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The reinforcement power of this feedback loop strengthens the customer service culture to the point where it has become for HMS Host a source of competitive advantage.
Another way in which HMSHost develops its customer service expertise is through its partnerships. The company utilizes these partnerships to institute a two-way transfer of a wide range of competencies, including technology, logistics and training (QSR Magazine, 2002). These partnerships allow partners like Starbucks and Burger King to contribute their own strong customer service values to HMS managers, who can in turn transfer this knowledge throughout the organization. This infusion of creativity allows for a wider range of ideas and best practices to be introduced into the organization, thereby enhancing organizational learning. The same occurred when HMSHost was taken over by Autogrill -- the parent company was able to influence customer service standards and bring in new ideas with regards to enhancing the customer service function.
Assessment and Recommendations. For the most part, HMSHost is able to live up to its standards. This is evidenced by the firm's profitability, its ability to win new contracts, and its ability to win customer service awards. There is little evidence available to indicate that HMSHost is having difficulty meeting and maintaining its high customer service standards.
This success, however, does not mean that there is not room for improvement. There are several steps that the company can take in order to improve its customer service function. One step is through the improved use of benchmarking. Currently, the company only benchmarks its service against its own standards. Customers, however, do not take this approach. A firm in the airline industry, Etihad, has revolutionized the concept of benchmarking in its corner of the hospitality industry by benchmarking not against itself or against other airlines, but against all hospitality firms, including luxury hotels and restaurants. This has enabled that company to achieve standards of service not previously achieved by an airline (Turner, 2009). The most direct benchmarking corollaries for HMSHost would be airlines -- including Etihad -- since HMSHost customers are traveling on airlines. Another direct benchmark would be food service operations -- all restaurants not just in the casual and fast food sectors. Customers have experience with all types of restaurant and retail experiences and will mentally benchmark HMSHost operations against those experiences. The company, therefore, can improve its customer service function through enhanced benchmarking, by expanding the firms against which it benchmarks its customer service.
Another way for HMSHost to improve its customer service function is to reduce its employee turnover rates. The company is not subject to abnormal rates for the industry, but the food service industry is noted for high turnover rates. New employees often have a lower capability to implement stringent customer service standards than do experienced employees. By reducing turnover, HMSHost has the opportunity to increase the amount of training each employee receives. In addition, the steps taken to reduce turnover would increase employee satisfaction, since there is a correlation between the two. By improving employee satisfaction, the company would improve customer service because satisfied employees are more likely to deliver a higher standard of service than employees who are dissatisfied.
HMSHost has enjoyed tremendous success in part because of its strong customer service orientation. This focus is backed up by a number of different, formalized systems within the company, including written customer service standards to which the company's associates are expected to adhere. In addition, HMS Host engages in active learning, in particular through its relationships with delivery partners like Burger King and Starbucks. Despite its successes in customer service, HMSHost could still improve by expanding its benchmarking program and by reducing turnover.
HMS Host website. Various pages. (2010). Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.hmshost.com
No author. (2010). Host/Hostess. Simply Hired. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.simplyhired.com/job-id/jv4ritjh67/host-hostess-jobs/
QSR Magazine. (2002). HMSHost and Burger King improve efficiency with a two-phase kitchen upgrade. QSR Magazine. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.qsrmagazine.com/articles/news/story.phtml?id=3641
Turner, C. (2009). How Etihad's marketing set new global airline standards. UTalkMarketing.com. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.utalkmarketing.com/Pages/Article.aspx?ArticleID=11214&Title=How_Etihad%27s_marketing_set_new_global_airline_standards[continue]
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Vedanta believed that the company overall was undervalued; Hewitt was trying to avoid the loss of a major segment of business. Overall, merger and acquisition activity has been relatively slow in recent years. However, firms are still trying to find ways to defend their position (GM, Hewitt) and other firms are attempting to creatively extract new value through their transactions (Exxon, a-B/InBev, Vedanta). As long as there are shifting environmental