesting the customer never owns anything at the end of the service and can only reflect on the experience.
2. Essential Skills Required
In order to deliver effective service operations, there are some essential skills that need to be applied and service quality must be taken into consideration. There are two different types of service quality, technical, this involves what is done and what the customer receives from the service, and functional, how it is done and the actual delivery of the service. In the service quality environment, to survive in a constantly changing and hostile environment this particular organisation must adapt their service operations successfully to all the changing conditions surrounding the organisation. The organisation must differentiate themselves by re-emphasising quality in service to establish a competitive advantage. There are many factors that influence service quality and can affect the overall delivery of service.
A political or legal change can have a huge impact on an organisation, e.g. the smoking ban that went in to effect on 26th March 2006 has made some sort of change in the way all public establishments operate. Economic changes can affect the way customers are spending their income. Increase in interest rates, customers are left with less money to spend on luxuries, consequently are eating out less often. Technological changes can even affect restaurants, when a customer is aware that an establishment accepts credit cards or has a chip and pin facility, it can be more appealing for a customer to dine there in the future. Societal influences can have an impact on many organisations. E.g. In 2004, for the first time in over 10 years McDonalds fast food restaurants sales had plummeted, as a result McDonalds fast food chain developed and incorporated healthy options into their menus.
Organisations must be aware of their competition and any changes that they make in order to gain a competitive advantage, i.e. La Tasca should be aware of any other European theme restaurant that serves their native cuisine.
2.1 SERVQUAL Framework
Applying the SERVQUAL framework can determine a customers view of service quality. It could be claimed that the key to delivering high quality service is to balance customers expectations and perceptions and close the gap between the two. As a result, SERVQUAL methodology developed further to generate a framework to help determine deficiencies and gaps within a company and relating them to customer perceptions of service quality. When a customer is assessing service quality they use particular dimensions of service which the establishment must be aware of. Customers assess tangibles; these are physical aspects, when they are experiencing the product elements. This could be when a customer is experiencing the visually appealing Spanish theme d¯¿½cor within La Tasca restaurant.
It may also be the warm welcome you receive when you arrive at the premises. Customers also take into account reliability; the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. Diners who arrive at La Tasca are expecting to enjoy a nice meal, Tapas style. Therefore, La Tasca staff must always be prepared to deliver what is featured on the menu in order to meet the customers expectations. Consumers also assess responsiveness; this being the willingness to help and provide prompt service. If a staff member has a bad attitude and is unhelpful, customers will pick up on this immediately and will find it unacceptable.
Therefore, it has made their visit unpleasant. All staff members within any service organisation must be friendly and helpful towards customers; otherwise it can affect their whole experience. Customers take into consideration assurance; the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to enthuse trust and confidence. La Tasca waiters and waitresses must know what is in every dish as a customer may be allergic to a specific ingredient and they must be confident to answer any questions in order to give the consumer reassurance.
Staff should be prepared to give empathy to the customers as it is expected that they will get individualised attention. Within a restaurant service organisation, staff should take the time to get to know their regular customers and what their preferences are, i.e. a specific table.
As the chosen service organisation is a restaurant, a major part of the delivery of service is the waiter or waitresses competencies. Eunsen (1995) suggests that body language or non-verbal communication is a vital part of the communication that takes place between customers and providers. Providers must be aware of the non-verbal communication of customers but should also be aware that they themselves are sending non-verbal messages to customers. Non-verbal messages can reinforce verbal messages or they can contradict them. When the verbal and non-verbal channels of communication contradict one another, it is often wiser to believe the non-verbal rather than the verbal. This is because people an control what they say, but they cannot always control what they say non-verbally. Consequently, restaurant staff should always be aware of their body language when communicating with customers.
Staff should always have a good attitude when communicating with customers. Smiling at customers can create rapport very quickly the smile has to be genuine, and not forced. Eunsen (1995) believes service providers are particularly prone to smile burnout: service provision is emotional labour demanding that providers give not only of their muscles and minds but also of their emotions.
Any staff member who is in contact with customers must have good communication skills. Staff should always be happy to help and welcome any questions or comments customers wish to make. As La Tasca is a Spanish Tapas restaurant/bar, the majority of the staff are from Spain and their first spoken language is Spanish. Therefore, all waiters and waitresses must be able to communicate with English spoken customers.
Staff employed by any type of service organisation must be well behaved when providing a service to customers. Staff should behave appropriately with other staff members by not joking around in front of customers. They should also be aware of their own appearance as the employees of an organisation give customers a perception of what the establishment is like.
3. Challenges or Potential Problems for Operations Staff
3.1 The Service Quality GAP Model
Within any organisation which provides customer service, the operations staff are faced with many different challenges and potential problems. Applying the Service Quality GAP Model can identify these potential problems and challenges. The Service Quality GAP Model identified 4 gaps occurring in organisations that can instigate service quality problems. However, there is a Gap 5 which is an outcome of Gaps 1-4. Gap 5 is measured by SERVQUAL and quantifies the discrepancy between customers expectations and perceptions. The purpose of the GAP model is to identify the problems and close the Gap (Gap 5) between customer expectations and customer perceptions.
Gap 1 is the discrepancy between customers expectations and managements perceptions of those expectations. Factors which are contributing to Gap 1 are; Market research, Upward communication and Levels of management. The first problem identified is that La Tasca may use their feedback inadequately; i.e. they do not ask enough of the right questions. This problem may contribute to the gap, they can close the gap by updating their research and using the research results effectively. Lack of interaction between managers and customers may be a potential problem as the restaurant customers need to feel as though they are appreciated by the manager. This gap is closed by management meeting with the customers and making sure that their visit is pleasurable. Another problem that may occur is insufficient upward communication from contact personnel to management. La Tasca waiting staff have a supervisor/team leader of whom they report to and it may be a problem for any concerns they may have to be passed on to management. The gap can easily be closed by improving the upward communication.
Gap 2 is the discrepancy between managers perception of customers expectations and the actual specifications the organisation establish for service delivery. Factors contributing to Gap 2 are; Management Commitment to Service quality, Goal Setting, Task Standardisation and Perception of Feasibility. A problem may occur for La Tasca that management may have inadequate commitment to service quality. This gap can be closed by the staff committing to quality, to gain commitment of management they need to be motivated. Absence of goal setting is another problem which may occur. The gap can be closed by setting Service Quality goals which are: designed to meet customer expectations, specific and realistic, accepted by employees and measured and reviewed. Another potential problem is that the restaurant may have inadequate task standardisation. The gap can be closed by standardising the tasks. Lack of perception of feasibility is a problem which could contribute to the gap. Close the gap by creating possibilities.
Gap 3 is the service-performance gap. This is the difference between service specifications and the actual service delivery. Factors contributing to Gap 3 are; Team Work, Employee Job Fit, Perceived control, Supervisory Control System, Role Conflict and Role Ambiguity. A problem which La Tasca may be faced with may be lack of team work. If the waiting staff are not getting on well together or if there is maybe some conflict, customers may be aware of this, therefore they are not providing good service quality. A way of solving this problem and closing the gap is to build teamwork between employees. Another problem may be poor employee job fit. A waiter or waitress employed by La Tasca may have a hard time settling in to the restaurant or may be a very quiet and reserved person that is not used to serving customers. The solution to close the gap could be to improve employee job fit, i.e. give that staff member specific tasks to carry out, they could clear tables.
Lack of perceived control is a problem which may arise within the restaurant. The gap can be closed by empowering service employees; they would have to possess confidence and competence. Inappropriate supervisory control systems may be a problem. The gap can be closed by measuring and rewarding service performance, compensation and direct financial incentives and recognition of programmes that work. Role conflict can arise in any job situation; it could be a possible problem for La Tasca. Within the restaurant there could be some confusion between who serves drinks at the bar, as both waiting staff and bar staff take orders from customers.
A way of solving this and closing the gap is to eliminate the role conflict and give a detailed job description to staff members. Employee role ambiguity is also a potential problem. La Tasca may describe in an employees job description that a task to be carried out is clearing of plates, but this does not necessary mean they have to use a dishwasher therefore their role is unclear. To close the gap and solve this problem, employees must be provided with role clarity technical training, training in interpersonal skills must be given and the employees should learn about customer service.
Gap 4 is the gap between what an organisation promises about a service and what it actually delivers. Factors contributing to Gap 4 are: Horizontal Communication and Propensity to Over Promise. A potential problem for any organisation may be inadequate horizontal communication. Ways to overcome this potential problem and to close the gap would be by opening channels of communication between advertising and operations. Also, open channels of communication between sales and operations. In addition, open channels of communication between human resources, marketing and operations.
A problem which may occur and may affect the whole La Tasca brand restaurant group could be differences in policies and procedures in different restaurants. The gap could be closed by providing consistent service across the 53 restaurants situated throughout the UK.
4. Reasons to Consider Measuring and Monitoring
The restaurant trade can be very competitive, that is why it is important for La Tasca to consider measuring and monitoring the quality of its service. The reasons for this being, that measuring quality and customer satisfaction motivates staff to perform and achieve higher levels of productivity, therefore providing a more superior service to customers. It can provide a sense of achievement and accomplishment. In addition, it allocates a baseline standard of performance and a standard of excellence, as a result improves quality and increased satisfaction. Considering measuring and monitoring can present an organisation with immediate, meaningful and objective feedback which they can use to assess their quality of service. The feedback they receive tells the service organisation what it must do to improve customer satisfaction and how to do it.
Quality is defined by a customers expectations and needs, if the customer perceives higher quality their satisfaction level will rise. Therefore, if the quality they receive is beyond their expectations they will be more than satisfied. This is why any service organisation should consider measuring quality and monitoring customer satisfaction, as they should aim to exceed customers expectations.
Wright (1999) suggests in his text that the setting of standards is closely connected to planning and the setting of objectives. Standards have to be precise and communicated by all the members of the organisation. He believes that once the standards have been set feedback of the actual performance and variations from standards are important.
Feedback has to be made to senior management so that they can see if the overall objectives are being met, and to lower-level staff directly responsible for activities so that control can be exercised at the time, or close to the time when activities are taking place.
It is believed that it is vitally important for measuring and monitoring customer service that you put the customers at the top of the agenda. When measuring and monitoring customer service quality must have a customer driven starting point and should not be driven by profits or results.
5. Techniques Which May Be Used
La Tasca restaurant could use various techniques in order to measure or monitor its service, this report will delve into 4 specific techniques which may be applied.
5.1 Measuring Customer Response
Techniques used for measuring customer response may come in the form of: Customer Service Questionnaires, La Tasca could use this method to determine what its diners might expect before they have visited the restaurant. Customer Satisfaction Surveys may be used after a customers visit to determine what they liked or disliked about their experience at the restaurant. Telephone Surveys might be used to establish whether or not the customer was satisfied with the service they received at their time of visit.
Focus Groups are used to detect a specific groups opinion, i.e. a specific gender or age. Taking into account that 70% of La Tascas customers comprise of mostly female, the restaurant should use this as their main focus when conducting their research. (www.latasca.co.uk, 2/3/06). Interviews may be used to establish if any improvements could be made to the restaurant. A secret/mystery shopper is a method which could be used by management to discover if there are any problems with staff or with cleanliness in and around the restaurant and bar. Mystery shoppers are customers who complete a secret survey and are not known by lower-level staff, therefore the staff members are unaware that they are being assessed.
5.2 Measuring Staff Response
Employee Performance Appraisal is a method used for assessment of an individuals performance, which must be agreed by the employee. The appraisal highlights the member of staffs potential and identifies any training and/or development needs the individual may require. Attitude Surveys are used to analyse and determine satisfaction levels of internal customers. Perhaps La Tasca waiting staff may choose to dine at the restaurant as a customer, an attitude survey may be employed to find out if they are satisfied with the service they received. Another approach to measuring staff response may be to use Exit Interviews.
These interviews are conducted when an employee is leaving the organisation, the interviewer may ask the employee their reasons for leaving and any areas they may think could be improved upon. In addition, the management may think that they are more likely to be provided with open and honest feedback from the employee as they will no longer work at the organisation. Consultative Committees are responsible for achieving goals spread throughout the organisation. Groups of employees are involved in agreeing to the goals. La Tasca management may set small targets or goals for waiting staff in order to improve the quality of service the customer receives.
5.3 Customer Interaction and Communication
Providing excellence in customer service through human interaction should begin as soon as a customer enters the restaurant. La Tasca staff should give the customer a warm and friendly welcome and always smiling. The staff should have an immaculate appearance at all times; their uniforms should be clean and crease-free. As they are working with food, long-hair should be tied back. Body language should be forthcoming and arms should not be crossed at any time as this is uninviting. The employees tone of voice should be pleasant to compliment the waiting staffs positive attitude. All restaurant employees should be professional when interacting with customers.
Communication techniques consist of staff communicating with others in the organisation about their customer concerns, comments and expectations. Restaurant employees should communicate success and show the customers the pride in them and in others. Some members of staff may wish to be the voice of their customer to the service organisation, the may want to argue on behalf of the customer. Another communication technique is to conduct service brainstorming sessions with internal customers, by generating and communicating ideas on how to better serve the customer will improve the organisations quality of service.
5.4 Techniques to Improve Customer Service
By adding value, this will give the customer something more than what they were expecting. La Tasca may wish to give customers who spend over a certain amount a free bottle of house wine, therefore adding value to the customers meal. Training staff in quality measurement techniques will enable staff to identify quality problems before the customer does. Waiting staff should have constant contact with customers on a regular basis, ensuring that they are enjoying their meal or if they wish for more drinks. By doing this, customers are more likely to forgive isolated errors. Using reward programmes can be very beneficial for an organisation as customers are just as happy to receive rewards as employees are. Recognising and rewarding customers, i.e. with a meal or drinks voucher, will almost guarantee a return visit.
6.1 Summary of the Key Service Issues
As the service organisation is a restaurant there are many key service issues in which La Tasca should address in order to achieve an efficient operation and customer satisfaction. Problems with the operational issues of the restaurant may comprise of the cleanliness and d¯¿½cor of the restaurant. There may be a high turnover of staff and a large amount of absenteeism. La Tasca do not at present have provisions for disabled people; this is a service issue they should take into consideration.
The restaurant does not have ordering convenience; they do not take advance orders or advance reservations. La Tasca uses a first come, first serve basis. Consequently, on most Saturdays are over-crowded with customers waiting at the bar to be seated. The restaurant always has to be aware of conformance to legislation on food standards, quality standards and working directives. Also, be conscious of large intrusion from local health regulations and alcohol laws. La Tasca has to ensure reliability of food and beverage quality, the quality of table service, speed of food service and provide provisions of special foods. The restaurant should also take in to account service issues such as; cooking to order, nutritional information, variations in portions, extent of non available menu items and they should allow staff to provide customers with doggy bags.
All of the key service issues mentioned should be taken in to consideration by the restaurant. As they are providing the customer with a service, La Tasca should strive to fulfil the customers needs and their expectations.
Eunsen, B. (1995) Communicating with Customers, John Wiley & Sons
Wright, J.N. (1999), The Management of Service Operations, Cassell, London
La Tasca Official Website: www.latasca.co.uk, 2 March 2006