Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Customer Service during Peak (in Season) and Non-Peak (off Season) Times: A Multi-Country (Austria, Switzerland, UK & USA) Examination of Entrepreneurial Tourist Focused Core Personnel

Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

Customer Service during Peak (in Season) and Non-Peak (off Season) Times: A Multi-Country (Austria, Switzerland, UK & USA) Examination of Entrepreneurial Tourist Focused Core Personnel

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study examines the customer service of front line core service personnel in entrepreneurial businesses service businesses that serve the tourist markets in four countries. We assess the influence that seasonality might have on the utility of a selection inventory for predicting levels of customer service. Subjects included 309 core employees servicing the tourist industries in San Francisco, United States; 257 in Vienna, Austria; 250 in Zurich, Switzerland; and 255 in London, United Kingdom. Subjects were surveyed and assessed along dimensions of customer service orientation by trained assessors while serving customers. Response rates exceeded 90 percent as the business owners saw the study as an opportunity to understand how to earn greater revenues from their businesses. The mean service orientation ratings ranged from 3.53 in Austria to 3.62 in Switzerland during off-season or the non-peak tourist time and from 3.92 in Austria to 3.99 in the United Kingdom during the peak tourist season. Results support the use of a biodata inventory as a cost-effective means for small businesses to develop and retain competitive advantage relative to their larger rivals.

INTRODUCTION

Changes in marketing in recent years have affected small and large businesses alike (Garg & Chan, 1997). Many small firms have discovered that an emphasis on service orientation is more important today than ever before. Because customers have become more selective and conservative in their buying habits and larger companies are more forceful in attaining target markets, small businesses often focus on meeting customer needs effectively in order to retain their loyalty (Oh, 2000; Skogland & Siguaw, 2004). Attention to personal service can provide competitive advantage vis-a-vis larger, less personal competitors. In some respects, the small business manager or owner can no longer think of service as one aspect of the business but rather as the reason for its existence (Mill, 1986; Potter, 1988).

An organization's success depends on effective customer relations, a role played predominantly by its customer service employees. As such, firms often attempt to shape their images with customers by managing the types of behaviors employees display (Froehle & Roth, 2004; Hipkin, 2000). This is especially important in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) where nearly all employees have contact with customers on a daily basis (O' Gorman & Doran, 1999; Parnell, Carraher, & Odom, 2000; Zinger, LeBrasseur, & Zanibbi, 2001). Research suggests that firms emphasizing customer service report higher profitability, return on assets, return on investments, return on sales, and profit growth than those reporting less of an emphasis on customer service by the employees (Wright, Pearce, & Busbin, 1997).

This paper uses front line core personnel from entrepreneurial businesses operating in tourist areas to examine the influence that seasonality might have on the utility of a selection inventory for predicting levels of customer service. This type of instrument could be used for both selection and developmental purposes in order to increase the average levels of customer service within a population of employees. In this industry core employees are typically defined as permanent employees who stay with the business year in and year out as opposed to seasonal employees who are only hired during the "busy" season. Most core employees are extended family members of the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who own the business.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Service-Orientation

Customer orientation can be viewed as a "set of basic individual predispositions and an inclination to provide service, to be courteous and helpful in dealing with customers and associates" (Harvey-Cook & Taffler, 2000 p 103). Successful organizations should be customeroriented (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985). …

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