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Title: Exploring the development of customer loyalty in the hotel industry
Author: Alharethi, Thaib
ISNI:       0000 0004 8510 6663
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2020
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In fierce competitive markets, service industries have moved toward paying better attention and emphasis than before to customer loyalty rather than concentrating on acquiring and attracting new customers. (Shoemaker and Lewis, 1999). Kandampully et al. (2018) have highlighted a survey by Gartner (2014) which stated that 89 per cent of hospitality businesses “expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, and it is now one of the key strategies adopted by hospitality firms” (p.22). Customer experience as this research proposed is a key element that leads to customer loyalty. This research aimed to explore the complexity of customer loyalty in the hotel industry and it has looked at this topic from different points of view. This research aimed to understand the process of the development of customer loyalty. In so doing, the research investigated the differences that exist between loyal customers at different stages of loyalty in terms of their actions, commitment, attachment and sense of belonging to their preferred business. In order to be able to examine these different types of loyalty, the research also took into consideration the inputs that businesses have to offer to their customers and their effects on the level and strength of customer loyalty, using factors such as includes customer engagement, personalization and value creation as well as recognition and appreciation. This research has studied the concept of loyalty and the complexity of its meaning by investigating the current literature, applications and existing practices. It has taken an approach that looks beyond behavioral loyalty and expands it into all aspects of customer-business relationships. After considerable investigation and thought, the researcher arrived at a conceptual model proposing the idea of the customer loyalty stages and transitions. Then, the researcher developed a semi-structured interview protocol to explore the possibility of the workability and feasibility of the proposed conceptual model. This process gave the researcher the confidence and trust needed in the proposed conceptual model. Thereafter, the researcher investigated the literature once more in order to develop the eight scales needed for the main study instrument. The researcher developed items for eight scales with some items drawn from the literature and others added from the preliminary study interviews. The researcher used Q-sort method and employed 40 participants to validate the items for these chosen scales. This method resulted in purified and trusted scales that the researcher had the confidence to use in the main study instrument. Following this, the researcher conducted a pilot study that included experts from academia and industry to establish the validity of the survey instrument. After launching the main instrument and receiving survey responses, the researchers used the different types of analysis that are explained in detail in the analysis of finding chapter. This research employed multiple analysis approaches at different stages such as exploratory factor analysis, reliability test, T-test and ANOVA, regression analysis, cluster analysis and others. These analysis approaches helped to confirm the research measurements, the scales for the four loyalty stages and four loyalty transitions, and verified and validated the proposed conceptual model as well as confirming all the research hypotheses. This study has five significant theoretical and methodological contributions. First, it identifies four different stages of loyalty, with behavioral loyalty stage being the first but not necessarily the most important. Second, we examined the practices and inputs that hotels can offer to encourage loyalty and the different inputs for each of the four stages of loyalty, named as loyalty transitions, and identified the direct link and relationship between loyalty stage stages and its transition. Third, eight scales have been developed, tested and validated and considered as methodological, theoretical and practical contributions. Fourth, this study has also used different types of analysis methods such as q-sort and cluster analysis alongside with other methods and, fifth, confirmation of the research model that proposed the idea of the customer loyalty development and movement from one loyalty stage to another. In addition to the motivating theoretical and methodological contributions this research has added, multiple exciting outcomes would add value to the hospitality industry. Examples of these are that this research has provided a holistic picture of the customer loyalty journey in the hotel industry and the research model will enable hotel managers and employees to have a better understanding of their current customer. Furthermore, it has developed and shaped reliable and valuable measurements and scales for customer loyalty stages and transitions, which will support human resource departments, relationship marketing strategists and planners to please, satisfy and recognize their customer. Additionally, this research has stressed on the importance and effects of human interaction and relationship on customer loyalty development. Finally, this research has found physical wonders play an introductory level in the customer loyalty journey, where the relationship and customer experiences played significant roles in the development of customer loyalty, which is the goal and objective each business would want to achieve.
Supervisor: Lundberg, Christine ; Lockwood, Andrew Sponsor: King Abdulaziz University Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral