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Introduction

Service is about people, how they relate to one another, fulfill each other’s needs, and ultimately care for each other. There are literally thousands of books and articles written on the subject of service satisfaction. Yet few, if any, focus on the detailed specifics of the social exchange and interaction between service provider and customer. Socially engineering that process in a complex bureaucratic organization, to fulfill the customer’s expectations via the service agent in a direct or indirect exchange of communication, requires normative guidelines acceptable to all the participants. That takes specifics, and we hope to start defining that process. This book attempts to start defining the specific kinds of verbal and

nonverbal messages needed for successful exchanges. It goes a step further by outlining how the service provider ought to behave in different situations. Few adults like to be told how to behave, but the service process is not immune from an analytic perspective detailing positive approaches that enhance a service provider’s role performance. After years of observing service providers at work and being part of the system as participant observers, we offer up what works pragmatically so far, and compare these findings with recommendations by experts. This is not the “be all and end all” – role interactive performances are being refined and added to, even as this text is being written. The goal is also to serve as a reference to the most current literature that addresses the service provider-customer interaction process so that students and practitioners may build upon it. Our emphasis evaluates coping along the frontline as a service provider.

Coping is so important in the hospitality and personal services sector because customers become part of a tourist situation for a very short time. Maximizing their gain during that time is critical to customer loyalty and success. Researchers have quite successfully pointed out that the frontline is an important part of the bottom line in profit and personal customer satisfaction (Heskett et al., 1997). The ultimate value an organization can communicate, according to what we have seen, is the personal touch. Tailoring the service to the customer by reaching out to them, but keeping a perspective on the reality of a mass market, is woven through many of the studies on enhancing customer satisfaction (Noe, 1999, pp. 95-96). Interpersonal techniques and

strategies are proposed to enhance customer perceptions and promote employees’ performance and self-esteem. Simplifying the bottom line in this book can be summarized into two

commandments of service. One: “Do unto your internal customers as you would have them do unto your external customers” (Brown, 1995, p. 11). In other words, take care of your employees, take good care of them, be concerned for their wellbeing, and invest in them. Two: “Always treat a customer as if he will remain a customer. Never treat him as though this is the last time you’ll see him” (Carr, 1990, p. 169). Both commandments lead to loyalty, promoting profits, corporate growth, and longevity. The following chapter outline details the simple and compact structure of

this book. Chapters 1 and 2 define encounter theory, the theoretical model of social relationships, and situations upon which observations are premised. Chapters 3 and 4 recognize the importance of the manager’s role and the market segment that is being sought. Chapters 5 and 6 describe positioning the service provider role and ways of appealing positively to both customer and provider roles through communication. Chapter 7 designs the role model for service providers – how they should react, project, and promote a positive posture or attitude when interacting with the customer. Chapter 8 goes beyond just attempting to ensure customer satisfaction, setting a higher mark of achieving a more complete state of customer loyalty. Finally, Chapter 9 presents conclusions and future directions for inquiry. Who should be interested in this compendium? The intended readers are

students and practitioners in the hospitality field, from the frontline to the back office. A sharply focused review was always our intention. Practitioners should not underestimate the recent increased competition among tourism providers (Kandampully, 2007) and the consequent need to deliver toprate frontline service. It builds heavily on the most recent works of those in business, tourism, and social psychology. Also, it follows upon an earlier study by one of the authors on tourist service satisfaction in the hotel, transportation, and recreation segments of the travel tourism industry.