Attitudes of Kazakhstani consumers towards experiential hospitality and tourism services

Object: This paper aims to addresses new transformations in customer experience concept form a hospitality perspective. In particular, it studies the attitudes and perceptions of consumers towards the implementation of new experiential offerings in hotel and restaurant sectors on an example of Kazakhstan.

Methods: This research adopts the quantitative research methods with a survey data collection technique. The initial data have been collected by a self administered questionnaire with five point Likert scales and fixed-choice questions to measure attitudes of consumers. This quantitative empirical study applied a probability sampling method and involved random distribution technique. The total sample size was 300 respondents.

Findings: Findings indicate that local consumers have a positive attitude toward new service concepts and experiential hospitality offerings such as “soap/fragrance butler”, “futuristic hotels” and “interactive menu”. However, Kazakhstani consumers prefer direct live communications with service personnel more than interactions with robots and demonstrate relatively negative attitude towards service automation.

Conclusions: The research shows that local hospitality and tourism market is ready for service innovations. Designing customer-oriented experiences can be an integral part of competitive strategies of hospitality companies and helps to find unique ways to attract modern customer segments.

Introduction

Nowadays customer oriented modern companies operating mainly in service sectors are developing a range of experiential marketing strategies, including various incentives that affect a consumer at points of interaction with the company. These incentives may include a traditional or advanced marketing mix. Experiential marketing is used to attract consumers to interact with a company, services or products by increasing consumer engagement through positive emotions. This strategy is specifically designed to ensure that customers receive positive memorable emotions through direct or indirect contact with the company (Gopalani & Shick, 2011). The interaction and the creation of a "unique experience" can take place in three stages: preconsumption, actual and subsequent consumption.

Studying the evolutionary stages of the “customer experience” concept shows that the technology of personalizing any economic offers will gradually go beyond the “experience economy”, the theoretical basis of which was laid by J. Pine and J. Gilmore (Pine & Gilmore, 1998).The development of customer-oriented strategies aimed at creating customer experience has generated a new set of standards, which in turn affects customer expectations. These changes have formed a consumer market that values responsible business practices, which modern companies are trying to reflect through value systems, quality management, and customer oriented corporate cultures. Meanwhile, advanced technologies and ubiquitous access to information leads to a change in the model of relationships between companies and modern consumers. The hospitality industry is turning to technology to meet the challenge of growing customer expectations. Technological innovations, advanced software products, information and communication systems as well as robotics are increasingly used in tourism and hospitality related sectors to improve efficiency of technological operations and service quality (Koutroumanis, 2011). And although the vast majority of businesses are currently seeking for a competitive advantage and trying to create a unique experience for their clients, proactive companies are already beginning to build a new strategy, responding to predicted changes in consumer behaviour (Lindgreen, Vanhamme, J. & Beverland, 2012).

In this regard, this study aims to examine attitudes and perceptions of customers on a unique consumer experience in the Kazakhstani hotel and restaurant service sector. From a conceptual perspective the research focuses on an evaluation of a customer experience strategy briefly discussing modern transformations and shifts from traditional approaches to new differentiation strategies. From a practical side this study represents preliminary data describing changes in consumer behaviour. Furthermore, this study expands understanding of the experience economy and fills a contextual gap by examining consumer attitudes on an example of Kazakh service industry. This research in general seeks to provide an insight into changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour within the new experiences-mediated service environment. On the other hand, the study contributes to the body of knowledge by focusing on consumers' attitudes towards the potential application of hospitality and tourism experiences in emerging economies. This research representing Kazakhstani context gives an insight into Central Asian emerging markets and contributes to a theoretical gap in the literature. Although there are a growing number of publications investigating the effect of customer experiences on attitudes and behaviours, majority of prior works are fragmented by a very specific types of experiences, and therefore do not able to give a complex understanding about consumer attitudes towards various offerings. This paper integrates various forms of experiences (“soap butler”, “interactive menu”, “robotics”, “futuristic and virtual environment”) including simple offerings as well as sophisticated technological services and provides holistic knowledge on this issue.

Literature Review

As indicated by previous studies, modern consumers of hospitality and tourism services are becoming more self-indulgent and increasingly demanding highly personalized extraordinary customer treatment technologies (Bharwani & Jauhari, 2013; Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003; Erdly and Kesterson-Townes, 2003). Although the service quality and customer satisfaction concepts have been sufficiently highlighted in hospitality and tourism literature, transformational changes in customer service experiences have been relatively overlooked (Chen & Chen, 2010). Service experience are usually defined as a set of fillings and emotions emerging as a result of direct or indirect contact with a company and consequently effecting customer satisfaction (Meyer & Schwager, 2007). The modern strategy of consumer experience will be fully focused on human relations, where the value will be more significant and more important than profit. This requires companies to strengthen emotional ties that will go beyond traditional consumer needs. The next stage in the evolutionary process of the “customer experience” concept will be the “human experience” – a new approach to differentiation and growth strategies (Sparks, 2015).

Experts in the field of marketing identify three fundamentals in the evolution of consumer experience, gradually moving into the "human experience":

  1. Transparency. Each action of the company, its corporate values becomes publicly accessible under the influence of advanced technologies and the popularity of social networks. Modern consumers trust and value companies that share their values, actively providing reliable information about themselves and about their actions in the market.
  2. Consumer experience that goes beyond customer interaction. Advanced technology has turned companies into brand ambassadors. This means that anyone who tells the story of a brand or company is now a part of consumer experience. Companies use their brand as a client-oriented strategy allowing customers, employees and partners collectively create the history of a company or its brand, guided by their personal experience.
  3. Substantial consumer experience exceeds basic needs. The development of new technologies in combination with modern customer-oriented strategies allows companies to understand the individual characteristics of customers and improve the service process. Successful companies go beyond traditional needs and try to understand and meet human needs, such as freedom, individuality, and creativity. Companies that recognize value and human needs, in addition to meeting functional needs, are able to provide unforgettable, meaningful impressive and memorable experiences that create benefits and value not only for customers, but also for their employees and business partners.

Positive consumer experience is recognized as an important factor influencing consumer behaviour, including satisfaction and customer loyalty (Becker & Jaakkola, 2020). The hospitality industry is considered as one of the most customer-focused sectors in which customer experience is applied very intensively. The development and provision of a unique consumer experience plays an important role in differentiating hotel or restaurant services. Tech-savvy modern consumers expect product personalization and an individual service at each stage of interaction with a company. According to expert studies, 89 percent of firms expect to compete primarily on the basis of consumer experience, and now this is one of the key strategies used by companies in the hotel and restaurant business. Leading companies in the global hospitality industry, such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Starbucks, Disney keep ahead the competitors mainly due to the creation of a unique consumer experience both offline and online (Kandampully, Zhang & Jaakkola, 2017).

Ensuring a high level of satisfaction and loyalty requires a deep understanding of the main components of consumer experience, which in turn determines the importance of studying and analyzing the perceptions of potential consumers (Cetin & Walls, 2015). Clients and managers may perceive consumer experience in different ways. Studies related to discrepancies between the perception of the consumer and the supplier can give an idea of how to create pleasant impressions, thereby enhancing customer loyalty. According to the “conceptual model of quality of services with five gaps,” what the client considers to be the key attributes of their experience may be completely different from what the service provider believes is already offered as a unique experience (Ghotbabadi, Feiz & Baharun, 2015). Understanding and exploring the discrepancies between customer perception and the service provider allows hotel and restaurant businesses to fill in these gaps accurately and create the best experience.

Methods

This research adopts the quantitative research method with a survey data collection technique. A self administered questionnaire (Table 1) has been designed with five point Likert scales and fixed-choice questions to measure attitudes of consumers.

The data collection process has been divided into 3 continuous stages including 100 (respondents) sample size on each of these stages. Initial data have been collected during the period between August and December, 2019 representing a total sample size of 300 respondents. The sample size is calculated based on

a size of population comprising economically active population of Kazakhstan with a margin oerror 6% aconfidence level of 95(Table 2)Accordinto statisticthe number of economically activpopulatiowhich is considered as potential consumers amounted to 9.2 million people in the second quarter of 201(ZakonKZ, 2019). An optimal sample size for 10 million population liebetween 267 and 384 depending omargin of error which is determinebetween 6- 5% respectively (Saunders et. al, 2019). Duto practicareasons we have increased the sample size fro267 to 300 taking into account the number of potential consumers (9.million). This quantitative empirical study applied a probability sampling method and involverandom distribution technique.

Population

Size

Confidence Level 95%

Margin of Error %

6%

5%

1000

211

278

2000

235

322

5000

253

357

10 000

260

370

100 000

266

383

1 000 000

267

384

10 000 000

267

384

Note - Adopted froSaunders et. al (2019)

Table 2. Sample size calculation

The response rate of study was 76 percent representin228 respondents who use the services of restaurants and hotels in Kazakhstan on permanent basis and defined as potential consumers of hospitality antourism experiences. The demographic profile showed that these respondents are mainly people of active agwho usualltake business trips around the country for business purposes.

Results

Preliminary research findingshowed that 50% of respondents are willing to get more impressionin addition with usual service, which will significantly influence on their memories and will have a deeimpact on customer return. 21.3of respondents stayeneutral owing to the fact that thedidn't havpreviously any experiences filled by memorable emotions/impressions. Among the respondents there arthose who expressed complete disagreement with additional surprises. But in general, findings indicatethat the majority of Kazakhstani consumers orestaurant and hotel services are not opposed to receivinpleasant impressions ithe form of unique surprises (memorable experiences) exceeding their expectations.

The experiential services sucas “Soap Butler” or “Fragrance Butler” are nofamiliar to the majoritof Kazakhstani consumers. Only 41.07% of respondents demonstrate positive attitude towards soap or fragrance butler services, while approximately 34% of survey participants expressea neutral opinion, anabout 10% of the respondents are not willing to accept this type of service.

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In thmodern global service industries an increasing attention is paid to innovations and implementatioof advancetechnological business concepts. Foexample, the use of the “Interactive menu” is becoming verpopular worldwide and this trend iadditionallsupported by research findings indicating that 41.7% of respondents have a relatively positive attitude towards advanced restaurant technologieand about 18% of fullagreed respondents are ready to accept such innovations, while 5.36% demonstrate a negative attitude towardinteractive menu. Approximately 29of respondents maintained a neutraopinion on this issue.

44

Bulletin of the Karaganda University

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Robotization today is very important in all spheres including the service sector. The “robot room service” was supported b25% of respondents and 9% fully accept this type of service. On the other hand37.50% of respondents showed neutral opinion and only 3.57% of respondents disagree with throbotizatioof hotel services.

Modern sophisticated consumers of hotel services expect servicebeyond thusual, and hotel industries worldwide are responding to these new emerging trends dictated bchanges iconsumer behaviour bcreating highly differentiated servicexperiences. Similarly46.43% of Kazakhstani consumers agree to stain hotels with a futuristic concept, another 28.57% also support this ideexpressing their agreement with thconcept, and we see that Kazakhstani consumers are readfor changes in the hotel concepts. Remainin14.29% of consumers expressed a neutral opinion, while 3.57% of respondents disagreed with this concept.

Discussion

In today's competitive markesimply providing highequality of services is not sufficient. To sustain competitivadvantage (Slatten, Krogh, & Connolley, 2011) firms neeto adopt strategic marketing logithat focuseon a process of designing experiential offerings facilitatinpositive memories at subconscioulevel (Lindgreen, Vanhamme, J. & Beverland, 2012). On the other hand, the competitive advantage is ensured by thright investment strategy, in particular, investment in new technologies. Recent studies showethat the buying behaviour of generation segments (especially Y and Z) is determined by an attitude towardinnovative technologie(Kazandzhieva and Filipova, 2019; Aldebert et al., 2010) therefore investing itechnology-enhanced experiences might be timely decision for many companies. These investments can bquite expensive for a hotel company, but in case of findineconomically efficient ways of implementatiocan bring great benefitfrom their use. Enhancing the quality of customer experiences by new technologiewill increase the demand for tourisand hospitality services. Moreover, continuouresearch oa consumemarket and the implementation of data analysisystems within the firms will allodomestic companies tbetter understand the choice of a consumer and as a positivoutcome enables to offer more customized service experiences.

We argue that bstudying and understanding consumer attitudeand preferences we caunderstanwhat kind of memorable experiences will meethe real needs of customers and potential consumers. Furthermore, clear knowledge about attitudes of consumers toward experiential services will facilitate the decision makinprocess oKazakhstani firms and help to employ efficiencustomer-oriented strategies, whicin turn, transforms the service culture as well as its quality. We found that Kazakhstani consumers have positive attitude towards service experiences including interactions with advancetechnologies (futuristihotels and interactive menu). Previous studies indicate that transforming regular services intmemorablexperienceeffects positively customer attitudeand significantly influences customer satisfaction and loyalty (Grewall et al. 2019; Foroudi et al., 2018). In this regard, findings of the current study are in line with earlier researcand offers additional contributionto existing literature oKazakhstani context. Furthermorethe researcmakes an original contribution to the growing body of knowledge from the emergineconomieperspective. It also advances fragmented theoretical knowledge investigating the nature and impact of customer experiences through systematic and complex approach to behavioural studiewith the detailed focuon various types of experiential services. However, this research has some limitations implying sample size and findings that cannot be generalized to specific categories of consumers. In this regard, we suggest future research related to this topic to consider attitudes and behaviours of Y and Z generations since they are becoming future growing segments.

Conclusions

This study provides industrial recommendations and valuable information to hospitality, tourism, marketing and service industries practitioners operating in Kazakhstan as it represents a holistic understanding of modern consumers' attitudes and behaviour. Through its interdisciplinary focus initiating theoretical and practical implications from hospitality, tourism, marketing, and service industries perspectives this research produced the data to facilitate decision making process of service-oriented firms. As can be seen from the survey, modern Kazakh consumers are willing to accept innovative services, and demonstrate positive attitude towards memorable experiences. The study also indicates that local hospitality and tourism market is ready for service innovations and it can be concluded that designing customer-oriented experiences can be an integral part of competitive strategies of hospitality companies and helps to find unique ways to attract modern customer segments.

This research in general provides an insight into changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour within the new experiences-mediated service environment. Moreover, the research expands understanding of the experience economy and fills a contextual as well as theoretical gap by generating holistic knowledge on various forms of customer experiences, simultaneously giving the insight into an emerging Central Asian market represented by the case of Kazakhstan.

 

References

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Year: 2020
City: Karaganda
Category: Economy