Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Service Failures in a Cruise Line Context: Suggesting Categorical Schemes of Service Failures

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Service Failures in a Cruise Line Context: Suggesting Categorical Schemes of Service Failures

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper reports a study on service failures from research carried out on the prestigious Norwegian Coastal Voyage (NCV) or Hurtigruten which is the brand name. The context of the study is interesting due to historical, cultural, geographical and tourism reasons. Historically, the Hurtigruten has been a main means of transportation along the Norwegian coast for more than a hundred years. Culturally, the Hurtigruten has provided pride and identity to the scattered coast line population in Norway, and geographically in the sense that the Hurtigruten has united the coastal settlements along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. However, it's the tourism dimension which was given strategic priority by the introduction of "new" ships during the early 90s that brings this research into realisation, because the tourists' portion of the travellers on the Hurtigruten has gradually increased in numbers as well as in economic importance. The lack of substantial research on service failures in the cruise line industry and particularly on the Hurtigruten, provides the rationale for the research carried out. The choice of a cruise line context for the study is highly relevant as the cruise line industry is in "an early stage of development" (Biederman, 2008:197).

Service failures are an inevitable part of service processes (Hoffman and Bateson, 1997). Thus, the effective management of service failures is important for service quality improvements (Bejou and Palmer, 1998). From the tourists' point of view the most immediate evidence of the service quality occurs in the service encounters or in the "moments of truth" when the tourists interact with the service personnel (Czepiel, 1990, Grönroos, 2006). Onboard the Hurtigruten, as a high contact service (Lovelock and Wright, 1999), the front line personnel and especially the tour conductors, have vital service roles to play.They possess important high contact roles during phases of service delivery (Grove and Fisk, 1992). As the cruise line industry is featured by a high degree of interactions between the service employees and the travellers, there are many opportunities for service failures to occur.

Researching service failures is an important field within services management (e.g. Grönroos, 2000). Even though the issue of service failures has been examined for some time, academic research on service failures is "relatively recent and still in progress" (Lewis and McCann, 2004:6). Since 2004, several service failure studies have been conducted which evidence that this stream of research is still progressing. A primary reason for it is the increased role of the service sector as an important economic force, especially in Western societies as more than 2/3 of the entire "work force is employed in services" (Gummesson, 2000:7). This encompasses what Kim and Mauborgne (1999:44) have expressed as the "arrival of a knowledge economy". The knowledge economy is characterized by increased turbulence, uncertainty and ambiguity (Johannessen and Olsen, 2010). A growing academic literature is emerging on the knowledge economy (e.g David and Foray, 2003).

The cost of not delivering high class service is the "cost of quality", for example the risk of losing customers (Keaveney, 1995), negative "word of mouth" (e.g. Susskind, 2002; Swanson and Kelley, 2001), decreased employees' satisfaction and morale (Bitner et al., 1994), reduced customer satisfaction (Smith et al., 1999; Zeithaml et al., 1988), and decrease in customer loyalty (e.g. Bejou and Palmer, 1998; Maxham, 2001 and Maxham and Netemeyer, 2002). Consequently, from the management's point of view it is essential to identify, describe and analyse the nature and the extent of service failures in order to better understand and judge customers' perceived level of service quality (Berry and Parasuraman, 1992; Zeithaml et al., 1988). Thus, according to Heskett et al., (1994), a shift to a quality focus is essential to the competitive survival of service businesses. …

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