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.
About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 78 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu.
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