What a Service Encounter Is and Why It Is Significant

Subject: Management
Pages: 9
Words: 2520
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: Bachelor

Introduction

The food industry is essential for every nation, which explains the presence of many quality standards that are used to govern this sphere. Various restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and others typically do their best to provide their customers with adequate service and products. However, it is necessary to mention that not all organisations manage to cope with the task successfully, meaning that some service inefficiencies exist and adversely affect customer satisfaction and business operations. Thus, the given report focuses on the personal service encounter at the Moor Hall restaurant because it revealed both positive and negative aspects. In particular, the purpose is to suggest specific recommendations for the organisation to improve its service. A specific structure will be followed to ensure that ideas are placed logically and the ease of reading is present. Section 1 will present and synthesise findings from credible and timely literature about what a service encounter is and why it is significant. The specific case study will be considered and analysed in Section 2. Section 3 will offer grounded recommendations on how the Moor Hall restaurant can improve its services.

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To begin with, I would like to summarise how I created the case study. The acquaintance with the selected restaurant occurred when my friends and I went to the establishment for dinner. The personal visit allowed us to identify how the restaurant meets its customers, how waiters and waitresses communicate with clients, products of what quality are served, and so on. It is possible to state that this strategy was successful because it revealed some advantages and disadvantages of the selected business. However, it is worth admitting that the encounter implied some limitations because we only witnessed visible operations and processes. In other words, we can only guess what specific issues contributed to service inefficiencies. That is why various suggestions are offered to improve the service and avoid failures in the future. The recommendations are to develop appropriate educational sessions and implement role-playing interventions.

Section 1: Analysing the Service Experience

In the beginning, it is necessary to explain what a service encounter is. According to Kivelä and Chu (2001, p. 254), this term stands for “the dyadic interaction between a customer and a service provider.” This proposed definition is not the only acceptable version, and Kim and Tang (2020, p. 102511) mention that a service encounter is a multidimensional approach involving contact with service employees and processes. This data analysis allows for concluding that the phenomenon under consideration occurs when a customer visits a specific establishment and starts an interaction with a service provider or employee. Examples of service encounters occur when a person enters a restaurant and is met by a waiter or when an individual books a café table by phone. The shared feature of these two situations refers to the fact that people become familiar with an organisation, and this first experience can significantly affect their further interaction with the given establishment.

It is now reasonable to present a detailed description to highlight the significance of a service encounter in the food and beverage industry. When it comes to getting acquainted with an organisation, one should admit that customers can have different expectations. For example, some visitors can expect to witness excellent service and the deficiency of any errors (Kang et al., 2020, p. 102333). Other individuals can be thankful for small favours, and they can consider the absence of rude and aggressive behaviour a positive feature. Meeting these expectations is significant because this fact can result in essential benefits for service providers. For instance, a satisfied client is more likely to provide a waiter or waitress with higher gratitude (Kivelä and Chu, 2001, p. 254). That is why staff members are financially interested in providing customers with adequate service. Simultaneously, organisations should ensure that high-quality service is provided because satisfied customers are expected to be more loyal to the restaurant, which can positively affect the business’s reputation and sales volumes.

Even though the discussion above demonstrates that organisations and employees should allocate all the existing resources to provide customers with the best service, it does not always happen. Szende and Dalton (2015, p. 220) clarify that service failures are unavoidable. This fact is present because it is impossible to predict and have control over everything that can affect a service encounter. Since adverse events are common, it is reasonable to consider how they can impact the industry under consideration. It is not a surprise that such cases typically lead to customers’ dissatisfaction. However, it is worth mentioning that representatives of various cultures can respond to service failures differently. For example, China is considered a high-power distance culture, where higher levels of inequality are present, and Chinese customers are more likely to complain face-to-face after witnessing a process failure (Luo and Matilla, 2020, p. 102613). Simultaneously, the United States follows a low-power distance culture, and its representatives are more dissatisfied by an outcome failure that makes them switch silently (Luo and Matilla, 2020, p. 102613). Thus, restaurants should be aware of this finding to predict customers’ behaviour.

In addition to that, one should emphasise that service failures can adversely impact employees. For instance, it can occur when different encounter barriers exist, including various cultural backgrounds, languages, communication styles and others (Akhtar et al., 2021, p. 1516). As a result, service providers experience discomfort that makes them feel nervous and dissatisfied. Simultaneously, Wang et al. (2021, p. 2817) stipulate that service failures can make employees feel ashamed, which leads to adverse outcomes and customer dissatisfaction. That is why organisations should draw sufficient attention to deal with the issues.

Even though it has already been mentioned that service failures are unavoidable, specific measures are possible to minimise their likelihood and effect. According to Szende (2012), restaurants should establish adequate service standards and procedures to ensure that customers’ expectations can be met. Simultaneously, sufficient attention should be devoted to staff training and education (Cousins and Weekes, 2020, p. 27; Davis et al., 2018, p. 280). The rationale behind this suggestion is that employees are primary service providers that can significantly affect a service encounter. Finally, it is worth admitting that a larger context can also affect the sphere under analysis. Kimes (2008, p. 297) and Cha (2020, p. 2947) highlight the effectiveness of technology, while the latter author emphasises its role against the COVID-19 background. Consequently, sufficient scientific evidence has demonstrated that a service encounter is a significant phenomenon in the food and beverage sphere.

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Section 2: Case Study Analysis

The given section is going to analyse the case study that reveals the experience of witnessing the Moor Hall restaurant. This process will rely on scientific findings that have been mentioned and synthesised above. In addition to that, a few other resources will be added to contribute to a more comprehensive investigation of the issue. In particular, the case study will be analysed according to the six stages of the dining experience, and this information will be presented in Decomposition Chart 1 and a narrative form. Decomposition Chart 2 will be used to introduce a detailed overview of the identified service inefficiencies.

In the beginning, it is reasonable to describe the six stages of the dining experience that will be used to analyse the case. According to Szende and Dalton (2015, pp. 214-216), these stages are pre-arrival, post-arrival, pre-process, in-process, post-process and table turnover ones. Each of these steps implies multiple processes, standards and requirements that should be met to contribute to a positive service encounter. In particular, the pre-arrival stage includes all the experiences that customers receive while they are approaching the restaurant, including advertising, exterior and others. The post-arrival stage presents the visitors’ experience within the restaurant until they sit at the table. Then, the time from sitting at the table and receiving the first order is the pre-process step. The in-process stage lasts until payment is requested, while the post-process phase covers the moment between requesting the payment and leaving the restaurant. Finally, the table turnover stage focuses on the effort and time needed to make the table available for other customers after the previous ones have departed.

Decomposition Chart 1 is presented below, and it highlights how the six stages were covered in the case study.

Decomposition Chart 1
Decomposition Chart 1

Now, it is reasonable to comment on whether the restaurant met specific standards within each stage. Firstly, Szende (2012, p. 11) stipulates that the pre-arrival phase “encompasses preparation activities that take place prior to guest arrival.” They include place setting, restaurant exterior, marketing activities and others, and it seems that the Moor Hall restaurant did not have any issues with this stage because the guests were delighted. Secondly, the post-arrival phase contributed to positive and negative experiences. On the one hand, the Service Blueprint (Appendix A) reveals that the visitors were greeted. On the other hand, an adverse experience referred to an unexplained wait. Even though the waiter explained that the restaurant was typically understaffed on weekends, the restaurant staff had not done it in advance, and the customers dealt with the unexplained wait. Szende (2012, p. 12) explains that unexplained and unfilled delays feel more prolonged, which violates the standard. Simultaneously, the customers were not offered assistance to sit at the table. This term refers to the fact that a waiter did not conduct the customers to the table and did not assist by pulling out chairs.

Thirdly, the pre-process stage also has some advantages and disadvantages. A negative aspect refers to the fact that the waiter did not introduce themselves because it was not highlighted in the case study and Service Blueprint. However, introducing themselves is a significant standard when it comes to the pre-process phase (Szende, 2012, p. 16). Simultaneously, the given stage implied a few notable benefits, including the fact that the waiter did not rush the customers to make an order and offered suggestions to replace meals that were not available. These actions are in line with the requirements that are created to govern the stage (Szende, 2012, p. 20). A similar situation was with the in-process phase, where positive aspects occurred with negative ones. In specific, the case study revealed that the chef came to serve the customers’ course meal, and it is possible to consider this event a quality check. Simultaneously, Szende (2012, p. 22) stipulates that crumbing the table and offering a second round of beverages are the in-process phase standards, but the customers did not witness them. Consequently, the waiter did not manage to present full service.

It is also reasonable to comment on the post-process and table turnover stages. The Service Blueprint stated that the payment took place, and it is possible to suggest that the waiter provided the check upon the customers’ request, which is a requirement (Szende, 2012, p. 23). Table turnover is the sixth stage, but the cause study and Service Blueprint did not provide any information regarding how the restaurant performed regarding it. Since the data is absent, it is possible to suggest that adequate processes took place.

In conclusion, it is rational to summarise the information presented above. The analysis revealed that some areas of service delivery worked well, while the others included some inefficiencies. In particular, the pre-arrival, post-process and table turnover phases did not show any failures. The other three stages, post-arrival, pre-process and in-process, implied both advantages and disadvantages. This fact denotes that specific interventions are needed to address the identified issues.

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However, the given report aims at providing two interventions to address the top two problems. That is why it is necessary to rank the service failures according to their significance, and Decomposition Chart 2 is helpful here. The visual element below presents the identified problems, mentions their potential impact and emphasises the priority. Unexplained delay and the absence of any sitting assistance are of top priority because they can significantly annoy and disappoint the customers, which will make them want to leave the place. Restaurants should ensure that such scenarios do not occur, and the following section will present specific recommendations to address the problem.

Decomposition Chart 2

Problem Stage Impact Priority
Unexplained Wait Post-arrival Customers’ dissatisfaction can make them leave a restaurant. High
No Seating Assistance Post-arrival Customers can decide that they are not respected by the service employees. High
Waiter not Introducing Pre-process Waiters can appear ignorant and less professional. Medium
No Crumbing the Table In-process Customers’ experience can be compromised. Low
No Refill Offer In-process Customers’ experience can be compromised. Low

Section 3: Service Improvement

Section 2 has highlighted that unexplained waiting and the absence of seating assistance are the top two priorities that deserve attention. That is why it is reasonable to develop specific interventions that can improve the service team skills and competencies. These activities should take place pre-service and last for approximately 20 minutes. Every service provider employed by the restaurant should participate in these interventions since the latter are aimed at improving the quality of service and meeting the customer expectations.

It has been mentioned above that the long waiting time occurred because the restaurant was understaffed on weekends. According to Tasar, Ventura and Cicekli (2020, p. 2881), an additional server or chef could solve the problem. However, the given project offers two specific interventions that should develop punctuality, personality, improved attitude to customers and other skills among the workforce (Cousins and Weekes, 2020, p. 69). The first intervention makes all service providers participate in obligatory pre-service educational sessions. This approach is practical because scientific evidence demonstrates that it leads to improved communication and emotional intelligence (Kemala, Fajri and Maulani, 2020, p. 49; Oh and Jang, 2020, p. 54). Simultaneously, one can state that education can help waiters and waitresses learn how to work in teams and respect every person (Ginting and Sari, 2021, p. 559; Korkiakangas, Weldon and Kneebone, 2021, p. 234). A short educational session should help the service staff recollect their job expectations and obligation to meet customer needs.

The second suggested intervention refers to role-playing that is often used in staff training. Saltik, Caliskan and Avci (2017, p. 163) stipulate that this approach can improve service staff competencies and professional skills. This strategy can help waiters and waitresses understand how customers feel when they do not receive service in time. Furthermore, the proposed intervention is practical because it allows employees to become prepared for continuous changes at the workplace (Merhaut, Chadt and Mičková, 2017, p. 1). That is why it is reasonable for the restaurant under consideration to implement this model.

Conclusion

The report has overviewed the existing evidence about what a service encounter is and why it is significant. Data from scholarly sources and reliable textbooks have revealed that organisations from the food and beverage industry should draw sufficient attention to this issue. The report has also reviewed the case study of witnessing the Moor Hall restaurant. In particular, the analysis of the narrative information and Service Blueprint has demonstrated that the organisation has top priority issues regarding its post-arrival stage. Thus, appropriate education and short role-playing sessions delivered pre-service can lead to the improved qualities of the service staff.

Reference List

Akhtar, N. et al. (2021) ‘Effects of service encounter barriers on situational abnormality and consumers’ behavioural intentions at food and beverage restaurants’, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 33(7), pp. 1513-1534.

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Cha, S. S. (2020) ‘Customers’ intention to use robot-serviced restaurants in Korea: relationship of coolness and MCI factors’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 32(9), pp. 2947-2968.

Cousins, J. and Weekes, S. (2020) Food and beverage service. 10th edn. London: Hachette, UK.

Davis, B. et al. (2018) Food and beverage management. 6th edn. Oxon: Routledge.

Ginting, H. and Sari, A. N. (2021) ‘The role of the staff in improving work operations at the coffee shop to increase guest satisfaction at Garuda Plaza Medan hotel’, Enrichment: Journal of Management, 11(2), pp. 559-569.

Jin, N., Line, N. D. and Yoon, D. (2018) ‘Understanding the role of gratitude in building quality relationships’, Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 27(4), pp. 465-485.

Kang, H. J. A. et al. (2020) ‘How to fuel employees’ prosocial behaviour in the hotel service encounter’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, 84, p. 102333.

Kemala, Z., Fajri, K. and Maulani, S. N. (2020) ‘Communication in the hospitality industry: Azzuma Korean restaurant in Malaysia’, Tourism and Sustainable Development Review Journal, 1(1), pp. 49-56.

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Kimes, S. E. (2008) ‘The role of technology in restaurant revenue management’, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 49(3), pp. 297-309.

Kivelä, J. J. and Chu, C. Y. H. (2001) ‘Delivering quality service: diagnosing favourable and unfavourable service encounters in restaurants’, Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 25(3), pp. 251-271.

Korkiakangas, T., Weldon, S. M. and Kneebone, R. (2021) ‘ˈLet me take care of youˈ: what can healthcare learn from a high-end restaurant to improve the patient experience’, Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 14(3), pp. 225-240.

Luo, A. and Mattila, A. S. (2020) ‘Discrete emotional responses and face-to-face complaining: the joint effect of service failure type and culture’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, 90, p. 102613.

Merhaut, M., Chadt, K. and Mičková, E. (2017) ‘Psychological aspects of employees’ development in the hospitality industry’, 4th International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences & Arts. SGEM, 24-30 August. Sophia, SGEM, pp. 639-648.

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Saltik, A., Caliskan, U. and Avci, U. (2017) ‘Staff training for service failures and recovery’, in Koc, E. (ed.) Service failures and recovery in tourism and hospitality: a practical manual. Oxfordshire: CABI, pp. 160-180.

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