Customer satisfaction is a critical subject among businesses because it helps them understand how consumers perceive their products and services. Luxury hotels would be interested to know how customers feel about their services and use this information to make necessary improvements. Therefore, the emergence and deployment of smart technologies can be perceived as a response to changing customer needs. Therefore, the concepts of customer experience and satisfaction will need to be explored in this context. Most importantly, many scholars believe that smart technologies are intended to enhance the consumer experience. This is a theoretical hypothesis that will need to be proven using primary data.
The adoption of new technologies has been a common phenomenon across all sectors and industries. The accommodation or the hotel industry has experienced similar trends where smart technologies have become a necessity. The essence of smart technologies in luxury hotels has been to improve the consumer experience. In Asia, such countries as Japan and China have been among the leading countries to embrace and implement smart hotels. For example, Henn-na is considered to be the first smart hotel built in 2015 in Japan, which was operated through fully automated robots and devices (Peng and Zhang, 2020, p. 536). China has followed this trend where new contactless hotels comprising unmanned hotel rides and other forms of service automation have emerged (Yao, 2020, para. 1). The concept of smart hotels has attracted significant scholarly attention where the main focus has majorly been on the consumer experiences with these innovations (Xuan & Pan, 2021, p. 116). With these developments, it is important to understand how consumers feel about smart technologies, especially their experiences.
Consumer experience and satisfaction are critical research topics majorly because marketers depend on this information to make critical product and service decisions. Smart technologies in luxury hotels remain a novel subject, which means that there are still massive gaps that need to be filled. The available literature focuses on what smart technologies are and how they are intended to serve customers. However, very little has been done to explore how customers feel about the technologies and to determine those factors that tend to affect customers’ perceptions of smart hotels.
The services offered in hotels are diverse, which explains why these businesses employ many front-line workers. Examples include cleaning, chefs, reservation ticket agents, planners, clerks, and management staff. Smart technologies can be used to replace several of these positions, as illustrated by examples hotels employing only two staff members (TeamTrilyo, 2018, para. 1). The rest of the positions have been offered to smart machines, especially with the advances in artificial intelligence. A critical question that needs to be addressed in this new operational design is how the robots and other machines deployed affect consumer experience. Additionally, the quality of contactless services remains unexplored, which means that massive research gaps have been left. However, this research may not be based on the assumption that all luxury hotels have become contactless.
- How do smart technologies affect performance expectancy in Chinese hotels?
- How do smart technologies in the Chinese hotel industry affect social bonding?
- How does technology affection is achieved in Chinese luxury hotels?
- How does technology dependence enhance the customer experience in Chinese hotels?
- How does technology readiness in affect guest experience in Chinese hotels?
- How does technology innovativeness enhance the guest experience in Chinese hotels?
- What is the role of smart technologies in creating technology identity in Chinese luxury hotels?
This study seeks to fill a critical gap in research on the subject of customer experience and satisfaction with luxury hotels. The available body literature is founded on the notion that services offered in the hotel industry require getting into contact with the consumers. In such a case, the quality of service and how workers present themselves to clients affect customer experience. In the new mode of operation where smart technologies have been integrated, new packages of services are emerging and which are not adequately studied.
Review of Literature
The term customer experience can be defined based on multiple perspectives. First, customer experience can be used to insinuate the internal and subjective reactions to the contact between a customer and a business (Pei, et al., 2020). In this case, the elements that comprise customer experience include the quality of such services as packaging, advertising, user-friendliness, reliability of service or product, or function (Hult et al., 2019, p. 11). Second, customer experience can be described as emanating from consumers’ feelings of various levels, which include psychology, rationale, emotion, and mentality (Sebald and Jacob, 2020, p. 319). With these definitions, it is important to acknowledge that customer experience involves all points of contact, from the initial product research to the final consumption (Otterbring and Lu, 2018, p. 456). Therefore, customer experience can be used to imply what the customer goes through during the buying process.
Customer satisfaction may also be used in the same way as customer experience. However, it is important to highlight the difference between the two and how they will be used in the research. According to Pakurár et al. (2019, p. 3), customer satisfaction tends to measure organizational performance according to the needs of the consumers. Therefore, the feedback from the consumers is the foundation upon which their levels of satisfaction can be estimated, especially after the consumption has taken place (Al-jazzazi & Sultan, 2017, p. 275). Most importantly, customer satisfaction can be described as the feeling regarding the output of an evaluation process, which is often used to compare expectations against what is received (Sultana et al., 2016, p. 98). Similar to customer experience, customer satisfaction is also an assessment of the feelings towards products, services, of the entity offering them.
With these distinctions, the research hopes to use customer satisfaction as an indicator of overall customer experience. The available research has made considerable efforts to explore what smart technologies are and how they are deployed in luxury hotels. It is important to acknowledge that the consensus among scholars is that smart technologies are intended to improve customer experience, and the cases studied tend to confirm this observation. Examples include the study by Amer and Alqhtani (2019, p. 11), who introduce the concept of the internet of things (IoT) to imply new devices and technologies that offer sophisticated service while respecting their privacy. Similar findings have been obtained by Maglovska and Dimitrov (2020, p. 420), who expressed that the IoT is used by luxury hotels to make their experiences memorable. Therefore, these scholars confirm that smart technologies have been intended for and are used to pursue enhanced customer experiences.
The mechanisms by which smart technologies improve customer experience have also been studied. Such scholars as Khalid (2016, p. 100) express that hotels are always seeking to make guests feel comfortable and, in some cases, replicate the feeling of being home. Smart hotels pursue this end by automating everything that the guests want to forget. Examples include messaging, finding the rooms, lights, room cleaning, room service, and in-room entertainment. Smart hotels also involve voice-controlled rooms, mobile-controlled tasks, touch-controlled panels, motion sensor lights, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and energy-efficient rooms (Tyagi and Patvekar, 2019, pp. 1314-15). These initiatives have the effect of simplifying life and the stay of guests in luxury hotels.
While the luxury hotels have made the initiatives to implement smart technologies, it must be understood that the customers have had a critical role to play. Most notably, current literature explains how customer experience is created, sometimes through addressing customer desires and requests (Buhalis and Leung, 2018, p. 43; Ramgade and Kumar, 2021, p. 110). In any business, customer satisfaction is the result of being happy with the product or service. Luxury hotels may operate differently from ordinary hotels that deal with affordability as the main tool for customer attraction. The argument is that luxury hotels attract customers looking for quality services and hoping to build the best experiences possible. Therefore, smart hotels can be deemed a necessity driven by the dynamics in customer preferences.
This argument can be supported by evidence that many hotels tend to leverage customer satisfaction on the use of technological applications to the service operations. Xu and Li (2016; Kuo, Chen, and Tseng, 2017) hold this position and argue that service innovation is often the term used by scholars to refer to broader technological advancements in the production of services. As explained by Truong, et al. (2020, p. 310), the hotel industry is extremely competitive. This means that many businesses have to create memorable experiences to ensure their survival.
The above literature can be critiqued on several grounds depending on the extent to which it supports the current study. First, it is important to acknowledge that a visible connection between customer experience and smart technologies has been illustrated. Second, many of the dynamics surrounding the deployment of smart technologies have been explored. Lastly, the customers have been shown to play a critical part in the deployment of new technologies by making requests and expressing their desires. However, the major criticism is the fact that several gaps still remain, which need to be addressed. Crucially, the current literature illustrates the reason for smart technologies and explains how it enhances customer experience. However, this position remains only a hypothesis that needs to be tested before it can be accepted as a true theory. With these gaps, it is apparent that primary is needed, which is to be collected from the customers themselves. The objectives of the study focus on examining the satisfaction and experience of clients, which means they are the source of information required to achieve these objectives.
The research approach adopted may be subject to the nature and scope of the study, including the data collected and analyzed. In this case, the researcher hopes to collect primary data from respondents. More importantly, the research seeks to confirm the general hypothesis regarding the relationship between smart technologies and the customer experience in luxury hotels. Therefore, quantitative research becomes the best approach for this study. Quantitative studies can be described as those inquiries involving the quantification of data. According to Apuke (2017, p. 41), the term quantitative means that the scholar seeks to quantify and analyze data, which is usually numerical. This form of research tends to answer the what, where, how, and when regarding the research. Therefore, the methods deployed in quantitative research make it possible to test the hypothesis by simply making brief statements on how variables relate to each other. The research questions provided form the basis of the hypothesis, which means that the answers will be conforming or disconfirming the hypotheses.
The selection of a quantitative is based on a number of advantages. These include the ability to make generalizations of the findings across specific populations. This would require that the sample obtained is deemed representative. Another advantage is that the methods are usually standard, which means that they can easily be replicated. In this case, the collection of data is followed by standard exercises, including the use of a Linkert scale and the use of descriptive statistics and other such statistical tools as correlation and regression analysis. Despite these advantages, quantitative research may fail to offer reasoning for the relationships between variables. However, this can always be done using qualitative approaches in follow-up studies on the same subject.
After the selection of the research approach, the second critical decision is on the design of the study. The term research design can be used to imply the framework of the study. Additionally, it can be described as the overall strategy used to address the research question. Several designs can be used to describe this research based on its nature and scope. First, confirmatory research can be inferred from the use of a hypothesis and based on the fact that the scholar seeks to confirm a set of predetermined statements. This research is based on seven hypotheses that are all linked to the broad question of whether smart technologies improve customer satisfaction. Advantages of confirmatory design include the ability to formulate clear theories and a means to test its applications.
Secondly, a deductive design is manifested through the fact that the study seeks to generate a general theory regarding the relationship between the given variables. The term deduction implies that a researcher moves from general to particular theories (Woiceshyn and Daellenbach, 2018, p. 185). In other words, the scholars start by developing a theory from which hypotheses are derived and tested. Lastly, a case study design is the result of the researcher focusing on a single country as opposed to a more general global population.
Sampling is a term in research that refers to the technique, procedure, or device used by a researcher to systematically select a smaller number of items to represent a specified population. For this research, a mix of sampling techniques may be deployed to help the research distribute the samples and obtain a representative sample that can offer the much-needed information. However, simple random sampling will be the major tactic because it eliminates the possibility of bias. For an effective distribution, the researcher makes sure to target 10 luxury hotels in China, from which a quota of 40 respondents in each is placed. Regarding gender, the sampling is designed such that no gender will receive over 60% representation. Quantitative studies require large sample sizes to ensure effective representation and generalization of the findings. Therefore, a sample size of 400 customers is deemed adequate for this study.
Data Collection and Analysis
Survey research will be used for the collection of data, with the questionnaires administered electronically. Due to the nature of the research, a closed questionnaire is used because only brief statements are offered to measure the respondent’s acceptance of them. Quantitative data analysis often requires the deployment of statistical tools. In this case, descriptive statistics help to profile the demographic characteristics of the respondents. A reliability analysis will be followed by an independent t-test and one-way ANOVA analysis. Additionally, correlation analysis explains the relationships among the variable, while a regression analysis establishes how the independent and dependent variables relate.
Strengths and weaknesses of Research Method
The main strength of the selected methodology is that it makes it easier to test the hypothesis. Besides the application of the statistical tools, the methods are simple to follow because they are standard. Most importantly, the methods are scientific and allow for empirical evidence. The major weakness is that the explanations and the nature of relationships between the variables are not offered since the methods only seek to prove the existence of links between them,
Conducting primary research means that a researcher will be engaging people, which means care must be taken on how this is done. The participation will be voluntary, and informed consent will be obtained before respondents are engaged. This means that no individual will be forced or coerced to participate in the survey. It is also important to note that there will be no minors involved in the research. Additionally, all the responses will be kept confidential and will not be revealed to third parties. This is coupled with the fact that no private and sensitive information regarding the respondents will be collected. The researcher may need to determine income levels, age, and occupation, but some of these details will be offered only if the respondent wished. The anonymity of the respondent will be maintained, which explains why emails, phone numbers, or names will not be among the data collected. The ultimate objective is to make sure the participants are assured of privacy and security. Overall, the respondents will not be exposed to any form of harm during the entire exercise.
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