Customer Experience Quality Scorecard of Heritage Hotels in Unesco World Heritage Cities

Abstract

The Malaysian heritage hotels located in Georgetown, Penang and Melaka are facing great challenges to identify the right medium to monitor, and to know-what to improve on the quality of heritage hotel experience for the domestic and international tourists since these two cities have been awarded as the World Heritage cities by UNESCO in July 2008. Given the arrival of international tourists has increased and the mushrooming growth of the heritage hotels, a stiff competition has been escalating among the hoteliers. Hence, there is a need to conduct a study to understand the expectations of the hotel guests who have experiences staying in the heritage hotels. The objective of employing customer experience quality scorecard is to compare the guests’ reviews of heritage hotels in these two cities. The customer experience quality POMP scorecard is assessed according to its denotations which are product experience, outcome focus, moment-of-truth, and peace-of-mind. This study has collected and analysed data on 39 heritage hotels in George Town, Penang, and 22 in Melaka from the Malaysia Trip Advisor online heritage hotel guest reviews between 1st June 2017 and 31st May 2018. The findings revealed that heritage hotel guests staying in George Town, Penang and Melaka have the most positive feedback related to outcome focus compared to others. Conversely, heritage hotel guests in Melaka gave most negative feedback related to product experience and heritage hotel guests in George Town, Penang gave most negative feedback related to peace- of- mind.

Keywords: Customer ExperienceQualityHeritage HotelsGuestsScorecardUNESCO

Introduction

In 7 July 2008, UNESCO World Heritage Centre (2008, July 7) awarded George Town, Penang and Melaka as part of UNESCO world heritage site. Melaka and George Town of Penang are historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) which have over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2008, July 7). With the UNESCO world heritage listing for Georgetown, Penang and Melaka, both states offer tourists a nostalgic glimpse of their past and a taste of the rich cultural diversity that is both timeless and unforgettable. Heritage hotels are labelled as built structures with tangible manifestation of heritage (Hendersen, 2013). The heritage hotels are usually located in building of a certain age with interesting histories and at or close to renowned UNESCO world heritage site (Hendersen, Liew, Ong, & Quek, 2013). Complying with heritage element is a necessity in the common theme of boutique and lifestyle hotels (Hendersen, 2011; Hendersen, 2012).

Over 95% of leisure tourists read at least seven online reviews platform (e.g Trip Advisor) to seek good past hotel guest travel experiences before booking their perceived best choice of hotel for a holiday (Harris, 2017, March 20). In return, this same leisure tourists are socially obliged to share their travel experience (s) in online reviews platform – with comment of good, bad or indifferent -- whenever they have stayed in a hotel (Berry, Carbone, & Haeckel, 2002). Employing the right systemic customer experience metric provides Malaysian heritage hotels with the necessary means to acquire and assimilate information which can provide a better perspective of the customers and their needs (Choo, Tan, & Yeo, 2018; Choo & Tan, 2017b). It is the hope of this study that Malaysian heritage hotels could consistently exceed customer experience ranking, hence, creating a higher popularity in online review ranking which would attract and motivate more potential tourists to stay in Malaysia.

1.1. Hospitality Industry in Malaysia

Datuk Dr. Victor Wee, ex-chairman of Tourism Malaysia (2009 to 2013) has addressed that quality of customer service experience is of paramount importance in Tourism Malaysia’s agenda. He has rated the impact of customer service experience on Malaysia economy as very high (Wong, & Lim, 2011, July). Malaysia Tourism Transformation Program Quality Assurance (MyTQA) provides recognition of the quality of tourism products, services and the different cultures in Malaysia. It provides the exposure to industry players that delivering quality services is important (Motac Strategic Plan: 2016-2020, 2016). Tourist arrivals to Malaysia are targeted to grow at an average rate of 4% per annum from 26.76 million in 2016, and projected to reach 36 million in 2020 (Tourism Malaysia, 2017).

Boutique and lifestyle themed hotel strategy provides hoteliers with important points of differentiation in an increasingly competitive marketplace (Jones, Day, & Quadri-Felitti, 2013). Increasing the experience quality value for boutique and lifestyle themed hotels in Georgetown, Penang and Melaka could increase the opportunities to attract and motivate more tourists who are keen to experience the unique UNESCO world heritage atmosphere. Hotel guests tend to perceive boutique and lifestyle themed hotels within the strategic urban location of UNESCO world heritage atmosphere as an excellent example of a unique cultural innovative offering with a value of colonial style and heritage image for which they are attracted to stay while willing to pay premium room rates (Victorino, Verma, Plaschka, & Dev, 2005; Jones et al, 2013). Personalized service and staff attitudes are characteristics of quality boutique and lifestyle themed hotel operations in the strategic urban historic destinations of George Town, Penang and Melaka (Hendersen et al., 2013). Higher heritage hotel quality and a better hotel location within UNESCO world heritage cities in Malaysia are perceived to be in tourists demand (Howard HTL & 9 Hotelworks, 2018, January).

In Penang, there are two prominent 5-star heritage hotels namely Eastern & Oriental hotel and 1881 Chong Tian Hotel, and in Melaka the two prominent 5-star heritage hotels are Casa del Rio Melaka and The Majestic Malacca. In addition, there are six 4-star heritage hotels in Penang and one 4-star heritage hotel in Melaka. Majority of the heritage hotels are ranked 3-stars -- 31 in Penang and 19 in Melaka (Tripadvisor Malaysia, 2018). These 3-star boutique and lifestyle hotels having less than 100 rooms are found in Malaysia Trip Advisor (2018). According to Hendersen et al. (2013), boutique hotels are comparatively small with less than 100 rooms.

Problem Statement

Malaysia tourism has achieved a huge success, as Malaysia has welcomed over 27 million tourist arrivals up to August 2017 (Kanyakumari, 2017, December 19), however, Malaysia has been experiencing below 67.3% hotel rooms occupancy between 2011 and 2016. In 2016, hotels in Malaysia have experienced a low occupancy of 65.2%, hence, to attract customers, hoteliers are pressured to decrease their hotel room average daily rate to RM226. The outcome of low hotel performance is low revenue per available room of RM147.35 in 2016 (Tay, 2017 June 13). This is attributed to Malaysian hotels market saturation (Bavani 2016, February 23), thus, Malaysian hoteliers should consider shifting focus to raising quality and more strategic hotel locations (Ming, 2016, November 29). This study proposes that the solution to Malaysian hotel market saturation is to regularly innovate new services and existing services, for example, Tourism Spain has been pushing their hotel operators to innovate (Doggrell, 2018, Jan 22). Malaysian heritage hoteliers and researchers should work together to explore service innovation of know-what, know-who, know-how and know-when to raise customer experience quality of boutique and lifestyle themed hotels in strategic urban location of the UNESCO world heritage destinations in George Town, Penang and Melaka to solve the problem of market saturation. The lack of existing research using validated measurements of customer experience quality in Malaysian Heritage Hotel Industry (Choo, Tan, & Yeo, 2018) together with the considerable attention given to the concept of experience quality in the present competitive environment, form the purpose of this study.

Research Questions

This study attempts to answer two major research questions. Firstly, what are the popular customer experience quality (CEXQ) with heritage hotels in Malaysia? Secondly, which dimensions of customer experience quality (CEXQ) require further improvement?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study on the content analysis of Trip Advisor reviews is to identify the authentic customer perspective on which customer experience quality (CEXQ) dimension (s) of POMP (product experience, outcome focus, a-moment-of-truth, and peace-of-mind) are popular and which dimension (s) require improvement. This proposed validated quantitative measure of CEXQ scorecard can provide heritage hotel owners and operators with a reliable universal metric which can enable them to monitor and improve the quality of their heritage hotel experience for domestic and international tourists. Customer experience quality is perceived to be a better predictor for customer purchasing behaviour (e.g heritage hotel stay) compared to service quality (Maklan & Klaus, 2011; Klaus & Maklan, 2012, 2013). According to Barsky and Nash (2002), customers’ positive emotions in consumption experiences affect customers’ loyalty and willingness to pay more for new service or improved existing service offering(s). This study provides heritage hoteliers with the value of know-what and know-how to improve heritage hotel guests’ positive emotions in consumption of POMP experiences so as to effect a higher degree of attraction to stay in heritage hotels.

With CEXQ scorecard employed in this study, it is an attempt of this study to motivate Heritage hoteliers in George Town, Penang and Melaka to acquire and assimilate the relevant positive and negative online heritage hotel guest reviews (e.g Trip Advisor heritage hotel guest reviews). The measurement items in CEXQ scorecard is adopted from Klaus and Maklan (2013) empirical measurement of POMP denoting product experience, outcome focus, moments-of-truth, and peace-of-mind in the Malaysian heritage hotel sector.

4.1. Customer Experience Quality (CEXQ)

To create a compelling customer experience vision, this study posits yearly longitudinal study (e.g yearly CEXQ scorecard) that can track Malaysian heritage hotel guests’ behaviour and relate changes in the behavior to CEXQ. The concept of CEXQ longitudinal study is adopted from Klaus and Maklan (2007). This study is to measure the content analysis on the Trip Advisor heritage hotel guest reviews, using the scorecard of CEXQ measurement scale which is adopted primarily from Klaus and Maklan (2013).

Customer experience quality captures the value-in-use of the organisation’s offer, not just the service quality attributes of products and service delivery, in fact customer experience quality is based upon an overall cognitive and emotional assessment of value from the customer’s point of view rather than evaluated against benchmarks or expectations of service quality (Klaus & Maklan, 2012). Subsequently, Klaus and Maklan, (2013) have empirically improved on Klaus and Maklan (2012) -- in that customers evaluate the customer experience quality of POMP (product experience, outcome focus, moments-of-truth, and peace-of-mind) at an overall level (the whole of POMP), dimensional level (each component of POMP) and at element level (each item of a dimension), and that perception at each level is influenced by that of the level above.

The origin of quantitative validated customer experience quality (CEXQ) research was conducted in the United Kingdom by Klaus and Maklan (2012), and they have examined into retail banking, mortgage, fuel and service station and luxury goods. Khan, Grag and Rahman (2015) have adopted Klaus and Maklan (2012) CEXQ measurement of POMP. This study on the Trip Advisor heritage hotel guest reviews adopts Klaus and Maklan (2013) improved principle rule of evaluating the overall POMP level as experience-based service encompasses the total customer experience quality.

P roduct experience includes four measurements – freedom of choice, cross-product comparison, comparison necessity and account management (Klaus & Maklan, 2013). Khan et al. (2015) have extended the concept of uniform expectation of a product (hotel) to product experience. Product experience is defined as experiences developed from the features and range of different product/service offerings. Each of the measurements is generally differentiated according to the hotel star rating system.

O utcome focus includes four measurements – inertia, result focus, past experience and common grounding (Klaus & Maklan, 2013). Khan et al. (2015) have operationalized outcome focus experience that “reflects the significance of goal-oriented experiences with the related reduction in customer’s transaction cost. In other words, hoteliers should attempt to access which is the goal-oriented experience that motivates their focused customers to stay in a hotel.

M oment-of-truth happens in the process of customer experiencing interpersonal skills (people interactions), flexibility, pro-activity, service recovery and risk perception when complications arise in the customer journey map (Klaus & Maklan, 2013). Hotel guests form an experience during these moments-of-truth and that becomes not only long lasting but also influences their buying decisions (Khan, et al, 2015).

P eace of Mind is related with the emotional side of service. The emotional attributes are incorporated into process ease, relationship transaction, convenience retention, expertise, familiarity and independent advice (Klaus & Maklan, 2013). These emotional attributes happen in the processes of all the touch points of the service offered. These four major interaction touch points of the hotel guest journey includes making a room reservation, during check-in at the reception, while staying at the hotel and during check-out at the hotel reception (Khan et al, 2015).

Research Methods

This study has observed that constructive crowdsourcing platform of Trip Advisor reviews related to the knowledge of customer experience quality is shared in 3-to-5-star heritage hotels in UNESCO world heritage sites of George town, Penang and Melaka. This study has analysed the content of Trip Advisor hotel guest reviews from 3-to-5-star heritage hotels (boutique and lifestyle hotels). The hotel guest reviews can increase the value of capturing the real essence of sharing unfiltered and candid knowledge (Xie, Zhang, & Zhang, 2014) of real-life heritage hotels services provided by service providers to them (Hendersen et al, 2013).

The population of 3-to-5-star heritage hotels in Penang, George Town is 39 hotels compared to 22 in Melaka. The total 3-to-5-star heritage hotel population for both UNESCO world heritage sites in Malaysia is 61 (Trip Advisor, 2018). Generally, the range of hotel room rate is RM450 and above for 5-star, RM300 to RM449 for 4-star and below RM300 for 3-star hotels in the Trip Advisor Malaysia (2018) heritage hotel reviews.

This study attempts to minimize the problem of fake Hotel guest reviews through a screening process of choosing every heritage hotel with ten or more positive or negative reviews (Choo & Tan, 2017a) from 1st June 2017 to 31st May 2018. The keyword to search for each Trip advisor review is “heritage hotel in Georgetown, Penang and Melaka”. Each heritage hotel is systematically examined by hand to locate the source of positive or negative reviewed feedback from their heritage hotel guests that falls within the elements of customer experience quality measurement. This screening process is also done in accordance with previous researchers (Choo & Tan, 2017a; Zehrer, Crotts, & Magnini, 2011) who have set a similar number of cases in order to enhance the authenticity of their studies. In the CEXQ scorecard, product experience has PE1 to PE 4 (Table 01 ), outcome focus has OF1 to OF4 (Table 02 ), moments-of-truth has MOM1 to MOM5 (Table 03 ), and peace-of-mind has POM1 to POM5 (Table 04 ).

Findings

Descriptive analyses are employed for this study to understand the overall characteristics of heritage hotels better. The analytical approach is employed to analyse data from Trip Advisor reviews concerning positive and negative feedback during customer experience journey touch points of a heritage hotel stay. The descriptive analysis is summarized in a CEXQ scorecard on POMP (Product experience, outcome focus, moment-of-truth and peace-of-mind),

The choice of regular incremental changes or irregular fundamental changes in redesigning strategies for heritage hotel operational excellence is based on the degree of heritage hotel guest negative judgement on experience quality (Girod & Whittington, 2017). The objective of heritage hotel operational management changes is to continuously improve, enhance and differentiate its new and existing service offering(s) aligning to the demand of customer-driven market (Choo, Tan, & Fernando, 2018).

As Trip Advisor is a crowdsourcing platform for online community, Heritage hotel guests’ positive judgment of experience quality increases the likelihood of repeat purchase behaviour and motivate potential new purchase behaviour. Conversely, if frequent heritage hotel guests’ negative judgments of experience quality, decreases the probability of new and re-purchase behaviour. Heritage hotels in Georgetown, Penang and Melaka are evaluated separately and are grouped together into four separate customer experience quality measurement scale -- product experience, outcome focus, moments-of-truth and peace-of-mind (Khan, et al, 2015).

In George Town, Penang, the total percentage of positive reviews from CEXQ scorecard is 90.16%, and that of negative reviews is 9.84%. In Melaka, the total percentage of positive reviews from CEXQ scorecard is 86.5%, and that of negative reviews is 13.5%.

In George Town, Penang, the number of customer experience quality dimension that mainly have more positive feedback from heritage hotel guests is 93.67% for outcome focus, while 89.67% for product experience, and, the number of customer experience quality dimension that mainly have more negative feedback is 11.67% for peace-of-mind, while 11% for moments-of-truth. In Melaka, the number of customer experience quality dimension that mainly have more positive feedback from heritage hotel guests is 96% for outcome focus, while 90.33% for moments-of-truth and the number of customer experience quality dimension with more negative feedback is 29% for product experience, while 12% for peace-of-mind. Detail scorecard of POMP is synthesized as follows

Product experience

In George Town, Penang, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guest positive feedback for product experience is 89.67%, while that of negative reviews is 10.33%. In Melaka, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guest positive feedback for product experience is 71%, while that of negative reviews is 29%. Most common positive feedback on heritage product experience is liken to staying in a unique heritage gem and stepping back in time. Most common negative feedback on heritage product experience is tiring, dirty and rundown hotel rooms. Thus, the need for heritage hoteliers in Malaysia especially Melaka to look into improving on product experience through regular maintenance and refurbishment of heritage hotel rooms. The challenge is complying with the National heritage act 2005 for any maintenance and refurbishment of Malaysian heritage hotels.

Table 1 -
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Outcome Focus

In George Town, Penang, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guests’ positive feedback for outcome focus is 93.67%, and that of negative reviews is 6.33%. In Melaka, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guests’ positive feedback for outcome focus is 96%, and that of negative reviews is 4%. Both heritage hotel guests from Georgetown, Penang and Melaka gave mostly positive feedback on outcome focus. Most common positive feedback comments that Heritage hotel is liken to playing as a gracious host. Playing gracious host makes heritage hotel guests feel welcome and special at home. In fact, these gracious hosts are helping their guests to plan around their needs and to meet their objective of travelling (e.g hotel guest experience of outcome focus). The challenging role of heritage hotel is to innovate new and existing services embedded with personalized customer experiences of outcome focus while respecting heritage hotel guest privacy.

Table 2 -
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Moments-of-truth

In George Town, Penang, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guests’ positive feedback for moments-of-truth is 89%, while that of negative reviews is 11%. In Melaka, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guest positive feedback for moments-of-truth is 90.33%, while that of negative reviews is 9.67%. Overall percentage of heritage hotel guest negative feedback on moments-of-truth is low for both cities in Malaysia Certain heritage hotel operators need to reconfigure or restructure their operations to improve on their positive feedback. Most of the negative feedback is about hosts of the heritage hotel lacking in behavioural (life skill) competency to handle service recovery which certain heritage hotel guests have felt manifestly unjust. If a heritage hotel guest felt unjust, negative evaluation on moments-of-truth could be affected.

Table 3 -
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Peace-of-mind

In George Town, Penang, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guest positive feedback for peace-of-mind is 88.33%, while that of negative reviews is 11.67%. In Melaka, the average total percentage of 3-to-5-star heritage hotel guest positive feedback for peace-of-mind is 88%, while that of negative reviews is 12%. Overall percentage of heritage hotel guests’ negative feedback on peace-of-mind is low for both cities in Malaysia. Certain heritage hotel operators need to reconfigure or restructure their operations to improve on positive feedback. Most feedback given from Heritage hotel guests is about hosts of the heritage hotel offering mechanistic standard of services. Certain hosts of heritage hotels tend to follow hotel standard operating procedure in their daily operational activities when dealing with the needs and expectations of heritage hotel guests. On the other hand, if the host of the heritage hotel happens to be the owner, heritage hotel guests feel that the services tend to be more hospitable and meeting their needs without the hassle of following hotel standard operating procedure, thus creating peace-of-mind experience for hotel guests.

Table 4 -
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Conclusion

Continuous yearly analysis of hotel guest reviews via various choices of identified mediums (e.g. social media, hotel survey questionnaire, online customer relationship management interactions, online digital experience interactions and focus group) should be employed to understand the changing customer-driven market, and shortcomings should be rectified by introducing regular incremental changes or irregular fundamental changes in operational management to continually innovate differentiated new and existing service innovation offerings to hotel guests (Choo, Tan & Fernando, 2018). Exploring the right strategic and operational alignment between delivering differentiated service innovation offerings and meeting expected international recognised total customer experience quality can avoid unnecessary operational losses and increases Malaysian heritage hotel business sustainability. This study posits future qualitative and quantitative heritage hotel research of service innovation on customer experience quality.

Acknowledgments

This study is funded under the Bridging Grant Scheme (304.PPAMC.6316076), which is supported by Universiti Sains Malaysia.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2019.08.12

Online ISSN

2357-1330