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Functional Benchmarking: Learning from best practices to improve service quality in medium and small hotels

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Despite the prevalent debate of organizational education, there is modest learned contribution on promoting learning through the realistic purpose of management apparatus. This is particularly correct in a complex domestic supply series milieu of an institute. Benchmarking is documented as a vital means for constant enhancement of quality.

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A large amount of publications by a variety of authors reveal the significance of this practice. Reviews of literature on benchmarking have been prepared in the past by a small number of authors. However, bearing in mind the contributions in the recent times, a more complete examination is attempted here.

In this essay, the authors have reviewed benchmarking literature in a manner that would help researchers, academicians and practitioners to take a deeper look at the expansion, development and applicability of this method. The authors have examined a range of papers and have anticipated a diverse plan of categorization. In addition, certain gaps that would present clues for extra study in benchmarking have been recognized. Study Questions A study of small hospitality businesses was undertaken in order to address the following research questions:

1) How extensive is the formal and informal practice of benchmarking in small hospitality businesses? 2) What kinds of practices and approaches are more or less likely to be benchmarked in small hospitality businesses? 3) How is the corporate culture of firms in the small hospitality industry associated with their interest in benchmarking best practices? Principal Findings Comparing performance figures is the procedure in the benchmarking processes that seem to be accepted and applied by tourism managers rather than more complex procedures like analyzing or optimizing.

However, there is a growing body of researchers assuming that benchmarking is not exclusively a comparison practice. Studying the business feat of a number of hospitality sectors (attractions, restaurants and caterings, motels); Bergin et al. (2000) found that benchmarking is frequently confused with the practice of viable assessment studies. Terms such as benchmarking, interfirm comparisons and competitive comparison analysis are inaccurately interchanged. Benchmarking is thought to be a more potent tool than competitive comparison. Key Words

Benchmarking, competitive comparison, comparison analysis, interfirm comparisons, hospitality sectors. Introduction Benchmarking is concerned with obtaining information through relative study and applying it to develop internal procedures or practices (Smith, 1997). Whilst Business Week has described benchmarking as “a euphemism for legally ripping off someone else’s idea” (McGonagle and Fleming, 1998), meaningful analysis and successful implementation is shown to be a complex task. As McNary (1994) observes “what often gets copied in benchmarking are only the symptoms of success instead of the causes of success”.

This review checks existing literature on benchmarking, particularly with respect to context, procedure, needs and benefits. The applicability to higher education is examined and results drawn. Decision makers are continuously on the look out for methods to make possible quality upgrading. Benchmarking is one such technique that has developed into a popular process in the recently. Benchmarking is one of many total quality management tools, which comprise problem solving, procedure reengineering and process improvement. According to DeToro (1995), benchmarking needs to be positioned within this larger context.

From the strategic perspective, “benchmarking could only be a piece of the jigsaw of initiatives needed to achieve substantial improvements” (Smith, 1997). The challenge is to match the process with the optimal tool or technique (Keehley, 1997). Though benchmarking is not up-to-the-minute, it has now found more users, and takes up a major place, helping quality development. Quite regularly, the benchmarking notion is understood to be an act of imitating or replicating. But in actuality this proves to be an idea that aids in originality rather than imitation, as stated by Thompson and Cox (1997).

Many authors have contributed to the literature on benchmarking ensuing in more than 350 publications as of June 2002. Taking in the growth of publications, some efforts have been made in the past to review the literature. Despite the widespread discussion of both organizational learning and the learning organization (Yeo, 2005), there are few practical tools to promote learning within a supply chain context that also give implementation advice for practitioners (Garvin, 1993; Shipton, 2004). This paper, aside from providing a review of literature on benchmarking, envelops the following objectives:

(1) Assembling the publications in a methodical way to allow easy and quick search; (2) Classification of literature; (3) Analysis of result of publications; and (4) Discover gaps plus presenting hints for further research. As benchmarking relevance is rising considerably in large organizations, they have, as yet, had restricted application among small hospitality businesses. Much interest has been paid to small businesses in current tourism and hospitality literature, but this has centered on savings, finance and the use of technology (e. g. Buhalis, 1993; Kwansa, 1994; Ozer, 1996).

There has been little research to quantify performance points of small hospitality businesses either as singular organizations or as workings of tourist destinations. This paper argues that benchmarking offers benefits for small hospitality businesses and for the destinations where they are situated. This is mainly true of grading schemes, where most of the fee is sustained by grading organizations, not by the small business themselves. Awards or grades give customers self-assurance and at the same time present a yardstick of competitiveness within the location area.

Literature review The literature review focuses on exploring the potential of benchmarking to facilitate learning. It signifies the critical performance areas in classification and grading schemes in small to medium hotels. In the following part it specifies how people benefit from the stated grading schemes and how benchmarking is a useful grading scheme for hotel managers. Tourist destinations: components of attractiveness Mill and Morrison (1992) make a note that tourist destinations are made of attractions, facilities, infrastructure, transportation and hospitality.

Laws (1995) spots chief essentials contributing to the attractiveness of a tourist destination as being climate, ecology, culture and traditional architecture and less important rudiments specifically for tourist groups, e. g. hotels, catering, transport and entertainment. Goodall and Bergsma (1990) consider total cost a fifth constituent, in addition to attractions, facilities/services, accessibility and image. Destination choice, image and pleasure have all been the center of extensive tourism research(McLellan and Fousher, 1983; Pyo et al. , 1989;Selby and Morgan, 1996; Sirakaya et al. , 1996).

The subsequent inventory demonstrates components of tourist destination attractiveness, amassed from these sources, which were literature reviews concerning tourist destination choice, image and tourist satisfaction. Attractions • Scenery/natural resources; • Climate; • Culture; • Food; • History; • Ethnicity; and • Accessibility. Facilities and services • Accommodation; • Airports; • bus/train stations; • Sport facilities; • Entertainment; • Shopping centers; and • Food and beverage facilities. Infrastructure • Water systems; • Communication networks; • Health care; • Power sources; • Sewage/drainage areas;

• Streets/highways; and • Security systems. Hospitality • Friendliness; • Helpfulness; and • Responsiveness to complaints. Cost • Value for money; • Accommodation prices; • Food and beverage prices; • Transportation prices; and • Shopping prices Directly or indirectly, small businesses participate in an dynamic role in granting roughly all the physical and intangible components of attractiveness acknowledged in the lists shown above. Thus, they contribute significantly to visitor satisfaction/dissatisfaction and to tourist opinion and images of destinations. Small hospitality businesses

Hotel firms provide products which include tangible and intangible elements that combine into an exclusive combination of production and service. While room provision is a pure service activity, food and beverage functions involve processing and retailing processes. This might signify that the actual delivery of hospitality services may diverge widely and that the benefits derived are associated with feelings or emotions. The repercussions are that consumers use biased and contradictory frames of reference to judge the quality of services, presenting difficulties for the hotel operative in satisfying the customer.

Customer prejudice is emphasized in Day and Peters comments that “Quality is rather like pornography in this respect. We may not be able to describe it easily, but we know it when we see it”. Its ambiguity is amplified because high quality service is often delivered by impulsive and since reacts by hotel staff which cannot simply be practiced or scripted, but are even so an important means of client satisfaction. In order to endure and be successful, a business has to make sure that it is producing the goods or services that the customer wants, that it gets its quality right, and that it brings on time.

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that are straight links with the satisfaction of the server and customer, repeat sales and profits. Heskettet al. implies that quality, repeat usage, profits and investment form a self-reinforcing rotation. As a result, despite the apparently indefinable nature of the hotel product, service improvement can represent an important source of competitive advantage because quality in service delivery can lead to more repeat custom and greater sales revenue.

Augmented presentation may also benefit managers and staff whose tangible and intangible benefits include job satisfaction, profit sharing and esteem. Small businesses are imperative to the financial health of both developed and developing countries. Gavron et al. (1998) makes a note of the vitality of the hospitality and tourism sector in this regard, in which low barrier to access generally ensure a steady supply of new businesses; at the same time as unproductive or inefficient ones are going through difficulty. Quinn et al. (1992) remarks on the somewhat low capital investment required to start new small tourist businesses.

Entry costs can be abridged even for relatively asset-intensive businesses such as hotels, through leasing or through mortgage/loan agreements. Welshand White (1981) describe as resource poverty the inclination of small hospitality businesses to be short of financial backing and management skill and Gavron et al. (1998) refer to this as the reason why 64 per cent of UK small businesses fall short within four years. In Germany, where an inspection is required before an industrialist can start up in business, the rate is 32 per cent.

Specific tourism-related statistics are limited, but, for example, Chelland Pittaway (1997) report that almost 50 percent of restaurants did not endure the first two years in their study. The British Venture Capital Association (1996) makes a note that many small business managers are provoked by life style rather than economic and success issues. While this does not automatically mean that they function to insufficient professional standards, it does simply that they may not be motivated to endeavor further improvement in a business which already produces adequate profits.

Eggers et al. (1994) note that businesses either look for stabilization or have an expansion orientation. They categorize a series of central business stages and comment that a business which is thriving at one stage may not have the knowledge crucial to uphold success in others. Thus, although small businesses have a vital part in creating tourist satisfaction, they are neither a homogeneous group, nor able to give constantly high service delivery.

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