Thursday, October 31, 2013

Service Marketing Management
The Four Seasons Hotel Corporation was founded by Isadore Sharp in Canada in 1960. It operates and owns hotel chains in North America, central and South America, the Pacific, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The hotel provides space for weddings, meetings and evens. The hotel was formerly known as Four Seasons Hotel, Inc. but was changed to Four Seasons Holdings, Inc. in 2007. The name change was necessitude by the private deal worth over $4 billion that saw the hotel privatized by the board of the directors. The deal saw Bill Gates through his private company – Cascade Investments – and Kingdom Hotels owned by the Saudi Prince –Alwaleed Bin Talal – take 95 per cent of the ownership of the hotel in equal shares while the remaining 5 per cent was owned by the chairman and the founder of the hotel chains. The headquarters of the hotel chain are found in Toronto, Canada (Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 2013).

The Four Seasons Hotel will be strategically evaluated based on the current approach and the performance of both the operations and the marketing. Examples will be provided to be able to support the analysis which is undertaken. Finally a set of recommendations will be provided to prioritize the manner in which the organization can improve. The analysis and the recommendations will draw on the relevant tools and frameworks. There are a number of activities that fall under the service quality dimensions that are found in the firm. br>
The Four Seasons Hotel has been able to offer high quality services in the industry and the markets where it operates in based on a number of considerations. The operations of the firm considering the dimensions of the service quality can be analyzed based on the RATER model. The RATER model was developed by Zeithaml and Berry (1990) to be able to aid in the measuring of the efficiency of the customer service that is offered in the firm. There are five main areas of consideration that are considered under the model. They include the reliability which is the ability to be able to deliver on the promise that the firm offers to the customers. Secondly, there is the assurance which entails the skills, expertise and the knowledge of the employees to be able to develop the credibility and the trust in the firm (Grönroos, 2007). br>
There is also the element of the tangibles which relate to the physical delivery of the service that has been promised by the firm. The other element that is considered is the empathy which is mostly related to the development of a good relationship between the customers and the employees of the firm. The Four Seasons Hotel has performed well based on a number of the considerations. Such considerations based on the RATER Model will be considered below. br>
Four Seasons Hotel has performed significantly well based on a number of the elements that are contained in the RATER model. First, there has been a high level of assurance that is premised on the inspiration of confidence and trust. The hotel chain has employees who are very competence in the services that they offer to the customers of the firm (SM2013). The employees as well as the organization significantly have respect for the other stakeholders who are found in the firm. The stakeholders are treated based on the fact that they are the reason why the hotel is in the business of the hospitality (Grönroos, 2007). The Four Seasons Hotel also focuses on the ways through which it can be able to enhance the security and the safety of all the stakeholders. There is the physical security and the job security that is provided to the different people who are found in the market.br>
Secondly, there is the element of the tangibles that are provided to be able to offer the image of the service that is offered by the firm to the customers. The employees of the Four Seasons Hotel are always properly dressed in the hotel colors and they are usually smart. The communication materials for instance the telephones and the wireless internet access are usually very functional as this has the ability to be able to enhance the view of the quality of the hotel. There is also the physical facilities such as the hotel buildings which made use of special architecture to be able to support the quality position of the hotel. There is also the equipment such as the high quality modern gym equipment, modern baths, saunas and Jacuzzis that are found in the Four Seasons Hotel. br>
All the above play an important role in the support for the quality proposition that is found in the hotel chain thus the success of the quality of the service. There is also the element of the reliability. Four Seasons Hotel has been able to provide timely, consistent and accurate service to the customers of the firm. The other element that is also found at Four Seasons Hotel is the empathy as the customers have uncontrolled access to the staff and they can always be served or provided with the information that they need (Grönroos, 2007). The customer care service is operational for 24 hours 7 days a week thus ensuring that the access is limited. The Four Seasons Hotel makes use of both formal and informal communication structures thus ensuring that the communications are timely and clear thus reducing the levels of the misunderstandings that may be recorded.br>
The services that are always offered at Four Seasons Hotel are those that are appropriate to the customers who are found in the firm. The elderly individuals are put in rooms that are easy to access due to the constraints that they have in their mobility. The hotel also ensures the individualized attention to all the customers. This mostly plays out in the food and beverage sections as the customers are provided with the foods that they order. The customization of the offering ensures that the hotel is able to provide individualized attention to all the people who are found in the organization. br>
Still based on the RATER model, there are the shortcomings that are found in the Four Seasons Hotel. Even though the firm has made significant leaps in the reliability front in the operations, there are still gaps that the firm can focus on improving on if the level of the service is to be improved in the firm. The firm has been willing to help the customers and be able to provide efficient services. However, there are problems associated with the flexibility that are always noted in the firm. The customers are sometimes forced to accept the service or the foods when the order problems occur from the side of the customers (Grönroos, 2007). It usually takes a long period of time to be able to make the adjustments to the requirement of the customers incase errors occur in the ordering process. Even though the employees of Four Seasons Hotel are always willing to help the customers, there is low level of prompt attention to the questions and the requests of the customers. The customer reviews of the firm indicate that the firm needs to undertake significant activities to be able to deal with such problems that are faced.

The Gap Model was developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry at Texas A&M and North Carolina Universities (Berry, Parasuraman and Zeithaml 1988; Lages, and Fernandes, 2005). The model considers the consumer perception of the service quality as a product of the four gaps that exist in the organization and consumer environment. The expected service is made of the past experiences of the customers, the personal needs, and the word of mouth communication. At Four Seasons Hotel there are areas where the expected service match the perceived service thus there are no gaps while in the other areas; there are gaps as there are mismatches between the expected services and the perceived services (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry 1985). The tangible s that is offered includes the high quality facilities and equipment. Such equipment has been noted in the section above under the RATER model. There is also the element of the proper communication especially the marketing promotion activities that are being undertaken in the firm. The promotion of Four Seasons Hotel makes use of both the mass media and the industry publications as well as the use of the internet and the social media to be able to reach the potential customers. The firm strictly communicates the elements that are contained in the service offering thus ensuring that the communication does not introduce a gap in the service quality at the firm (Grönroos, 2007).

However, there are some problems that are faced based on the Gap models for instance the ability to be able to clearly understand the needs and the aspirations of the customers. Four Seasons Hotel has focused on the provision of high service quality but these views are sometimes not in line with the expectations of the customers of the firm. This creates perception problems for the customers of the firm. There are also some problems that are faced in terms of the expectation of the consumers and the perceptions of the management of the firm. The problem at the hotel is the problem in the correct anticipation of the needs of the customers of the firm for instance the non-focus of the market research on the quality (Nyeck, Morales, Ladhari, and Pons, 2002). The other problem that is faced is with regards to the gap in the specification of the service quality and the management perception in the firm. The main problem that is experienced is with regards to the problems of the firm in the setting of the performance standards.

The Kano's Two Factor Model which was introduced by Noriako Kano, PhD is a two factor quality model which is used in service offerings. The curve developed illustrates the difference between attractive, must be and linear quality fundamentals. There is the element of the Must-be quality which is the attributes that the customers expect and when they are absent, the customers will be highly dissatisfied with the offering (Kano et al., 1984). The customers of Four Seasons Hotel are dissatisfied due to the lack of the promptness of some of the services that are offered. The call center usually takes a significant length of the time to be able to pick up the calls of the customers especially during the peak seasons when the customer numbers are high. Even through there is a slight problem with the handling of the customer calls, the firm offers some attractive quality services that make the customers to have the view of the high value that they are offered. The main consideration that is made is related to the customized offering at the firm for instance the customized meals and the personalized room services for instance the limo services, the airport pickups etc.



The Gale Model considers how the perceptions of the customers change with time. The model provides seven phases that need to be considered at any given time in the firm. The phases include the latent stage where the feature is not obvious or visible. Secondly, there is the desired where the feature is slowly being recognized but is not used commonly in the market. Thirdly, there is the unique where the activity or the service has an impact on the choices of the customers. Then, there is the pacing where a firm has a lead and the feature has a massive impact on the choice of the customers (Grönroos, 2007). Moreover, there is the key where a firm has a competitive advantage as a result of the feature. Also, there is the fading where the firm that has the feature cannot be caught as they have sustainable competitive advantage in the industry. Finally, there is the basic where all the firms in the industry have the feature. Four Seasons Hotel offers customized services thus ensuring that it has a sustainable competitive advantage in the industry.

Grönroos' Perceived Service Quality model notes that the quality expectations are the products of the communication, word of mouth, consumer learning and the needs while the experiences usually arise from the functional and technical quality that filter through the image (Grönroos, 2007). The market communications of Four Seasons Hotel are geared towards the creation of the true perceptions of the quality thus ensuring that the experiences will be in line with the technical and functional capabilities of the firm to be able to deliver the service that is required. However, there is a significant problem that is faced with regards to the clear understanding of the customers of the firm. This leads to the mismatch of the expectations and the experiences of the customers thus the rise of the quality problems.

Finally, there will be the consideration of the characteristics of the services. There are four main characteristics that always have a massive implication on the firms. First, there is the element of the intangibility i.e. the services cannot be felt, seen, touched, smelt or heard before the purchase is made. Secondly, there is the element of the inseparability i.e. the service cannot be separated from the provider (Tynan, and McKechnie, 2009). There is also the element of the variability for instance the quality of the service depends on the provider, the time of the service provision, manner and the location of the service provision (Yu-Jia, 2012). Finally, there is the element of the perishability as the services cannot be stored once they have been produced (SM2013). Four Seasons Hotel suffers from the occasional bouts of low quality of the service due to the different moods and the emotions of the employees as well as the customers. The inseparability allows the firm to be able to significantly customize the service for all the customers who visit the firm. The employees of the firm are offered benefits as well as pay rewards that are geared towards the support and the motivation of the employees (Grönroos, 2007).

The recommendations are geared towards ensuring that the levels of the service and the service dimensions are significantly improved in the firm. First, it is recommended that Four Seasons Hotel engages in customer service training for the employees so that their responsiveness levels can be enhanced. The service employees of the hotel chain should be trained on a number of areas such as complaint handling, the flexibility of thought, the ways in which the problem resolution can be undertaken in the firm and the manner in which they can be able to respond promptly to the questions and the requests (Grönroos, 2007). The second recommendation for the Four Seasons Hotel is to focused on the market analysis especially the proper segmentation and the clear understanding of the segments thus ensuring that the firm has the capacity to be able to serve the needs of the customers, the understanding of the customers will allow the firm to be able to significantly take care of the needs of the customers of the firm (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman 1988).

The problems in the performance standards will be overcome through the development of a proper new service development (NSD) process as well as the enhancement of the levels of the commitment of the top management of the firm (McCabe, Rosenbaum, and Yurchisin, 2007). The focus of the firm should also be on the decentralization of the operations at the firm as the decision making power should not rest with the top management of the hotel but with the employees who constantly interact with the customers (Buttle, 1996). It is also recommended that the firm should outsource the customer call services to a third party that has the ability to handle all the calls of the customers thus ensuring that the operations run smoothly and there is not view of the dissatisfaction of the customers of the firm (Bartikowski and Llosa, 2003). Also, it is recommended that the job selection at Four Seasons Hotel make use of the procedures that will ensure that the employees of right skill, behavior and competence mix are acquired by the firm. This will ensure that the swings in the quality of the customer satisfaction and the service delivery are significantly reduced.

There are a number of recommendations that also need to be offered. There should be the use of differentiated pricing strategy where the price will be dependent on the seasons due to the perishability of the service and the level of the service that is offered to the customers (Sudhir and Reddy, 2010). The promotion should stress the customization element as this will significantly increase the capacity of the firm to be able to operate effectively.