APPLICATION OF QUALITATIVE METHODS IN HOTELS’ CUSTOMER LOYALTY MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES Lisa Galina, PhD candidate Free International University of Moldova ABSTRACT Our society is constantly changing and these changes have an impact not only on our buying habits and consumption but also on the hotel companies that must constantly adapt to meet new customer requirements.
When performing market research to determine customer loyalty strategy, hotel marketers are often faced with questions that require application of both quantitative research methods and deep knowledge coming from unstructured qualitative approaches.
Subsequently, the quantitative pproach is used to design and test an instrument for web-based service quality assessment and explore the relationships between service quality customer satisfaction, service value and customer loyalty.
This article describe the qualitative approaches as a tools for helping hotel marketers to set up company customer loyalty strategy. Key words: customer loyalty strategy, quantitative research method, qualitative research method, hotel companies, hotel services Introduction When performing market research to determine customer loyalty strategy, hotel marketers are often faced with questions that require application of both uantitative research methods and deep knowledge coming from unstructured qualitative approaches.
Measuring customer satisfaction is a prime example. In studies of satisfaction leading to loyalty, a simple result often does not provide sufficiently a marketing action with needed data to make improvements in the provision of services. One of the key factors for customer satisfaction is the perceived value of the service provided. Value is positively associated with satisfaction, intention to return and willingness to recommend their services.
Thomas (2010) believes that qualitative and quantitative research always need one another in cience, but because it believes that qualitative research involves words and quantitative involves numbers, there are some researchers who believe that one is better (or scientific) than the other. As he mentions, in recent years the methods of data collection were expanded from group discussions focused on person-depth interviews and observations to online chats, Internet forums, online communities and internet monitoring.
Also, some researchers would include here the neuromarketing research – a new approach to marketing, which involves observation of physiological reactions, with the purpose of measuring emotional reactions as part of the ualitative research field [31, p. 5]. Hoteliers must find answers that would explain certain behavior and attitudes of customers and the company’s motivations for some decisions. The only way to discover this is to use qualitative methods. However, the concept of loyalty, which covers this article, is very complex.
To discover how the company and its customers perceive loyalty is necessary to conduct studies of all research methods being adapted to company strategies depending on the life cycle of the enterprise, the emergence of ad hoc market needs and apply the relevant ones. Chapter l. Qualitative market research Qualitative market research is a much more subjective research which derives its conclusions from a smaller, more focused group of individuals aiming in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. Qualitative method investigates decision making in the context of questions on ???whV’ and ???how? not Just those of the order ???what? where? when? “. This implies greater depth interviews and surveys when it comes to the interview process, which usually involves a one-on-one interaction, but there are situations in which dyads and triads re possible. Traditionally, these settings are face-to-face and conducted directly in person, via the Internet and / or audio and / or video conferences. The benefits of this method of research consist in: 1) The probability of spontaneous and genuine reactions is higher and can be used for general conclusions market research. ) Although focus groups are conducted under controlling, can easily appear new ideas being encouraged by the more open environment. 3) The possibility of observing genuine reactions of respondents 4) Both focus groups can be very flexible and allows individuals to express their opinions reely. 5) Deeper understanding of the views and new perspectives. 6) The information received from the interviews is much deeper, often very detailed and rich. When it comes to market research qualitative versus quantitative market research, there are a lot of factors that determine what really differentiates them.
This makes it important to choose the appropriate method of service and the agenda. For choosing the correct method for market research in order to establish customer loyalty strategy below are presented some tips to guide decision: A. it will be used the qualitative market research when: it requires explanation and exploration of quantitative studies – determine the essence of the problems encountered – to better understand the respondents and their intentions – to get feedback and opinions authentic and unspoiled B.
It will be used the quantitative market research when: – it requires large marketing studies – identify desired market share of the company and of the course of its action – will gather information to apply them in statistical analysis company – will opt for a faster and more conclusive research. As the hospitality industry is highly experimental, companies rely on qualitative esearch to gain insights on behavior, intentions, attitudes and motivations of tourists and consumers. Companies can target existing users and the potential for their new services to facilities and offers.
This method offers the possibility to discover insights on strategies to counter offers made by competitors. The research that combines quantitative and qualitative methods is often labeled as postpositivist (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Guba & Lincoln, 1994) or triangular and is based on the concept that qualitative and quantitative methods should be seen as complementary rather than rival camps (Clark & Creswell, 2008) [18, p 111]. The results of qualitative research are a diagnosis, seeking explanations why certain behavior occurs and usually investigates rather than include.
In addition, qualitative data are often given orally, as opposed to numeric quantity related to quantitative research (Au, 2004) [29, p 16]. The most common qualitative research techniques are structured in-depth interviews, group discussions and focus groups. There are types of interviews: ???depth” or ???ladder” – Laddering method is used as in-depth interview technique to discover how the attributes of a product / service, the consequences of these ttributes and personal values are related, connected in the mind of the individual.
This technique allows the researcher to ???slowly climb the ladder” to get to the real reasons that lead consumers to buy a product. The method allows starting with some obvious attributes, a superficial point of view, and reaches deeper areas, what is really relevant. In order to use properly this technique, the interviewees should be well chosen, meaning that it need the selection of those individuals who develop significant emotional reactions to the product, they are brand loyal.  – ???Explorers” are designed to obtain the point of view of the interviewee.
Through effective use of skills of surveying, the interviewee is encouraged to report about the perception of emotional capitalizing topic. Important are the perceptions and personal interpretations (ideas, opinions, suggestions, expectations, etc. ): all the subjective information interviewee. Exploratory interviews with advisory are intended to supplement information obtained from written sources or standardized interviews with perceptions of the involved persons. Exploratory interview technical skills are bstracts related questions and reflections. ???Semi-structured” – flexible interview, allowing the introduction of new questions during the interview, as a result of what the interviewee says. The interviewer generally has a framework of themes to be explored. However, topics that the interviewer wants to explore during the interview should be usually well thought in advance. Usually it is recommended to interviewers to have developed the interview guide, an informal. These guides help researchers to focus an interview on a theme, without determining in a particular format.
This reedom can help interviewers to adapt their questions to the interview context / situation and the people who are interviewed. – ???Non-structured” – method in which questions can be changed or adapted to meet the respondent’s intelligence, understandings or beliefs. Unlike a structured interview the questions are predetermined and the range of responses is pre-set, the unstructured interviews support free play mode of respondents’ answers. These types of interviews are commonly used in ethnography and case studies or when researchers want to find as much information as possible about their topic.
The advantage is that unstructured interviews often reveal information that was not exposed using structured or semi- structured interviews. Data sets collected using unstructured interviews will be higher than the rest. Outside of sociology use of such interviews is very limited. Qualitative method includes the following techniques also beings used only in sociology: – focus groups, a form of qualitative research in which a group of people is asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging.
Questions are asked in interactive group setting where participants are free to talk to other members. – observations techniques combined with interviewing: ethnography and photo- ethnography, in which potential or current customers record actual behavior, transcribe the Journals and participate in follow-up interviews and observations at decision making place, such as interviews in stores. Using structured interviews in hotels Interviews occurred in the hospitality industry should preferably be semi-structured or unstructured, because it allows the researcher to be flexible and to get as much ata as possible.
However, CODRIJ hotel marketers have used structured interviews, given that usually during the interview time is reduced and the amount of the interviewees may be higher. The objective was to understand the investigated subject in terms of the interviewee and to understand how and why they arrived at this particular point. Studying literature, they identified key issues that affect retention and loyalty, which are illustrated in a convenient general marketing mix variables: Product, Price, Placement, Promotion and People (Quality Service), shown in Table 1 .
Table 1 . Key topics and subtopics for the quantitative research Product Specifications: exterior features, lobby, restaurant, bar, bedroom, public areas, leisure facilities etc, cleanliness, quality furniture and accessories, design, style. Functional attributes: reputation, style of services, timeliness of providing services, staff courtesy and empathy to customers. What technical and functional attributes of hotel customers are important to small and medium-sized independent hotels? Price Price charged; price policy of the company.
Independent hotels are customers willing to accept lower technical attributes in xchange for a lower price or are willing to pay a higher price for superior technical and functional attributes delivered at the consistently increased quality? Customers prefer a transparent pricing policy or differential? Placement and Reservations Location, quality of services booking, booking method, the search for variety Shall remain loyal customers to some independent hotels each time they visit a certain area or prefer variety?
Are they loyal to geographical areas or looking for something different? Promotion Loyalty cards, building relationships with customers and suppliers, branding, online romotion etc. How important is customer loyalty cards independent hotels? Encourage the practice of building customer relations loyalty to a hotel? What is the role of branding in keeping customers and their loyalty? Persons (Quality Service) Quality of services, security service delivery, management of complaints To what extent are customers interested in quality and functionality of equipment?
It will encourage loyalty an effective security policy and security of supply of services? Customer retention and loyalty will encourage their effective management of complaints? Sourse: Materials from CODRU Hotel These themes and essential questions helped develop a hypothesis, which brought proposals for hotel loyalty and customer retention in a increasingly competitive market. Customers were approached at the time of check-in at the hotel. Manager responsible explained the research goal and asked for cooperation requesting an interview, which should take no more than 5-10 minutes.
Face-to- face interviews were conducted in informal surroundings of the hotel lobby, time being chosen by the customer. The interviews began with the interviewer’s explanation about the nature and purpose of research, initially requesting any information about client ctivity. Then moved to an open discussion, the client is encouraged to explain why he chosed the hotel initially and what hoteliers should offer to further encourage this choice. Whenever necessary, the interviewer introduced the key themes of the Table 1 to continue to encourage open discussion.
Responses were placed in a grid – table to share comments made on the analysis of the particular key issues considered as important for the client and, respectively, as a determining factor in his retention. Conclusion In conclusion we mention that whatever method hoteliers select for market research nd investigation of needs of current and potential customers to determine their loyalty strategies, it take time, costs and specific skills of marketers – researchers.
However, at different stages of hotel development, it is recommended certain research techniques that would answer the question in the most appropriate way, meaning that by the initial cycle of life the author suggests to use the questionnaire, because of the economic advantages and time, can find out the opinion of a large number of customers, are easy to analyze, affordable, being filled out by guests in onfort, in their leisure time. In the company’s development cycle is recommended to apply survey as a technic of investigating customer needs, coupled with the interviews, both collecting data so cantitattive and qualitative.
In the Republic of Moldova would be very difficult, almost impossible, to conduct a study based on the method of neuromarketing, because of lack of specialists, so only recommending studies and ongoing computerization of marketers based on those of the colleagues from abroad to find out the latest news on the application of various hotel customer loyalty strategies. Biblography 1 . Monica Diana Bercea. Quantitative versus qualitative in neuromarketing research. http://mpra. ub. uni-muenchen. de/44134/ 2.
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