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October 26, 2012

Cornell Center for Hospitality Research Studies Focus on Service Improvement

(Ithaca, NY/USA – 22 October 2012) Two new studies from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) at the School of Hotel Administration are aimed at helping hospitality operators improve customer service-by effective application of service scripts and by using human resources marketing. The key to service scripting is to match the script to the service, in terms of how strictly the script is followed. Human resources marketing allows hospitality managers to attract, select, and retain employees who are best matched to the firm. Both studies are available at no charge from the CHR website.

Hotel and restaurant guests can quickly tell when an employee is using a script, but a new study from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research explains how hospitality managers can gain the most benefit from scripts so that customer perceptions will be positively influenced. The study, “Service Scripting and Authenticity: Insights for the Hospitality Industry,” by Liana Victorino, Alexander R. Bolinger, and Rohit Verma, is available at no charge from the CHR at http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/reports/abstract-16380.html. Victorino is an assistant professor at the University of Victoria, Bolinger is an assistant professor at the University of Idaho, and Verma is a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

When they asked more than 2,400 U.S. hospitality customers for their views of scripts, the researchers found that almost half of the consumers had a negative view of scripting. However, another one-third of the respondents were favorable to scripts. According to Victorino, a big part of this difference relates to two different aspects of service: how the guests are treated versus how well or consistently the task is completed.

“When we investigated guests’ attitudes toward scripts, it became clear that guests mainly associated scripted service with either consistency and assurance perceptions or with treatment effects,” she said. “Some of the respondents highlighted their appreciation for scripted service because they knew the task would be completed correctly and consistently across encounters and employees. But more of the respondents focused on how scripts affected the way they were treated during the encounter and had negative perceptions toward strictly scripted service.”

Victorino added that guests’ dislike of scripts is compounded when they detect what is known as “surface acting,” which occurs when employees are clearly just going through the motions of a script. Authenticity of employees-or at least the appearance of being sincere-is essential. Given that scripts ensure that service tasks are completed correctly, the study suggests four scripting strategies to improve the way scripts are applied. Hospitality managers need to assess the balance between task and treatment, determine when flexible scripts may be more appropriate, train employees to be more authentic in script delivery, and gain employees’ buy-in by having them assist with script design.

Cornell Report Applies Brand Management Principles to Human Resources
Just as a hospitality firm needs to promote a clear concept for customers, companies also need to demonstrate a clear image for their employees. By applying product and service branding concepts to human resources, a hospitality firm can attract, select, and retain employees who best match its corporate culture.

The concept of HR branding is explained in a new report from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, “HR Branding: How HR Can Learn from Product and Service Branding to Improve Attraction, Selection, and Retention,” by Derrick Kim and Michael Sturman. Kim is a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, where Sturman is the Kenneth and Marjorie Blanchard Professor of Human Resources. The report is available at no charge from the CHR, at http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/reports/abstract-16400.html.

“We identify some hospitality companies that are applying the principles of HR branding,” said Sturman, “including Disney, Four Seasons, Harrah’s, Korean Air, Marriott, McDonald’s, Sofitel, Starbucks, and Starwood. These examples demonstrate the importance of HR brand management. This includes managing your firm’s reputation, culture, and HR value proposition.” He added that while these hospitality companies use elements of HR branding, comprehensive brand management programs are still relatively rare industry wide.

Most important, Kim and Sturman see HR branding as a strategy for improving customer service, since the company will attract and retain the employees that have the best fit with its corporate strategy.

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