Managing employee customer service interpersonal exchanges in the hospitality industry: a New Zealand hotel case study
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The continued growth of service industries and the development of the experience economy has highlighted the need for employees to have extensive social and interpersonal skills. The need for employee interpersonal skills is further emphasised by the extensive interaction between employees and customers, during the provision of customer service, in full service hotels. Despite the heterogeneous nature of the customer service environment, management expect that a consistent level of service will be maintained, while customers desire a unique experience that meets or exceeds their individual expectations. To ensure that both the needs of the organisation and customers are consistently met, management control of employee actions and behaviours is required.The aim of this study was to identify how hotel organisations and managers control employee interpersonal interactions with customers. The research also sought to identify the interpersonal and emotional capabilities employers require from employees to meet the needs of customers and present the desired corporate image. A qualitative, case study, research methodology was applied to understand the expectations of managers, the issues concerning managing employee interactions with customers, perceptions of employee capabilities, and beliefs about current management control strategies in a hotel environment. The research was conducted at four hotel properties belonging to one international hotel group. The data gathering methods included semi-structured interviews, documentation review and field notes.The research concluded that effective alignment of employee and management goal congruence first requires the alignment of managers' goals to the organisation. To ensure management's expectations, customers' expectations and employee actions and behaviours are aligned, management must also have a sound understanding of the organisation's brand and desired image. Cultural and social control mechanisms were found to be important, as they provided a consistent method of aligning employees' behaviour with the goals and expectations of management. The development of social cohesion and norms, through serial and investiture socialisation mechanisms, also helped to create self-managing teams that reinforced the goals of management. The study suggests that, due to the increasing diversity of the stakeholders' views and goals, some of the traditional management perspectives of hospitality may need to change to meet the needs of contemporary employees.