Tourism and hotel industry is growing among other world industries due to its significant impacts on the social and economic development of a region or country (Avelini, 2003, p. 130). The tourism industry worldwide generated US $ 944 billion sales in 2008. In year 2008, international tourists’ arrivals reached 922 million and World Tourism Organization (WTO) forecasts that approximately 1.6 billion new arrivals of international tourists are expected worldwide in 2020. The tourism industry has fourth rank after fuels, chemicals and automotive products among other categories. These facts and figures shows that tourism industry is key industry in world’s economy because it gives employment both directly and indirectly and thousands of families are relying on the income of tourism industry (WTO 2009 Publications).
Clearly in the hotel industry, customer service is the backbone to customer satisfaction which is depends on the employees. In other words, in the tourism industry, hotels and other accommodation are one of the most important organizations for providing services. That is why Chebat and Kollias, (2000, p. 67) argued that, customer service employees are the key players in molding customer experiences as they finally manage the manners in which the service transaction delivered and employees provide tangible services in the form of delivering food, helping customer into their particular rooms and also give intangible services in the form of making visit again to the hotel.
Others also argued that Sperdin and Peters (2009, p. 171), customers want professional services and satisfying experiences with full of good performance. Because hotel industry shows that there is higher frequency of interaction with customers if we comparewith other service industries (Hoffman & Chung, 1999, p. 73).
More over according to Chen and Yu (2009, p. 8), service employees with knowledgeable and caring characteristics are able to influence the perceptions and thinking of the customers. Customer service has verbal and non-verbal behaviors between service provider and the customers (Clive Muir, 2008, p. 241).Effective customer service is attained through using these four areas: the services provided by service sector, the customer service employees hired by service companies, the customers served by service companies and the service managers hired by service companies; customer service could fail if there is any lack in one of these four areas (Layman, 2001, p. 80).
However, a unique but distressing feature during the service role is that service companies are expected to face aggressive behavior from customers. For this reason Baron,(1993, p. 142) identified three levels of aggression linked to service employees. In first level, withholding cooperation, spreading rumors and using offensive language behaviors are shown from customer side, in second level, intense arguments and verbal threats are shown. Lastly in third level, frequent displays of intense anger, physical fights and the use of weapons kinds of behaviors are shown from customers’ side. In this paper, we pay attention to the first and the second levels of aggression as they are very common in the service arena of the hospitality industry.
In addition, aggressive behavior could arise during service encounters especially when things are going wrong (Smith & Bolton, 2002, p. 5). When customers got angry, most of them behave aggressively, say something bad and try to hurt an individual (Bougie et al., 2003, p. 379). The study of organizational behavior and psychology give remarkable attention to the study of anger and it is also important for managers to know under what circumstances, customer got aggressive and is important for optimum resource allocation, staff development and training (Kennedy et al., 2010, p. 2). Several service companies realize that they always face the high level of stress due to customer aggression.
In explaining what the service employees can do towards aggression, Lemmink and Mattson, (1998, p. 506) developed research about friendly employee’s behavior with customer satisfaction. Their study showed that personal warmth by customer service employees leave positive impacts on aggressive customers. So it is argued that, service employees have significant impacts on aggressive customers to mold their aggressive, anger, noisy behavior into normal behavior and make loyal with the particular service company.
Then again, all the reviewed articles clearly show that the most important part of delivering superior services includes: how to deal with customers who are frustrated or angry and must know how to turn the situation. In spite of the growing trend of handling aggression, several tools can be used to resolve the situation in a way that will leave the customer satisfied: 1. Keep a positive attitude. 2. Encourage customers to vent their emotions. 3. Find out the facts. 4. Understand the customer’s feelings. 5. Suggest a way to solve the problem. 6. End on a positive note. Of course taking these proper steps, give motivation to managers and their employees to calm angry customers and turned their behavior into satisfied customers which encourage customers to continue doing business with the department and company (Levine & Debra, 1992, p.27).
In this regard, specific term emotional labor is used in service marketing and management literature, which is the interaction of employees and customers, it focuses on front line employee when they interact with public and it requires to produce an emotional state for another person (Pugliesi, 1999, p. 128,131).Hochschild, (1983, p. 7) defined emotional labor in her book The Managed Heart that “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display, emotional labor is sold for a wage and therefore has exchange value” (p. 7). This definition illustrates that emotional labor is the act of showing emotions in front of customers as a part of job.
According to Karatepe,(2011, p. 280)research regarding customer aggression and its detrimental impacts on employee outcomes in front line service jobs is sparse. For this reason Chu and Murrmann, (2006, p. 1181-82) argued, it has been seen that there is little empirical research concerning emotional labor in service marketing and management literatures.
In summary in consumer behavior dealing with aggressive customers is important to effectively manage aggression but this is not an easy task which means that customer while behaving aggressively; customer service employees need to mold the behavior of such customers through using emotional labor. In this regards, critical identification of aggressive customers and in response appropriate mechanism to mold their behavior should be put in place .This study will fill the gap by making some contribution on the existing literature through empirical and theoretical examinations.
1.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
After formulation the research problem, following research questions have been found:
* What are drivers of aggressive behavior?
* How to handle aggressive customers and how to mold their aggressive behavior from the side of customer service employees?
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the behavior and pattern of aggressive customer’s reaction in the Hotel industry in Sweden. To accomplish our purpose, we are going to study different features of consumer behavior and customer voice for the success of the industry. Detail analyses of the approaches and reactions taken by customer employees at the hotel industry will be explored.In this paper we want to make contribution on the existing service marketing management specifically emotional labor literature. Finally, the outcome of our research may bring important implications for business practices in the hospitality industry.
2. Theoretical Frame work
2.1 Understanding the Customer wants
The key to customer service is doing the right thing at the right time. According to Barcal, (2004, p. 10) here are the most important customer wants and needs which create positive customer perceptions about the customer service employees and the company that leads to better customer relationships. These customer wants are described below which customers expect to be done according to their wants.
Customers always want their problems to be solved. But sometimes, if service employees cannot solve the customer problems, they can create positive perceptions through addressing the other less customer wants. Customer expects that their wants, needs, expectations, feeling, and words should be acknowledged and understood. It means service employees should listen to the
customer. When customers feel understood and acknowledged it gives good impression to customers which lead to good customer relationships. Customers also want availability of possible choices and options that helps the customers to make the decisions. But when they feel helpless or powerless, they could exhibited frustrated, angry, and aggressive (Barcal, 2004, p. 10-11).
Customers also want “positive surprise”. It means that service employees must go beyond customer’s hopes and expectations, like offering discount or providing some extra benefits which are not available to them before. Positive surprises are most useful when dealing with angry or aggressive customers. Consistency, reliability, and predictability are also important customer wants. This explains that customers are expecting to be treated in a consistent way. After acting accordance to these wants, customers feel sense of security and confidence with service employees and with company as well. This kind of behavior leads to loyalty. Beside customer wants value against their time and money investment. When customers consider value, they also consider how they are treated by customer service employees. It is very hard for service employees to affect the value of prices of services or products but they can add value through helping the customer in other ways (Barcal, 2004, p. 11).
Reasonable simplicity is also an important customer want. It implies that service employees should make things easier instead of provision of complicatedservices; otherwise customers will be frustrated and aggressive. Speed and prompt service is the important want of customers which are expected from service employees. Customers want their problems be solved quickly and efficiently, as well as how fast they are being served. Confidentiality is an important aspect of customer service. Customers want some degree of privacy when talking with service employees and they feel uncomfortable if there is other staff or other customers around them. At the end, customers want the sense that they are important. Listening to and acknowledging customers demonstrate that they are important. The importance can be given through specific phrases and techniques through which they feel important. (Barcal, 2004, p. 11-12).
Based on the arguments present above, all these customer wants need to be acknowledged by service employees, fulfilling customer wants make organizations attractive, otherwise leads to frustration/dissatisfaction which in some cases leads to aggressive behavior of customers.
2.2 Concept of aggressive behavior
Customer aggressive behavior is relatively new area due to which its attraction is increasing from last decades areas, including social sociology (unethical behavior, lying and unethical decision making), organization behavior (e.g: dysfunctional employees behavior, fraud) and literature on criminology, taxation and insurance fraud have already been researching on aggressive behaviors for last many decades Fisk et al., (2010, p. 5) but research on customer aggressive behavior is mostly inspired by Lovelock’s (1994) research work. As a result, it has been generally observed that aggression is common in businesses (fitness, 2000, p. 148). For this reason it is important to look at neighboring concepts linked to aggression that are developed and used by different scholars.
Regarding aggressive customers, popular terms include “Jay customers” (Lovelock, 2001, p. 73), “deviant consumer behavior” (Moschis& Cox, 1989, p. 732), “Aberrant consumer behavior” (Fullerton &Punj, 1993, p. 570), “consumer misbehavior” (Fullerton &Punj 1997a, p. 340), there are also less common terms including “problem customers” (Bitner el al., 1994, p.101), “dysfunctional customer behavior” (Harris &Reynelds, 2003, p. 145) and “inappropriate behavior” (Strutton et al., 1994, p. 253).
Of the popular terms, Christopher (1994), originated the term “Jay customers “and provided broad definition of the concept , Jay customers are defined as “ones who act in a thoughtless or abusive way, causing problems for the firm, its employees and other customers” (Lovelock, 2001, p. 73).These kind of customers ´misbehave´ bases for some kind of benefit and he also stated that these customers have following characteristics including labels thieves, breaking rules, the aggressive, criminals and dead beats (Lovelock, 1994, p.47).
In viewing other important less common terms connected to aggression behavior of customers Harris &Reynalds, (2003, p.145) defined dysfunctional customer behavior “Actions by customers who intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or conversely, act in a manner that, in some way, disrupts otherwise functional service encounters”. These norms are formed through customs, manners, rules and regulations, laws, and mores´ (Moschis& Cox, 1989, p. 732). In the service encounter context, norms are based on lodgers of role theory which states that humans behave dynamically but surely depending on their social identities and situations (Biddle, 1986, p. 68). In this context, customer behavior is considered to be deviant when it violates the accepted standards of exchange behavior (Fisk et al., 2009, p. 8).
In addition , “Aberrant” also describing the customer behavior” behavior in the exchange setting which violates the generally accepted norms of conduct in such situations and which is therefore held in disrepute by marketers and most customers” Fullerton and Punj (1993, p. 570). Moreover they also stress that deviant behavior by consumers is the representation of overall customer behavior rather than signifying psychologically or physiologically type of behavior. But in later studies, Fullerton and Punj (1997a; 1997b; 1997c; 2004a) exchange the term ‘aberrant’ with ‘customer misbehavior’. This term has been used widely within the customer misbehavior literature and various authors like Albers-Miller, 1999; Tonglet, 2002; and Freestone and Mitchell, 2004) have applied this term in their research works.
One can easily understand that it is hard to provide a single comprehensive definition of the concept aggressive customers. However aggression can be looked as a situation in which customer behave out of rules and regulations, norms and customs of the company.Beside their action goes to the extent disturbing the routine day to day activity of the customer service employee at those particular moments. This could be because customers have been treated unfairly and unhappy with overall service of the company or unpleasant environment.
2.3 Causes of Aggressive Behavior
Customers are playing significant role in organization. Due to the importance of customer, marketing and management researchers have keen to know the better understanding of the customer emotions especially the negative emotions which leads to customer aggression and created in customer – employee interactions (Smith & Bolton 2002, p.5). Furthermore, the interaction between employee and customer is routine work but when things go wrong with customer it shows negative emotions which normally leads to aggressive behavior. (Kennedy et al., 2010, p. 2).
Several researchers have investigated the causes of aggressive customer behavior. There are various causes due to which aggressive behavior among customers is created.
The traditional way of looking at aggression in service arena shows that customers misbehave up on service for example Deffenbacked et al.,(2001 p.718) described in such a way that aggressive behavior created due to the poor service provision from service employees and customers consider that they have been treated unfairly.
At the general level, some other also looked at aggression from social psychology point of view, across service settings, customers experience fair or unfair situation of services for this reason experiences could be classified in to different categories of justices (i.e distributive, procedural and interactional justice)(Clemmer, E. C. 1993, p. 197). As a result Kennedy et al., (2010, p. 1) highlighted that customer is directly related to the perceived source of violation which includes (distributive, procedural and interactions justice). It means that anger on a company or organization is related to the violations of distributive justice but anger on an employee is related to the violations of both procedural (response time) and interactional justice. Secondly, they pinpointed that attributes of sins of omission (things could and should have been done by the employee) and low levels of interactional justice (treatment received) fully mediate anger that targets the employee.
From another point of view Kennedy et al., (2010, p. 2) stated that , aggression also occur when required behavior violates an acceptable standard of behavior in the particular manner where the customer does not feel valued, respected or not treated with dignity during interaction with employees. In support of this idea,Mc Call-Kennedy and Spark (2003, p. 255) exploratory work showed that customer compare how they have been treated and how they should be treated during service failure and recovery attempts. Moreover when customer believe that they should be treated in acceptable standard but the service provide could not manage to do it , then at the end customers show negative emotions in term of aggressive behavior.
Fullerton &Punj (1993, p. 571) model suggests that there are two main important factors on which aggressive behavior is based on and can be seen in line with cause of aggression
* Customer traits
* Customer disposition
Both of these characteristics include psychological, demographic and social/group influences due to which aggressive behavior occurs where psychological characteristics represent traits of personality, attitudes and moral development traits (Katz, 1988, p. 177).
Fullerton &Punj(1993, p. 571), also identifies wide range of demographic factors that affect aggressive behavior; these factors include age, sex, education and economic status.
In contrast, a social influence contains a variety of group-level issues such as socialization, norm formation, and peer pressure (Moshcis& Cox 1989, p. 732). However, this model also describes that there are also contextual factors due to which aggressive behavior occurs, these factors include the physical environment, the types of products/services offered and as well as the public image of the firm and most importantly, Fullerton and Punj (1993) said that aggressive behavior is more dependent on the interaction characteristics between customer service employees and customers.
Therefore, at this stage it can be conclude that customer aggression emanates from provision of poor services; customer experiences of unfair situation in service setups and at the time the customer feel not valued, respected or treated properly. Customers would express their aggression in different ways. However, the most common type of aggression in service arena is supposed to be through verbal.
2.4 Verbal aggression
As argued by Hutton R (2003, p. 2), verbal aggression is anger expressed vocally. It is a common behavior as it is rather easy expression of anger only words and sounds are involved. By looking at how problematic verbal aggression is, one should make a distinction between verbal aggression to oneself and to others. “Cursing at oneself, for example, is a possible reaction to one’s own behavior when this behavior is considered negative and attributed to oneself”. While for an outsider this verbal aggression may still be interpreted as unfriendly and as an indication that the verbally aggressive person is easily irritated or bad tempered. (Smith, D et al 2004, p. 537).
Customer verbal aggression, which refers to customers’ verbal communications of anger that violate employees’ social norms (Grandey et al., 2004 and Boyd, 2002; Grandey et al., 2007; Harris and Reynolds, 2003 cited in Karatape et al 2008 pp 713-714 ) such as swearing, yelling, threats, condescending remarks, and sarcasm.
Hence, it would be reasonable to think that these types of aggression are followed by possible consequences which affect the employees and the organization as well as the customer. In this paper, we sought to emphasis on behaviors this type of aggressive behavior thatoccurs frequently, instead of extreme or rare situations.
2.5 Consequences of Aggression
Customer dissatisfaction response following a service failure accompanied by s specific emotion like anger , disappointment, regret and worry influences consumer behavioral intension such as complaining, switching, spreading negative word of mouth and doing nothing (Mattila ,S and Ro ,H 2007 p. 90). Earlier research done focusing on the aggressive component of the relationship between customer and service employees have also identified that the extreme stress of aggression by customers results in service worker burnout from the side of service employees (Zure&Yagil, 2005, p. 83).This frequent hostility from customers creates non conducive working environment that customer service employees may want to avoid whenever possible (Grandey et al., 2004, p. 6).
Moreover Yagil (2008, p. 146-147) supported this view by stating that regular contact to negative behavior customers results can be viewed from three different points i.e: negative emotional reaction, negative attitude towards work and physical harm on the employees. In explaining the consequences of aggressive customers up on the service setting understanding conceptual distinctions that has been provided by this scholar are very important: These concepts are also described below
Emotional reaction customers having threatening and rude behavior affect mood of the employees and reaction of intimidation, feeling of anger and depression. Beside some others also feel high degree of stress due to customer aggression on the service providers.
Work related attitudes and behaviors: employees’ lower job satisfaction accompanied by decreased organization commitment is potential consequence of customer aggression
Physical harm: aggressive customer in some situation may goes to the extent of causing physical harm to employees. This happens to be the less frequent consequence of aggression in the in most service rendering organization.
In general.by the same token customers aggression affects the organization due to the prevailing customer misbehavior in effect such behavior decreases employees commitment, loyalty and performance level towards their work.
2.6 Customer Service Employees
2.6.1 Myth of Good Customer Service for Customer Service Employees
“The Customer is always right” It’s a great slogan provided by H. Gordon Selfridge. But according to Barcal), 2004, p. 8), it is wrong and misleading. He said that customer is not always right because customers always demands unreasonable requests and expectations. It is very important for the customer service employees that they do not perform their day today activities under this assumption. Instead customer service employees should consider following two phrases.
The customer always deserves to be treated as if he or she is important and his or her opinions need, and wants are important to listen.
Of course, customer deserves to receive maximum effort from customer service employees who are serving him or her.
Service companies not only need to focus on what they are providing to the customers but also how to provide products or services effectively which is the realistic excellent customer service (Barcal, 2004, p. 9).
2.6.2 Importance of Customer Service employees
“People are your most important asset,” is wrong. The right people are your most important asset. (Jim Collins, 2001, p. 171).This is to show the importance of having diligent, motivated and service oriented employees in organization.
According to Liverlock&Wirtz (2007, p.311), the most important demanding jobs are the front line positions in service firms. Employees are expected to be fast and efficient to do operational tasks, as well as become courteous and helpful in dealing with customers. In this context, the front line employees are the key input to deliver service excellence and become source competitive advantage especially in the hotel industry.
2.6.3 Relationship between Service Employees Behavior and Customer Satisfaction
Many studies have tried to examine the relationship of service attitudes of employees with customer satisfaction in hotel industry. Trumble (2004, p.1) argued that according to norms of culture, smiling is a “mask exchanged out of politeness”. Researchers found different effects of smiles in business studies.
According to Kattara et al., (1999, p. 321) human interaction is salient factor for determining customer satisfaction. When the customers are satisfied, they may be forgiving other problems. Hospitality industry majorly depends on the customers’ responses and the positive customer experiences. In hotel sector, superior services are dependent on employees and employees are the foundation of competitive advantage. They stated that actions of customer service employees are the foundation of service quality and customer satisfaction in hotel sector. Because customer service employees increase hotel image, actual and perceived service quality. They also found that hotel managers should focus on employee development through allocating resources.
Chun Min Chu (2007, p. 1083) determined four factors of customer service employee’s behavior in his study with perspective to customer service employees’ behavior and customer satisfaction in hospitality industry:
He concluded that service companies must give more attention to front line employees with proper training and emotional support which is necessary for them to cope with the increasing demands of customer service
2.6.4 Service personnel; source of competitive advantage
According to Liverlock&Wirtz (2007, p.311) from a customer´s perspective, the encounter with service staff is the most important aspect of the service industry. From a firm´s perspective, the service levels and how the service delivered is important source for creating competitive advantage through front line service personnel. Service employees are important with respect to customer and firm perspective because front line staff is:
Is a core part of the product:Service employees are the most visible element of the service during delivering service and significantly responsible for quality of service.
Is the service firm: From the customer’s perspective, a front line employee is the service firm.
Is the brand:The service which provided by front line employees are the core part of the brand.
2.6.5 Characteristics of customer service employees
According to Liverlock&Wirtz (2007, p.313) following are the important characteristics of customer service employees;
22.214.171.124 Boundary Spanning
In every service company, customer service employees are boundary spanning. It means that they link the inside of the service organization to the outside world. In boundary spanning, customer contact employees focus on operational and marketing goals. Service employees perform triple roles, creating service quality, improving productivity, and making sales. This multiplicity of roles in service jobs creates role conflicts among service employees which must be identified by management of the organization to improve their performance.
Sources of Conflict
Service employees have three main causes in role stress: person/role, organization/client, and inter-client conflicts which can affect their performance towards customer satisfaction.
Service employees have conflicts between their job requirements and their own personality, self-perception, and beliefs. For example, service job require smiling with customers even with rude customers and they must show friendly behavior with rude customers. These factors create personal conflicts between service employees and management.
Service employees face the dilemma in many cases when they should follow the company´s rules or follow to satisfy the customer demands. This conflict is called two bosses dilemma. This dilemma arises due to exceptions in customer demands a sit violates the organizational rules. So in this case customer service employee’s faces conflicting customer needs and requests, as well as organizational rules, procedures and requirements.
Inter client conflict
This conflict is stressful and unpleasant because it is difficult to satisfy both sides; customer and organization. When service employees trying to satisfy the both sides during service delivery process, inter client conflict creates.
2.8 Emotional labor
Emotional labor means that service organization are expecting to show emotions in front of customers. Customer service employees are expected to be cheerful and sincere with customers. Emotional labor occurs when there is a discrepancy between front line staff, way of behavior and the emotions that management requires them to show in front of customers. The main aspect in emotional labor is that services firms must know about the ongoing emotional stress among their employees and train employees how to deal with such stress and to cope with pressure arise from customers(Pugliesi, 1999, p. 126).
More overemotional labor is the controlling of service employees behavior to show the suitable emotions (Chu, 2002. p. 1). Emotional labor is only used for workplaces but also uses every aspect of person’s life. But we will discuss emotional labor according to service industry context. Emotional labor is relatively new term described byGuy, M. E. and Newman, (2004, p.289) that, “Emotional labor applies to both men’s and women’s work, but is the ‘softer’ emotions, those required in relational tasks, such as caring and nurturing, that disappear most often from job description, performance evaluations, and salary calculations”. It means that a person changes behaviors (emotions, verbal cues, body language) according to the suitable situation.
According to Hochschild 1983, there are two types of emotional acting:
* Surface acting
* Deep acting
* Surface Acting
In surface acting people do acting and show emotions without feeling and realizing that emotion. This type of emotional labor is mostly used in workplace. Surface emotional labor involves changing the negative emotions such as anger, sadness, aggression into happier emotions such as happiness, care, excitement etc.
* Deep acting
While in deep acting, there are two different emotional actions are involved. In first emotional action, person show actual emotions what they feel. The second emotional action is true method acting, in which person use past emotional experiences to encourage real emotion which is not felt before (Hochschild 1983, p. 38-42).
2.8.1 Feeling Rules
The most important thing in emotional labor is to identify the correct emotional response for a situation. Hochschild (1983, p. 42) described a set of “feeling rules”, which are also called “display rules” and on the basis of these display rules, people identify what appropriate behavior is. These display rubles can be in form of script, describing the ´correct´ response for work situations. It could be training regarding the particular occupation or ´manners´. For example, most of the large organizations have several policies for their customers and it is a form of written feeling rules which are used to judge the correct response. (Hoschchod, 1983, p. 85-90). In MacDonald’s, they use display rules like who encourage sincerity, enthusiasm, confidence and a sense of humor in their service personnel (Mann, 2004, p 201.).
The above facts shows that emotional labor is more beneficial when service transaction is going wrong,and customers are aggressive with the company. So in this situation, service employees use different tools and techniques under emotional labor to calm down and make customers happy according to the situation.
In this part of the study, we have utilized important concepts that are directly linked with providing answers to our research questions. The first part of the theoretical background gives understanding of customer wants and needsin service arena. As described, fulfilling customer wants are keys in creating good perceptions about the customer service employees in the company that leads to excellent customer relationships.
The relationship between customer and employees is not always smooth; customers in some situations misbehave in front of the customer service employeesfor various reasons. As a result, it is important to identify the causes of aggression in services. Mostly poor services, unfair treatment, lack of treatment and respect to customers are causes of aggression argued by different scholars in this part of literature.
Many argued that in services, verbal aggression is the most common types of aggression. Aggression also results in different outcomes for both employees and company. As indicated in the theoretical background, employees moral and job satisfaction are seen affected by the aggressive behavior of customers in services.
In this chapter we will present the approach of this thesis, give explanation and inspire our choice of strategy for this particular research, in line with the object of the research and the data collection mechanisms for of empirical evidences
3.1 Scientific approach
In research there are two known views to explain the relationship between theory and research: deductive and inductive theory (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 11).These research approaches are further explained as follows:
Deduction works from a very general to more specific issues. That means the conclusion drawn emanates from the facts available.
Deductive: theory → observations/findings
In other words it is a linear approach in which steps in the process follow a logical order (Ibid).It is basically using different techniques and theories in the real world so as to test and assesses the validity of these theories (Lancaster, 2005, p. 22-24).
Inductive: observations/findings → theory
Unlike deduction, induction approach explains the relationship between theory and researchas a method moving from the very specific situation to a general theoretical statement (Bryman& Bell,2011, p.11).In other words, as argued in Lancaster (2005, p. 22-24) basically in the process of inductive research the results found in deductive research get a reverse approach.
In this research deductive approach is deemed important. This is because as argued in Bryman& Bell, (2011, p. 12) theoretical ideas and findings might have been published by others before the researcher has generated his/ her own findings.All the behavioral questions, all the concepts linked with finding out drivers of customer aggression in the questionnaire and the interview guide developed to analyze how to handle and mold the behavior of aggressive customers are expected to bring outcomes on the bases of utilized concepts in the theoretical framework of the research. At final stage of the paper confirmation or difference from the theories are expected in the outcome of the study.
3.2 Case study
In our study, the case study considered entails the study of a single organization, single location, or a single event. The study approach is popular and well known approach in the field of business research (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 59). This method helps to implement questioner and structured interview.To fully examine the overall picture of aim of the research (on identifying drivers of aggression and how to mold aggressive customers).we will apply case study research design. The survey will be followed by interviews with front line customers.
The aim of a case study is not primary to make a conclusion on the findings of other case studies instead to give specific context (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 62).In this regard the case study approach chosen (One hotel) will help the authors of this research intensively examine this single case for discussion of the issue. Beside the chosen design, our research will try to capture survey questioner of 96 customers (gusts) in Bjorken hotel in Umeå followed by interviews with employees. In this regard, it is worth mentioning advantages and disadvantages of single case study.
Helps to develop solutions and then tests them in similar study
Hard to make generalization from the result of the study
Helps to confirm and extract a theory
It is difficult to infer from the result of the study in a longer context
Helps to conduct the study and a context of environment in which it occurs
Helps to get into greater depth
Table 3.1: Advantages and Disadvantages of single case study
Source: W. Naumes& M. Naumes, 2006. p. 64-65
3.2.1 Selection Criteria
In the beginning, the authors of this research have tried to make multiple case studies of different hotels in Umeå. A total of four different hotels were contacted for the purpose of study. However, due to lack of interest from three hotels, the authors approached the concerned manager of Björken hotel and got permission to undertake the research. As we said above the questionnaire distributed among the customers was on the basis of non-probability sampling and convenience. While the selection criteria for our interview study was customer service employees who have been working in the hotel as front line officers. It is also important to be reminding that front line officers are primary source of continuous interaction with customers especially in hotels. As a result, we found necessary to select the CSEs as a good source of information through the interviews conducted.Due to language barrier we managed to conduct two deep interviews with CSEs.
3.3 Data collection
In research, there are two types of data,Bryman& Bell (2011, p. 312) states on by saying primary data is information gathered by researcher own that could be through using interview, questionnaire and test. On the other hand secondary data collection basically based on documents and articles that are collected by other researcher and institutions (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 315).
The primary data includes the data that is quite important to the existing study and research problem. It is collected by a researcher so as to answer the research questions, using different techniques, which are based on a structured questionnaire and interview. The primary data will be collected in two ways by quantitative survey for sample of 96 customers and follow up interview with customer service employees (CSEs) in the hotel industry. The survey questioner and the interview will be administered in person by the authors.
3.4 Sampling population
Researchers, whether they are planning to collect data through the help of interviews, questionnaires, observations, or other ways of data collection mechanism, it would be impractical to collect data from the whole population, instead they need to make sampling (Sauders et al., 2009, p. 212). At this point it is also important to define population of the study. We noticed that Björken hotel is one of the high traffic customer hotels with 140 to 200 guests per day. We define our population of study on the basis of the total number of customers served in the hotel in the period of data collection from 13th May, 2011 to 19th May, 2011.
Population sampling in this research takes place in a non-probability sampling based on convenience, it refers to sampling is done on the basis of convince to the researcher and some units of the population could be sampled than the others.In such sampling, one can easily see limited representation of the whole population (Bryman& Bell, 2011,p.190) in other words we contacted the Björken hotel guests total of one hundred twenty respondents merely by their accessibility. However, the hotel is one of the busiest hotels in Västerbottenmunicipal with 248 rooms including 185 rooms with the possibility of double accommodation. This might help the researcher to improve the probability of getting representation of the whole population.
In addition attempt will be made to include respondents from diverse socio economic and demographic groups and effort will be put to maintain that there is no big gap between male and female composition in the sample.
3.5 Structure of the questioner and interview manual
The questions are structured on the ground of the existing literature on the issue of causes and consequences of aggression, and emotional labor concepts. The questioner is designed into three different stages. The first part of the questioner aims at capturing customer experience of the hotel under study. The second part of the questioner is designed to get feed backs on the overall hotel experience of the guests. The socio economic and demographic information of the guest are asked in the last part of the questioner. The interview manual was designed on the bases of the concepts identified in emotional labor literature (see Appendix II),to explore the second research question (how to handle and mold the behavior of aggressive customers while delivering services). The interview questions are starts with asking overall experience of CSEs followed by other specific questions linked to the study.
Data both from the questioner and interview is analyzed accordingly to answer the research questions. Predominately driver of the abusive behavior/anger will be fully answered through the questionnaire that is distributed among the hotel guests while how and what coping mechanisms used by the service employees is analyzed through service employees. Beside, in our research analyses of the data is done by the aid of SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) computer system. While using descriptive statistics, the data from the questioner will be analyzed using different statistical indexes such as percentage, frequency, average and standard deviation through diagrams, graphs and tables. Descriptive statistics utilized from the questionnaire helps to show summary of the results from the sample survey considered.
Questions related to behavioral part of the questionnaire are analyzed against the reliability of the data gathered for that Cronbakh Alpha is used, which is supposed to have a value of more than or equal to 0.70 that shows how close related a set of behavioral questions are as a group. In addition in this part of the questionnaire, a scale of 1 – 5 has been used to ask respondents to putjudge rates for behavioral questions.
3.7 Reliability, replication and validity
These are important concepts that researcher should pay attentions as they present criteria assessing quality of business and management research (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 40).Reliability refers to whether the outcomes of the research are repeatable or not.This concept is particularly associated with quantitative research. Nevertheless, sometimes researchers can choose to replicate findings done by others.Consequently in our research appropriate description of the research procedures, types and methods of data collections are clarified which might help others to replicate this study. Beside, to increase reliability of the study in this research after the interview we will send manuscript to the employees to get approval it in order to minimize possible misunderstandings.
Reliability is also another important aspect in research that is associated with integrity of the research that is generated from a piece of research (Bryman& Bell, 2011, p. 42). To increase validity of the data interview results will be recorded and data collected through questioner will be kept in safety.
4DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
In this section, brief introduction of Björken hotel (3 start hotel located in the city of Umeå) will be provided, data from questionnaires and interviews will be analyzed at two stages. In addition, results from the statistical analysis of the data are presented, described and discussed thoroughly in this section of the paper. Moreover, results from questionnaires and interviews will be compared at further stage of the study.
4.1 Björken Hotel
Björken hotel is a patient hotel located near to the Norrland university hospital and the Umeå University. Björken hotel is three star hotels with 248 rooms of which 185 rooms with a possibility of double accommodation. The rooms are well equipped with all facilities of hair dryer, refrigerator, direct dial telephone, security alarm and safety. Björken hotel offers special accommodations likeit has 36 rooms for disable guests and 49 rooms convenient for allergic people.
* Restaurant service
* Meeting rooms
* Conference rooms
* Wireless internet
* Business launches
* Groups study rooms
Table 4.1: Major services offered by Björken hotel
4.2 Data Collection
For collecting data through questionnaire, plan was made to collect from 120 hotel customers, however 96 responded. Pertaining to the interviews, plan was made to conduct 3 to 4 interviews with customer service employees, but two interviews were conducted. In addition to the real incident questions, demographic information like gender, age, frequency of visits, purpose of visit and social status were considered in the questionnaire.
4.3 Data Analysis
Before considering statistical tests, descriptive analysis are made. The results from the analysis are presented in graphs and tables below.
4.3.1 Demographic characteristics of respondents
As described by Fullteron&Punj,(1983, p. 571) that customer aggression is also affected by demographic characteristics including age, sex and social status of customers.
As presented in chart 4.1, most of the respondents (36.5%) are between 51 – 60 years old customers. In addition, 21.9 % of the customers have ages above 60 who visited the hotel.
Different researchers argued that age has an impact on the level of dissatisfaction/frustration which could ultimately leads to aggression. Research by Moyer (1985, p. 69 -70), showed that consumers in the middle age have the tendency to feel more aggression. While other researchers like Bearden, 1983, p. 325) indicated differently, i.e: more aggression seen mostly in younger customers. Unlike to these findings scholars like Solnick&Hemenway, (1992, p. 96) explained that there is no link between age as demographic factors and customer frustration or aggression.
Below shown in graph 4.2, the gender composition of the respondents clearly shows that 65.6 % are males, while female constitutes 34.4 % of the surveyin hotel.
C) Frequency of Customer visits
Below graph indicates for how long customers have been using Björken hotel services. It seems that most of the customers responded (42.7 %) have been using this hotel for less than one year. This is because most of the customers are patients from the Norrland hospital. As a result customers come to the hotel for the first time and come back home after getting treatment from the hospital. On the other hand, 20.8 % of the respondents have been visiting the hotel more than 2 years but less than 3 years. This is because some customers come just for regular checkup and treatments with their doctors.
D) Purpose of visit
Lastly, in consideration of the percentage of customers purpose of stay in Björken hotel is depicted in graph3.4. It shows that considerable number of respondents (79.2 %) stay in Björken hotel for the purpose of other than business trips (7.3 %) and holiday trips (12.5 %). Moreover, we learnt that most of the respondents are staying in this hotel for the sake of getting medical treatments from Norrland university hospital.
4.4 Reliability Test
As stated in methodology of the paper, the reliability data analysis called Cronbakh alpha is used to confirm the reliability of the behavioral factors in this section.
Cronbach’s Alpha Based on Standardized Items
N of Items
Table 4.2 Reliability analysis of behavioral questions
The figure shows that the alpha value for general behavioral questions is equal to 0.873 which means that satisfactory figures which is more than 0.7.
4.5 Customer general experiences towards hotel services
In this part of the questionnaire, general experiences of the customer towards hotel services have been observed. The results in table 2 shows that, behavioral factors ranges from B1 to B10 have mean value above 3 including B6 and B7 (which have mean value of more than 4), states that talks to customer politely, greet with friendly welcome and big smile from customer service employees. This an illustration of that customers want experiences good behavior from customer service employees. This has also been described by Lemmink and Mattson (1998, p. 506) that friendly
Valid N (listwise)
Table 4.3 Behavioral factors in hotel services
employees behavior and personal warmth by CSEs leave positive impacts on customers.
The below results about behavioral factors clearly shows that customer want to be treated fairly and in this regards, emotional labor has been beneficial implementation while delivering services to customers.
4.6Reasons of Dissatisfying/Frustrating experience
The following table 3 illustrates the percentage of dissatisfying or frustrating experiences of respondents while getting services in hotel, 44.8 % of the respondents had actually experienced frustrating/dissatisfying situations, while54.2 % had not experienced any dissatisfying or frustrating situations.
Have you ever had dissatisfying/frustrating experience while getting services in hotels?
Table 4.4: Respondents dissatisfaction/aggression experience
Following the previous questions, below is the table showing the reasons from respondents that lead to frustrating or dissatisfying situations. The table clearly shows that most of the reasons were lack of assistance from the service employees (11.5 %) followed by noisy customers around (9.4 %) whereas lack of punctuality and billing errors constitutes 8.3 % and 5.2 % respectively. As argued in Kennedy et al.,( 2010. P. 2) frustrating/dissatisfying and even some time aggression could occur when customer don’t feel valued, respected or treated with dignity during interaction with customer service employees. These facts and figures show that most of the respondents showed dissatisfied behavior due to the lack of assistance from the service employees (11.5 %). In addition as we understood from the open ended c part of the questioner, there are also others different reasons (12.5 %) behind the dissatisfying behaviors like cancellation of booking without informing the customers due to invalid credit card.
If “yes” what was the reason
Lack of punctuality
Noisy customer around
Lack of assistance from the service employees
Table 4.5: Respondents reasons of customer aggression
Below table shows that most of the respondents received the solutions of their problems efficiently and effectively. The figures show that (31.3 %) of the respondents get problems solved always whereas 15.6 % of the respondents get their problems solved sometimes. However, only 2.1 % of the respondents did not get their problems solved by the hotel while getting services. These facts and figures clearly show that hotel service providers give immediate solutions to the frustrated/dissatisfied customers so as to retain customer in long run. This has been confirmed by Chebat&Kollias, (2000, p. 67) that problems solved by hotel service provider motivate the customer for making visits again to the hotel.
After the frustrating or dissatisfying incident did get your problem sovledeffecietly and effieciently?
Not at all
Table4.6: Respondents problems solved efficiently and efficiently
Following the incidents what was your reaction?
Talk to the service employees
Talk to the higher authorities
Tell others about your bad experience
Switch to another hotel
Table 4.7: Respondents reactions towards hotel services
Above table shows reaction of the customers after getting frustrating or dissatisfying incidents. The figures refer to those respondents who experienced the incidents, most of them preferred to talk to service employees (29.2 %). Besides, 8.3 % of respondents preferred to talk to the higher level management of the hotel whereas 7.3 % and 5.2 % of the respondents communicated their bad experiences to other people and decided to switch to another hotel respectively. From the figures, we analyzed that most of the customers preferred to talk to the customer service employees of the hotel, this has also been acknowledged by Chen & Yu, (2009, p. 9) that service employees with appropriate knowledge and caring characteristics can influence the perception and thinking of the customers.
Moreover, as argued Solomon et al., (2006, p. 370), when customers are making purchase decisions of good or services, they are more likely to pay attention on negative information than positive information. In our survey, of the private actions by the customers, 7.3 % of the respondents preferred to tell others regarding the bad service experience they had from the hotels. As a result hotels should put efforts to handle dissatisfied/angry in some cases aggressive situations more efficiently in order to avoid negative word of mouth come out from customers.
4.7 Reasons vs Gender
In order to analyzethe reasons towards frustrating/dissatisfying situations of hotel customers against gender of the respondents.
According to Fullteron and Punj, (1993, p. 571) shows that demographic factors like age, sex, education and economic status affect the aggressive behavior. This reveals that in all stated reasons of the incidents make customers constitute higher figures than females which clearly entails male are near to experience frustrating/dissatisfying situations than females in service arena.
In this section, we have also analyzed the reasons of the incidents against the different age categories. As argued above by Fullteron and Punj, (1993, p. 571) age also affects behavior of customers in service provision. The figure in chart 6 clearly shows that customers who are above the age of 41 have different reasons towards experience in frustrating/dissatisfying situations. In addition from the open ended part of the questionnaire, we understood that most of the customers who are above 41 do have other reasons towards this situation i.e.: they faced frustrating/dissatisfying situations because of the personal reasons they brought into the hotel from their outside activities.
4.8Results from Interviews
A semi-structuredinterviewquestions assisted the authors to dig out the required information and be able to understand the situation of the selected (Björken) hotel. From this organization, a plan was made to conduct three interviews with customer service employees. However due to language barriers and high traffic of customers, we were able to conduct two interviews only.Primarily, most of our questions are about how customer service employees handling and molding the behavior of frustrated/dissatisfied customers, in some cases aggressive customers. In subsequent questions the interviewee were also asked regarding their educational, background and experiences. Detailed explanation of the issue is made in this section of data presentation and analysis part of our study.
Have you ever had any personal experiences of dissatisfied/frustrated customers during your job?
Both of the interviewees have described their personal experiences about dissatisfied/frustrated customers. Both of the interviewees emphasized that most of their customers are showing kind behavior and satisfied while getting services. However, rarely customers may come with dissatisfaction or frustrating situation. One of the interviewee expresses this situation as follows,
“Yes, it happens but most of our customers are pleasant and happy. They always show kind behaviors and willing to cooperate with us” (CSE 1).
In addition, interviewees also expressed that they have well organized hotel service provisions; they believe that mostly customers get high quality services in their hotel.
What kind of behavior you have faced from the customers side?
Both interviewees mentioned that , sometimes customers shows dissatisfaction when they are in hurry to get services, for example taxi is waiting for them , and when they have request for little time required services like picking newspapers and opening the luggage store .
As we are four in number working as customer service employees in some situations customers might not tolerate the long waiting time .However , most of the time customers are ready, kind and patience to wait more
What was the reason?
They think they have a good service, quality accommodation, good restaurant but sometimes customers might dissatisfied or frustrated not because of our services instead of personal reasons from the hospital (i.e. since most of the customers we have are from the hospital) and they are not sure what will happen tomorrow in the hospital consequently they might exhibit such behaviors while providing our quality services. They also noticed that customers are frustrated not directly due to our services but indirectly due to their illness.
“We have mostly customers from the hospital. As a result they are mostly frustrated not directly by our services but due to the heath situation they have” (CSE 2).
What were your reactions? How did you handle different customers?
The customer service employees working in this hotel are professionals in nursing with rich experience in handling patients as customers. All of them are fully aware of all the needs and wants of such customersthusthey get their problem solved quickly. CSE1 stated that in this situation, mostly we try to find out the reasons of customer frustration then after finding the reasons, we handle the situations accordingly. Mostly, we give time to customers to find out the solutions of their problems. As a result, we respond to their requests in gentle and softly manners.
They also think that the educational back ground they acquired as a nurse helps a lot to react according to the needs and wants of the customers. This also strengthen by CSE 2,
“When customers specially patient guests show frustrated behavior, I handle them according to their behavior because in our hotel, we all service employees also have nursing courses and we handle specially patients from medical point of view”.
If a customer jump ahead in a line of waiting customers? How you deal the customers in this situation?
Both state that in this situation, we use a very gentle way of letting the customer about breaking theline. Inthis circumstance, we use verbal softness and say to customer that “Perhaps, you jumped the line, please get back to the end”. This softness in behavior inspires the customers to get back to the end of the line. In addition, most of the customers say other customers to keep the queue
“It happens often in hotel ,while treating one customer the other customer break the line, I prefer to use the verbal softness with this statement that you will be served turn by turn and letting them back to be in a queue”(CSE 2).
If a customer interrupts a discussion between you and other customer? How to handle this situation?
In some cases, we face a situation when we are helping one customer and another customer rush up and interrupt our conversation. In such circumstances, the first customer might be annoyed by the second one. But mostly if the request from the second customer is just for key, magazines, any small inquiry which does not take more than five second, then we prefers to fulfill second customer request quickly after getting permission from those who line up for services.
“Most of the time when customer interrupt the discussion between me and the other customer, I mostly prefer to say that I will help you later but I have to serve this customer first. But in case of if the customer just need five second discussions and inquires about something for example, the timing of front desk, restaurant opening and closing times etc. In case situation, I excused from first customer and give information about his/her required inquiry”(CSE 2)
If a customer has negative emotions about the company due to past experiences, how you moldtheir behaviors?
If a customer come across with a negative word of mouth regarding our services. Actually, we handle this situation by letting the customer feel the real situation by him or herself instead of relying on the comments of other people. Besides, we try to explain the facts of our quality and good services to our customers
“I explain to the customer about real situations and assist him/her to get the actual experience of our hotel services”(CSE 1)
If the customer won’t stop talking and is getting abusive on the phone, how you handle this situation
In our hotel, this kind of behavior is not so common. However if we have such customers as we mentioned above, we handle by trying to get the customers to stop talking long on phone. So that we can give him/her the help as soon as possible, and resolve their problems quickly.
“Actually we don’t have angry or disappointed customers so much. I think we have cheap hotel with quality services. It is not so often to find customers with such behavior. Most customers who make calls are in need of information or reservation etc. Hence, they are either in hurry or need timely information” (CSE 2)
4.9 Analyses of interview results
Customers’ general experiences show that CSEs including Björken hotel are providing good customer service. The facts and figures from the behavioral part of the questionnaire demonstrated that mean value of all behavioral factors are above medium value (3) in service arena while providing services to customers.
In detail, customers always want to be listened carefully while they are talking to CSEs; they always expect their wants to be fulfilled quickly with sincere behavior. This also acknowledged by Bacal (2004, p. 1), customers always want their problems to be solved quickly and efficiently.
In addition, customers also expect a soft tone with help voice from CSEs and want to get the answers of their questions asked to the service employees. Moreover, customers expect polite behavior fair treatment and want to feel special when they enter in to the hotel. Facts from above discussion illustrated that in service arena; emotional labor is the most basic ingredient for handling frustrated/dissatisfied for CSEs are required to show emotions in front of customers according to situation (Chu, 2002, p. 1).
In this regards, surface acting is the most important part of showing emotions which CSEs do acting and showing emotions without feeling and realizing that emotion (Hochschild, 1983) which are used to change the negative emotions such as anger, frustration and aggression into happier emotions.
Above discussion show that CSEs must consider following factors while handling customers in service arena.
Understanding customer wants.
Listen to the customer carefully.
Resolve customer problems well and quickly with sincere behavior.
Treat the customer politely, greet customer with a friendly a welcome and big smile.
Give importance to each customer while delivering services.
Take minimal waiting time from customers during check in procedures.
When customers are mostly in hurry to run their activities and move on, customer service employees need to understand the situation well. This has also been explained byBarcal, (2004, p. 57), when we face hurry customers it is important to bear in mind the way we talk (i.e. speed, intensity, and lengths) and in this context employees should show and act more quickly and intensely, so as to convey a message to the customers the importance of the situation.
One of the frustrating situations for customers that we came to recognize through the interview is, when one person steps into the middle of the queue while others are waiting to be served by the customer service employees. In such situation customer service employees have to intervene with the gentle approach and ask the customer respect rule of the queue.
As we noticed from customer service employees (CSEs) interview it is common to see when a customer interrupts a discussion between the employee and another customer which might result frustration/aggression among customers. In such circumstances, customer service employees should be careful that first customer will not feel valued less important while talking to interrupting customers. Otherwise the customer service employees should ask permission from the first customer soas to act to the request of the interrupting customer.
Customer service employees are also mandated to change negative attitudes about their hotel services brought by customers due to past experiences or have been told by others. This can be done by paying full attention to what has been done on customer before and providing solutions to the present and think what to do now for the customer.
When it comes to dissatisfaction through phone calls we noted that ,in some situations, customers make calls to hotel for various reasons with frustrations/aggressions, and might sounded upset and don’t not allow the customer service employees to reply. In such circumstances as argued similarly in Barcal, (2004, p. 86), customer service employees should keep using calm tone of voice and reserved from showing impatience.
After making broad discussions about results obtained so far and analysis of the data, now we are at the final stage to make conclusion regarding drivers of aggression and how to handle and mold the behavior of aggressive customers in service arena by taking Björken hotel as a case study. This has been done through both questionnaires to the customers and interviews with customer service employees at Björken hotel.
In our research we identified lack of assistance from the service employees, noisy customer around, lack of punctuality and billing errors as a major drivers of frustrating/dissatisfying which might ultimately leads to customer aggression.
During the theoretical discussion we have identified drivers of aggression by some researchers who made research on aggression in service setup. After analyzing the researchers´ findings we came to conclude that drivers like lack of assistance are linked to interactional justice while noisy customers can be explained through physical environment, whereas lack of punctuality are based on response time from the customer service employees, and lastly billing errors recognized by procedural justice.
The empirical findings witnessed that reasons for frustrating/aggression of customers as shown illustration below are due to lack of assistance from customer service employees, noisy customer around, lack of punctuality and billing errors.
As shown by behavioral factors in the questionnaire, we clearly conclude that customer wants satisfying experiences during getting services in the hotel. In addition, this could be possible if service employees use these behavioral factors as emotional labor rules in front of customers and these behavioral factors are the most fundamental steps while delivering services to customers. It is also required from service employees to use emotional laborrules according to the situation.
Lastly, surface acting under emotional labor is widely used criteria in service arena. As described by Hoschchild, 1983, surface emotional acting involves molding the negative emotions such as anger, sadness and aggression into happier emotions.
To fully answer the second research question, we have also conduct deep interviews with the customer service employees at Björken hotel. As a result, findings of our research confirmed that emotional labor is the most important aspect for proper handling of frustrated/aggressive customers. CSEs are also required to show emotions in front of the customers the basis the situation.