A study of the consumer decision process for hospitality services
The purpose of the study was to investigate the consumer decision process for hospitality services, with particular reference to the interactions occuring between the consumer and the producer during service delivery. As the hospitality industry is very diverse, the hotel short break product was selected as the locus for the study. At the outset, a hypothetical model of the consumer decision process was constructed, drawing on the characteristics of hospitality services and the differing perspectives of the consumer and the producer. In order to generate a grounded theory which would help to explain the consumer decision process, data was collected by personal interview prior to, during and after the hotel short break. The interview data was then transcribed and analysed using the constant comparative method developed by Glaser and Strauss. Following this, a secondary method of analysis derived from Kelly's personal construct theory was used to elaborate the theoretical framework. To identify decision-making similarities and differences more clearly, each interview was re-constructed in the form of an interactive computerbased cognitive model using- a software program called Cognitive Policy Evaluation (COPE). The output from the models, in the . form of cognitive maps depicting themed relationships, was used to illustrate decision process relationships and distinguish between consumers with extensive and limited prior product experience. The hypothetical model was supported by the study findings which showed that prior experience of the product category and the perceived importance of the purchase occasion influence the level of consumer involvement in the decision process, and thereby the range and type of decision-making activities which are undertaken. The findings also illustrate the value of prior product experience and involvement as segmentation variables by revealing sub-group characteristics relating to the selection, assessment and evaluation of hospitality services. They include notable differences in the operation of personal category systems during pre-purchase and the personal rating systems used by consumers during the consumption and postconsumption evaluation stages of the decision process.