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Title: Customer experience with the application of self-service technology in hotels in China : a high-tech or high-touch debate
Authors: Liu, Chun
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2019
Abstract: With ever-increasing advances in technology, self-service technologies (SSTs) that enable customers to have independent experiences with minimal service employees' involvement have shown potential to supplement or replace personal services. Hotels are no exception to the investment in various SST applications. Accompanying these rapid technological developments is a debate on high technology versus high touch, which has yet to be solved. Although scholars have begun to examine customers' adoption of SST and its outcomes, relevant research streams have overlooked the multi-channel nature of service delivery and organizational opinions, particularly in a hotel context. Therefore, this research adopted a sequential mixed method (60 in-depth interviews followed by two rounds of surveys) to develop a framework to elucidate how customers and hoteliers construct preferences for SSTs compared with human services during hotel service delivery, from an experiential perspective. Specifically, this study examined whether the customer experience is enhanced by SSTs compared to conventional human services. Findings revealed that customers and hoteliers often take service employees into consideration when making decisions on SST adoption. Customers'and hoteliers' preferences between SSTs and service employees are rather sequences of channel choices during the hotel service delivery process than binary choices. The quantitative study also indicated that overall, customers expressed a greater preference for smartphone-based SSTs, whereas hoteliers tended to favor self-service kiosks for customer check-in/-out. Based on the qualitative results, this study developed a hierarchical framework which unveils the mechanism of preference construction. The external environment, middle organizational context, and core customer experience with service encounters interplayed and influenced customers' and hoteliers' preference construction. Findings from the quantitative study facilitated the development of a commensurate measurement scale (5 dimensions covering 22 items) for customer experience with SSTs and human services. The study further revealed discrepancies between customer experience with SSTs and human services and identified those experience discrepancies explained the most variances in customers' and hoteliers' preferences for SSTs to human services. Overall, fresh experience contributed least compared with the other four experience dimensions (i.e., affective, cognitive, actional, and social experiences). Moreover, three clusters of customers were identified based on customers' preferences at different service delivery stages, namely "innovative users of SSTs", "actional non-users of robots", and "neurotic non-users of SSTs". The three customer segments were distinct across demographics (e.g., age, type of employment, and education level), times of travel and used hotel SSTs within the past 12 months, personal innovativeness in technology, personality, customer experiences with SSTs, and experience discrepancies. Considering the crucial roles of customer responses and practitioners' opinions on successful application and promotion of new technology, this study enriched the knowledge of SSTs, enhanced understanding of experience economy, and promoted expertise around the influences of human services. This research also revealed constructive practical implications for real-world application of SSTs, including rational decisions about high-tech investment and effective service channel management strategies.
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Hospitality industry -- Technological innovations
Hospitality industry -- Customer services
Consumer behavior
Pages: xiii, ii, 372 pages : color illustrations
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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