Communication across cultures? An intercultural approach to customer service in the hotel industry: a study with globally branded hotels in the United Kingdom

Daskalaki, Eirini (2016) Communication across cultures? An intercultural approach to customer service in the hotel industry: a study with globally branded hotels in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In a professional and business-social context such as that of global hotel brands in the United Kingdom, intercultural communication, contacts and relationships are found at the heart of daily operations and of customer service. A large part of the clientele base of hotels in the United Kingdom is formed by individuals who belong to different cultural groups that travel in the country either for leisure or business. At the same time, the global workforce which is recruited in the hotel industry in the United Kingdom is a reality here to stay. Global travelling and labor work mobility are phenomena which have been generated by changes which occur on a socio-economic, cultural and political level due to the phenomenon of globalization. The hotel industry is therefore well acquainted with the essence of different cultures either to be accommodated within hotel premises, as in the case of external customers, or of diversity management where different cultures are recruited in the hotel industry, as in the case of internal customers.
This thesis derives from research conducted on eight different global hotel brands in the United Kingdom in particular, with reference to three, four and five star categories. The research aimed to answer the question of how hotels are organized in order to address issues of intercultural communication during customer service and if intercultural barriers arise during the intercultural interaction of hotel staff and global customers. So as to understand how global hotel brands operate the research carried out focused in three main areas relating to each hotel: organizational culture, customer service–customer care and intercultural issues. The study utilized qualitative interviews with hotel management staff and non-management staff from different cultural backgrounds, public space observations between customers and staff during check-in and checkout in the reception area and during dining at the café-bar and restaurant. Thematic analysis was also applied to the official web page of each hotel and to job advertisements to enhance the findings from the interviews and the observations. For the process of analysis of the data interpretive (hermeneutic) phenomenology of Martin Heidegger has been applied.
Generally, it was found that hotel staff quite often feel perplexed by how to deal with and how to overcome, for instance, language barriers and religious issues and how to interpret non verbal behaviors or matters on food culture relating to the intercultural aspect of customer service. In addition, it was interesting to find that attention to excellent customer service on the part of hotel staff is a top organizational value and customer care is a priority. Despite that, the participating hotel brands appear to have not yet, realized how intercultural barriers can affect the daily operation of the hotel, the job performance and the psychology of hotel staff. Employees indicated that they were keen to receive diversity training, provided by their organizations, so as to learn about different cultural needs and expand their intercultural skills. The notion of diversity training in global hotel brands is based on the sense that one of the multiple aims of diversity management as a practice and policy in the workplace of hotels is the better understanding of intercultural differences. Therefore global hotel brands can consider diversity training as a practice which will benefit their hotel staff and clientele base at the same time. This can have a distinctive organizational advantage for organizational affairs in the hotel industry, with potential to influence the effectiveness and performance of hotels.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Global hotel brands, intercultural communication, customer service, intercultural barriers, diversity training.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Creativity Culture and Faith
Supervisor's Name: Phipps, Professor Alison and Crichton, Dr. Hazel
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ms Eirini Daskalaki
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7753
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2016 16:26
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2016 09:26

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