by Dominique Lavigueur and Robert Chiasson
Every guest comes to a B&B or inn with certain expectations about the quality of the services provided and the way they are delivered. An innkeeper who exceeds these expectations is perceived as offering high-quality services and, consequently, achieves a high level of guest satisfaction. As we all know, the more guests are satisfied the more often they will come back and/or generate positive word-of-mouth. Inversely, when expectations are not met, the result is guest dissatisfaction and a loss in repeat business and long-term profitability. Quality, therefore, is defined as the difference between the service customers actually receive and the service they expected.
It is obvious then that, if customers are the arbiters of quality, it is up to the innkeeper to ascertain how high or how low his service ranks on the quality scale. The most effective way of gathering that crucial information is by surveying current and potential guests. However, a common difficulty with surveys is that respondents can more easily articulate expectations about the results to be achieved – for example, to be pampered – than about the manner in which the service should be provided, i.e. the different approaches used by the innkeeper to bring about a feeling of being pampered.
A survey method developed by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University overcomes that problem by identifying three categories of customer expectations or requirements and by proposing a type of questionnaire that takes them into account.
1. Must-be requirements
If must-be requirements are not fulfilled, customers will be extremely dissatisfied or will simply not be interested in staying at your B&B at all. On the other hand, going the extra mile in fulfilling them does not increase their level of satisfaction above neutral. Failure to clean your guests’ room will definitely result in an unhappy customer; however, going to the point of scrubbing the joints between the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush will not result in greater satisfaction. In other words, efforts to exceed this category of expectation will only result in “not dissatisfied” guests. This is because they regard must-be requirements as prerequisites and, therefore, take them for granted.
Guests will expect B&Bs to have appropriate security measures in place to ensure their safety, to be able to provide adequate information on area attractions, to make available free parking spaces on their premises, etc. They will also expect the innkeeper or a reliable member of his staff to reside on the premises so that, if any problem arises, it will be quickly resolved.
2. One-dimensional requirements
The more one-dimensional requirements are fulfilled, the higher the level of customer satisfaction and vice versa. For example, the more elaborate and refined your breakfast dishes, the more your guests will be satisfied. Inversely, a very basic meal consisting of limited food items will result in less satisfaction and a perception of low quality.
Other examples can include such things as the bed (size and firmness), bathroom amenities, the architectural style of the home, landscaping, leisure activities and/or dining on the premises, etc. One-dimensional requirements are usually explicitly demanded by customers.
3. Attractive requirements
Attractive requirements are the features that have the greatest influence on how satisfied customers will be with a given product or service; however, if they are not met, there is no feeling of dissatisfaction. A large flat-screen plasma TV in the guest room will quickly increase the customers’ level of satisfaction. On the other hand, the lack of this feature will leave them basically neutral (certainly not dissatisfied). It’s worth noting that attractive requirements are not explicitly expressed nor expected by guests.
Other examples of attractive requirements can include a big shower stall equipped with multiple showerheads, a fireplace in the guest’s room, private balcony, breakfast served in the guest room, service above and beyond the call of duty by the innkeeper, unannounced surprises such as an upgrade or a discount offered to repeat guests, etc.
It should be noted that customers may also be indifferent to certain aspects of the B&B service, for instance the presence in the room of wall-to-wall carpeting, tooth brush holder, etc. Whether these features are present or not has no effect on guests’ perception of quality or their level of satisfaction.
According to Kano, these three types of requirements can be classified by means of a specifically constructed questionnaire and, when the responses are tabulated, they provide the innkeeper with useful feedback on which service components have the greatest influence on guests’ perception of quality and, more importantly, they can help the innkeeper determine which improvements will have the greatest influence on their level of satisfaction.
In the next issue of B&B and Country Inn MarketPlace Resource Guide, we will discuss how the questions should be worded and describe a technique for interpreting the results.
Dominique Lavigueur and Robert Chiasson are award-winning hosts of the 5-sun Moka & Pyjama B&B in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. They also teach, write and speak about many facets of innkeeping and operating B&Bs as well as provide consulting services to educational institutions, government agencies and individuals. They can be reached at 1-418-452-1132, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through their web site at www.moka-pyjama.com.
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