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Marketing Case Study: Four Seasons

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Marketing Coursework

Case Study: Four Seasons

“Treat others as you would like to be treated” this is the golden rule and the basis for the success and recognized service quality of the Four Seasons hotel chain. The hotel chain founded in 1961 comprising of one modest motor hotel property in downtown Toronto is now the world's leading operator of luxury hotels and currently manages 74 properties within exceptional cities and resort destinations in 31 countries. It’s dedication to its customers and employees of offering the highest standards when delivering their service has made it the benchmark in luxury hotels. Four Seasons constantly endeavours to maintain and improve the quality of its services. The company has been a major innovator in the hospitality industry, developing services to make business travel more productive and efficient, and leisure travel stress-free and more enjoyable.

The aim of this essay is to explore and examine the service quality of this chain which has focused its quality amongst its human resources and of course its clientele. Through this we will compare and relate them to service quality theories that it relates to as well as examining other theories towards service quality and contrast them to the Four Season approach. The brand, its marketing, the scarcity of the type of service, etc. all secondary factors which will also be looked at and examined. Secondly we look at how the service quality obtained by Four Seasons seek to minimize the service gaps which so often occur in this industry as well as how such an established and high-quality regarded copes with service recovery in order to maintain its high esteem amongst its extremely demanding customers.

Service quality necessitates an integrated approach from operations, marketing, HR and other areas of business. They need clearly defined service strategies with top management and leadership. In order to achieve success Four Seasons had to fulfil these requirements and they did; not only through their Golden rule company policies but also through clearly defining the service/product they were offering and the type of consumer(s) they were appealing to. Service quality is variously defined, but essentially it’s to do with meeting customer needs and requirements, and how well the service delivery matches customers’ expectations. Just to put this statement in perspective with the service quality of the Four Seasons I quote Karen Earp, the general manager of Four Season Hotel Canary Wharf

“When guests come to a Four Seasons Hotel they need to have assurance that they are going to get exceptional food, personalized service, anything they need from our round-the-clock staff and a great night’s sleep. We focus in providing what we call exceptional basics, which means getting the important things right.”

For instance Four Seasons know that when staying at any hotel, what guests value most is a good nights sleep. Therefore time has been invested in to research and development of enhancing the sleeping experience when staying at a Four Seasons. Custom beds of the highest quality are made especially for their chain of hotels along with the very finest sheets. Furthermore a vast amount of time has been spent on developing blackout curtains so that no unwanted light comes in to interrupt the guests’ sleep. This could be considered the augmented service discussed by Gronroos (1987) in which on top of the basic/core service, the supporting services that are not required enhance the service and differentiate from their competitors. This augmentation includes how the service is delivered and the interaction between a company and its customers, and is exactly why their attention to detail (among other factors discussed) is the reason as to why the Four Seasons is probably the most recognized luxury hotel chain in the world.

In addition to this, Gronroos mentions 2 factors of quality being technical (i.e. what is received by the customer, and the more importantly- in relation to the Four Seasons-functional quality (i.e. the way in which the service is delivered) and normally encompasses the attitudes and behaviour, personality and appearance, service mindedness, accessibility and approachability of customer contact personnel. In this case the Golden Rule serves as the pillars for which the service is carried out in the hotels and the functional outcome is observed.

The Four Seasons goes to great lengths to ensure those recruited demonstrate the Golden Rule attitudes of courtesy and helpfulness and then train to build their competence and confidence. This rigorous process involves instilling the company ethics of personal service (refer to Karen Earp statement), through an intensive orientation in the philosophies of Four Seasons service standards and the ideals it embraces. Secondly each new employee is interviewed by a top manager and then takes part in a 7-step orientation over 12 weeks which culminates in the new employee spending a night in the hotel and experiences all the service characteristics that a guest would when he stays at the Four Seasons. This case of вЂ?internal marketing’- also outlined by Gronroos (1981)- strives to achieve the overall objective of obtaining motivated, consumer conscious and care-orientated personnel, yet the strategic objective as well as the personnel issues discussed by Lewis and Entwisle (1990) all highlight the importance of service encounters, in other words the relationships within the organization. A concept which has not been overlooked, and is integrated within the orientation week and is a cornerstone in the philosophy of the Four Season as they state “we treat every employee, from the housekeeper to the senior manager, in the same way that we would wish them to treat our guests вЂ" with warmth, courtesy and respect”

However when the company was experiencing a sustained period of growth, communication and relationships between employees were becoming faulty, especially as Four Seasons looked to keep a high ratio of employees to guests, more workers were coming and high quality of service was at risk at times because of this. Four Seasons implemented and encourage mentor schemes yet more specifically a “designated trainer” program for employees. It was created by a group of senior and corporate managers with the idea of making employee training as consistent and effective as possible. It consisted of having a designated trainer (normally an experienced member of the personnel) having a specific task and following a carefully constructed program provided by an online training program (OLTP), which is made up of more than 100 job-specific

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