In the last few decades, the luxury hotels have become significantly dominant in China. There are many luxury five star hotels which are currently operating in China. Though, initially there were making the significant profits, but recently, a new trend is observed where it is found that their performance is declining. Considering the recent dilemma regarding the performance of luxury hotels, this research is conducted about the factors which are important for improving the performance and future development of luxury hotels. Firstly, it analyses the literature about the strategic brand management and customer relationship management and secondly it identifies the factors that can lead towards the better performance of five star hotels. Thirdly, this research explores how strategic brand management and customer relationship management could be beneficial for five star hotels. Fourthly, it explores the role of strategic brand management on the brand performance of Westin Hotels. Further to this, it examines the role of customer relationship management in the brand performance of Westin Hotels. This research is based on the qualitative research methods where both primary and secondary methods are used. In the primary research methods, interview strategy is selected and interview guide is developed which has helped to fulfil the aim and objectives of this research. Three marketing managers of Westin Hotels are interviewed in this research. In this research, it is concluded that both customer relationship management and strategic brand management are important determinant of performance and future development of five star hotels in China. Therefore, luxury hotels must improve their orientation towards these two aspects. At the end, the recommendations for future researchers are also provided.
The tourism in China has expanded in last few decades with the emergence of newly rich middle class. Moreover, the beginning of reform and opening resulted in expansion of tourism industry. With the ease of restrictions on the movement, the tourism industry of China experienced boom. China is known as the world’s most watched and famous outbound and inbound tourist market. However, there is a need for sustained Chinese tourism boom, there is a need for such strategies which could assure the sustained growth of Chinese tourism industry. According to Puvaneswary (2013), the third most visited country of this world is China where it had 55.98 million tourists from overseas market in 2010. It earned 45.9 billion U.S. dollars foreign exchange income which was the highest in 2010. Moreover, it had 1.61 billion domestic tourists in 2010 which had the total income of around 777.1 billion (Guodong, 2010).This shows that China’s tourism industry is crucial for its development, hence, its sustainability and good performance is quite important.
With the increased dominance of hotel chains in China, the tourism industry of China has flourished significantly. With the China’s economy reform and opening up, the dramatic changes were being observed in its tourism industry. There are various kinds of hotels that are currently working in China. The structure of tourism industry was also changed with the involvement of multinational hotel companies. With the massive inbound tourists and technology transfer, there were many indigenous hotels which entered into the hospitality industry of China. However, after the development of hospitality industry, few hotels have started to experience the slow expansion and they have become less competitive. Therefore, the good performance of such hotels has become quite suspicious. Such hotels are in continuous search of such marketing strategies which could help them to ensure their sustainable good performance (Qi, 2012). The focus of present research is on the branding strategies for good performance of such hotels whose growth has become questionable.
According to Wen (2015), currently the economy of China is undergoing major structural changes due to the tertiary industry and consumption. It has observed a declined growth in its market of real estate and fixed asset investment. This has led to the noticeable changes in the hotel industry. Now, this is the time where hotel investors are more concerned about the financial returns and they favour those hotels for investment which has growth potential. It is said by Howison and Cronaner (2012), that the hotel industry of China is going to experience the restructuration in terms of characteristics, management, investors, market segmentation and nationality. This shows, this is the time where hotels has to ensure that their growth is not in question, by any mean.
According to Schramm (2015), the growth rate of China’s economy has slowed down since 2014. In first half of 2016, it was 7% which was 7.4% in the first half of 2015. The overall industry structure is adjusting itself to emphasize more on its tertiary industry. To be more specific, in 2014, the contribution of tertiary industry in total GDP growth was 51.7%. likewise, it was 56.8% in the first half of 2015. The service industry of China is experiencing the rapid development than those industries which are considered traditional. The percentage of domestic tourism is also increasing. The growth rate of domestic tourism has reached to double-digit by the end of 2015. But, it should not be neglected that international tourism is facing a decline. There are various issues with the hospitality industry of China which has reduced the number of international tourists to China. The issues like inflated renminibi, air quality and the general soft global economy are few of those factors which has resulted in a decline in the international tourism industry of China. The tourists from countries like Japan, Norway, Sweden, Russia and Australia has significantly decreased. Without the international customers for Chinese tourism industry, its sustainability cannot be ensured (Xue, Kerstetter and Buzinde, 2015). Though, there are many factors which are out of control, however, the internal factors could be managed for ensuring the good performance of hotels. Therefore, the present research focuses on the marketing strategy of hotels for analysing their good performance. In marketing strategy, it focuses on strategic brand management of the hotels.
Further to this, this is also observed that luxury brands of China are facing decline. This has become a motivation to focus on five star hotel’s good performance in China. According to Akan (2016), there was a time when China has played the critical role in boom of global luxury industry. But after this boom, China is now at this stage where there is less growth for its luxury brands. For example, in 2000, the largest proportion of luxury spending was from Chinese consumers, as per the report of Bain & Company. However, the recent report published by Exane BNP Paribas Analysts, the relentless expansion of luxury sector in China was slowed down. Therefore, now many luxury brands are concerned about their growth in Chinese market as they have also analysed and experienced the less Chinese spending on luxury goods. This trend makes it more interesting to explore the good performance of five star hotels, as it is also mentioned byReali (2015), that five star hotels of China are facing a decline in their growth. This makes it more worthwhile to explore the good performance of five star hotels of China.
There are many five star hotels in China. Westin is one of the five star hotels of China. The present research has focused on Westin hotel where this hotel is studied as the case study. The data related to this hotel is used to analysed the good performance of five start hotels in China. The conclusion of this research is drawn on the basis of results drawn from Westin hotel case study. This is an upscale hotel chain which is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide which is currently having 192 hotels all over the world. Few of amenities of this brand are also sold under the named of Heavenly brand name. The global expansion of Westin was started in 2005. It entered into China in May 2007. The good performance of Westin Hotels in China is analysed in this research is analysed with strategic brand management of this luxury hotels.
The research aims to analyse the strategic brand management and customer relationship management of five-star hotels in China. The Westin hotel China is discussed as the case study.
The research aim is fulfilled through certain objectives. The objectives of present research are:
The economy of China is becoming of utmost importance for high-end hotels. Though, there has been observed major structural changes in its economy, but it is observed that China’s economy still has significant potential for hotel industry. Its tourism industry is expected to grow further till 2020. Though, few ups and downs are observed, but these could be managed and tackled with proper strategy. However, the luxury brands are facing decline in their growth. It could not be ignored that there are already many luxury brands like five star hotel Westin in China. Such hotels need to be prepare for their future. They need such strategy which could help them to ensure their success not only in current time period but also in future. Therefore, this research analyses the performance of such five star hotels. The rationale is to provide a road map to all the five star hotels of China to develop a future plan for having a sustainable growth in coming years. This research aims to find what is need for ensuring the improved performance.Such five start hotels spend a huge amount of capital on branding and customer relationship management. Therefore, it is also important to explore that is it worthwhile to have a huge branding budget or not. Moreover, hotels always emphasize more on customer relationship management strategies. Therefore, this research also analyses the importance of customer relationship management for the performance of five star hotels. This research will be of great use for managers of the five star hotels that are working in China. They can develop their strategies, taking help from the results of this research. Further to this, this research is also useful for those researchers who are working in the field of marketing and hospitality management. The results will provide foundation to the future research studies in this research field.
The aim of this chapter is to review the previous studies which are related to the good performance of China’s hotels. One of the objectives of this research is to identify the factors that lead towards the better performance of five star hotels of China. Therefore, this chapter aims to fulfil this objective by reviewing various studies related to this research objective. This chapter will also lay the foundation for other objectives of this study.
There are various theories which are related with the current research issue. This research aims to analyse the good performance of five star hotels in China where it aims to analyse the performance of luxury hotel brand, therefore, it has emphasized on brand image, strategic brand management and customer relationship management theories. Using these theories has the foundation of this research, it is identified how performance of the luxury brands is influenced with the strategic brand management, brand image and customer relationship management. The performance of luxury hotel brands is considered in terms of customer satisfaction, customer retention and brand loyalty.
Figure 1: Theory and theoretical frameworks
It is important to mention that CRM also plays a crucial role in the good performance of five star hotels.According to Kanagal (2009), CRM refers to the efforts of an organization to manage the interaction with existing and potential customers. This approach involves analysing the data about the history of customers and efforts are being done to improve the relationships with customers. As said by Fyall, Callod and Edwards (2003), the main focus of CRM is on retaining customers with the intention to drive sales growth. The companies which are better able to retain customers are more likely to enjoy the sales growth. Therefore, as five star hotels are experiencing decline in their sales, it is of utmost importance for them to take such steps which could help them to improve their sales. This could be done by retaining the international tourists which were once the customers of these luxurious five star hotels of the China. With the help of customer relationship management, there are more chances to retain the customers for a longer time.
According to Tahir, Waggett and Hoffman (2013), one important component of CRM is the relational intelligence. This is about the awareness of variety of relationships which are possible among the customers and firms. Therefore, this is not true that customers’ relationship with the firm is limited to the selling certain products or services. As said by Raab (2008), customers can also be used to have the relationship of support, selling, marketing and management [as depicted in the below figure]. Once the information about the demographics has been collected, it could be utilised for having the mechanical view of customer relationships. Through categorization of customers in different categories, better strategies could be developed for making these customers profitable for the firms (Yoon and Sims, 2014). The categorization of customers also help to develop better opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling the opportunities. Through the interesting and personalized interactions with the customers, there are better chances to manage the customers (Stein, Smith and Lancioni, 2013). Below figure represents the overview of the relational intelligence in the customer relationship management.
Figure 2: Relational Intelligence – CRM
Source: Gharaibeh and Forbrig (2013)
According to Padilla-Meléndez and Garrido-Moreno (2014), CRM has significant impacts on the future success of the firms. One the most important aspects of the good performance of firms depend on having the customers who are satisfied which has the implications for the performance of firms as it is also related with the improved customer loyalty and reduced customer complaints. It is also said by Yadav and Singh (2014), when CRM approach is implemented by a firm, it is more likely to have an influence on the customer satisfaction. The customer satisfaction improves as with CRM, companies are in better position to customize their offerings as per the needs of the customers. The process of accumulating information regarding the customer interaction enables the firms to process the collected information for discovering the hidden patterns. These hidden patterns help the firms to identify the individual tastes so that offerings could be customized in a better manner. With this customized offerings, it helps to improve the perceived quality of the customers which is an important determinant of the customer satisfaction (Rahimi and Kozak, 2016). Therefore, it could be mentioned that as said by Mohammed and Rashid (2012), customer relationship management helps to indirectly improve the customer satisfaction which is eventually important for the good performance of firms. Furthermore, the accurate and timely processing of orders and requests could also be ensured through CRM applications (software). Further to this, the customer accounts could also be managed in a better manner through CRM applications. These characteristics of CRM application posits that hotels could adopt the CRM applications for managing the guests visiting them, hence they will be able to deliver a consistent service experience to its domestic and international customers (Long et al., 2013). Therefore, when there is improved customization along with the reduced variability of the consumption experience, it improves the perceived quality which ultimately improves the customer satisfaction. This is useful for good performance of firms. It is important to mention that effectiveness of CRM approach improves with the CRM applications (Wu and Lu, 2012).
According to Keller, Apr?ia and Georgson (2008), the function of planning and analysis on how in the market the brand is recognised is said to be strategic brand management in marketing. It is very significant for brand management to establish a positive and favourable relationship with the target market as this can improve the brand performance. The product itself; the packaging, look, price, etc., are the substantial components of brand management. The experience and relationship of consumer with brand is considered as intangible elements of brand management. It’s a duty of brand manager to supervise all these aspects if he/she wants to improve the brand performance in the long run.
According to Elliott and Percy (2007), strategic brand management is the the procedure of developing a correspondence or relationship for motive of developing identification among competition and building trust and worth among consumers, between a product of company and customer’s inner perception. Likewise, Elliott and Percy (2007) defined strategic brand management as an achievement or fulfilment of expectations of customer and customer satisfaction consistently. As per the notion of Keller, Parameswaran and Jacob (2011), brand management is a process in which various methods are used to enhance the price of a product and this is more relevant to luxury products. As the main motive of marketing strategy, through valuable awareness of the brand and positive associations, brand management builds loyal customers and authorizes the value of products to enhance its performance (Keller, Apr?ia & Georgson, 201167).
Further to this, Keller (2008) mentioned that acknowledgement of the actual price of a specific product and conveying among the targeted customers the basic value of product is made through the process of brand management. It is to understand that Kapferer and Books (2008), anything like a corporate, product, service, or person could be a brand according to modern terms. Brand management develops brand credibility and brand loyalty can only be build by credible brands, bounce back from circumstantial crisis, and can benefit from price-sensitive customers.Högström et al., (2013) said that just as Total Quality Management is an integral ideology or thinking of management for constant upgrading and boosting the quality of processes and products. In order to generateenhance and manage its brand, luxury firms couldadopt strategic brand management practices that is an integrative and long term approach.
According to Kapferer (2012), strategic brand management process develops a special identity for the luxury products in the marketplace and by this it enhances the value of the products of company and services of the company. According to Uggla et al., (2008), brand management demands a solid and reasonable plan because it is a very difficult job. To take the brand equity of the organisation through consecutive steps to new heights is the role or motive of strategic brand management and it eventually enables the luxury brands to enhance price of the product and this also helps them in improving the brand performance through customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention.
Moreover, strategic brand management is a process which is quite beneficial for the performance of the luxury brands. It helps in the dealing with the external and internal opportunities of the product which is the basic motive of a brand strategy. However, it also says that rather than reactive and tactical the brand strategy must be visionary, strategic and charge taking to become successful in the long run. As said by Riezebos (2003), unique identity and mature brand vision is key to success of each brand and these are the basics that should be keep in mind in generating a brand strategy. Therefore, for having the good performance of luxury hotels, it is important to manage the brand in a strategic manner. Kapferer (2012) mentioned that a customized brand strategy fetches life to the brand vision and become able to reveal the maximum potential of the brand.Brand managers should not have short term motives; instead of it they must have long term focuses. If the strategic brand strategy is more than tactical and is beyond adequate visionary approach to drive the worth and growth of brand in future, it could be ensured that performance of brand will increase. It is significantly necessary to make brand strategy work that it should be firmly associated to the business strategy. It reveals that the brand strategy and brand must not be recognized as something else than business strategy (Kapferer & Books, 2008). Business and brand strategy should be generated concurrently in an ideal world, and they should assist one another. Brand vision should meet the customers’ expectations and distinguish the brand from rivals or opponents. After the development of brand vision a customized range of constituents that consists of the brand strategy should be established (Keller, Apr?ia & Georgson, 2011).
The literature has posited that brand image is important for good performance of firms. The firms which have strong brand image has more chances of the future success. Their sustainability is not in question, therefore, the firms should focus on their image if they want to be successful in coming years (Tseng, 2013; Ashton, 2014). According to Marwick (2013), a brand is a set of marketing methods which aims to differentiate the company from competitors. The branding efforts are targeted towards creating a lasting impression in the minds of customers. Tsiotsou and Goldsmith (2012) stated that the branding has various elements like brand’s identity, brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand communication and branding management strategies. Brand equity refers to the worth of the brand which could also be validated through measuring the effectiveness of components of the branding. In the modern era, where traditional marketing models are replaced with the modern ones, the prosperity of a brand is often measured through analysing the brand equity (Ali, Omar and Amin, 2013; Manhas and Tukamushaba, 2015). To have the good brand equity, it is important to have the commitment towards doing the business. With a strong brand culture where every effort is dedicated towards building a strong brand image, the brand equity could be ensured which eventually leads towards the good performance of the brand. With a strong brand equity and image, a firm can have such customers who are satisfied and loyal and have less price sensitivity, therefore, it is said that when brand image is good, it leads towards better brand performance in terms of customer satisfaction, customer retention and brand loyalty (Jiaxun, 2013). According to Mili?evi?, Mihali? and Sever (2016), a brand is a promise which is done to the customers for delivering the long term security, competitive frame of reference and consistent delivery of emotional and functional benefits associated with the offered products and services (Maggon and Chaudhry, 2015). When a customer perceives a strong brand image of a certain product in his/her mind, this is the time where the brand has reached the high level of brand equity. This brand equity is something which could ensure the future prosperity and development of the luxury brands. With this brand equity, the performance of overall brand could be improved (Okonkwo, 2016).
According to Aaker and Biel (2013), brand image is the view of customers about the brand. It is also referred to the unique bundle of associations which are developed within the minds of targeted customers. the brand image basically signifies what the brand stands for. Moreover, Huang and Sarigöllü (2014) said that brand image is a set of beliefs related to a certain brand. It could be said that brand image is nothing more than the perception of consumers about a certain product or service. This reflects how the brand is positioned in the market. According to Parker (2015), brand image sends the emotional value along with the perception and mental image of the offerings. The brand image is about the organization’s character. This is also about the accumulation of contact and observation by those people which are external to the certain organization (Buhalis, 2000). The brand image also highlights the mission and vision of the organization. Brand image involves the unique logo, slogan and brand identifiers which represent the key values of the business organization (Severi and Ling,2013). Latif et al., (2015) stated that brand image is about the impression of customers which is developed in their minds formed through all sources. Usually, associations are developed with the brand by the consumers. These associations help the customers to form the brand image. The subjective perception of the customers help to develop the brand image.
Aghekyan-Simonian et al., (2012) mentioned that the theme behind the brand image is that customers do not purchase the product or service only they actually purchase the image which is related to the certain product and service. For the good performance of any brand, it is important to have such brand image which is instant, unique and positive (Glynn & Woodside, 2009). When brand image is positive, it leads towards the higher customer satisfaction, customer retention and brand loyalty. As said by Aaker and Biel (2013), the efforts like advertising, word of mouth publicity, packaging and other similar promotional tools of brand communication are helpful for strengthening the brand image. The brand image portrays the unique characteristics of the firm which makes it different from the image of its competitors, hence customer becomes more loyal to particular brand. This helps to develop the association in minds of consumers related to the attributes and benefits of the brand. The brand attributes refer to the mental and functional associations with the brand which could be both specific and conceptual (Reza Jalilvand and Samiei, 2012). On the other hand, according to Saleem and Raja (2014), benefits are the rationale which motivates the customers to make the purchase of the product. The benefits could be functional, emotional and rational. Functional benefits focus on what an organization does better than others, rational benefits focus on why do a certain customers should believe it more than others while emotional benefits is about how purchasing a brand make customers feel better than others. When customers have associations with the attributes and benefits, this ensures that a firm’s good performance is secure and there are better chances of the customer retention, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
The performance of luxury brands could be measured in various manners. However, according to Kapferer and Bastien (2012), three main constituents of the performance of luxury brands are customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention. The present research also considers these three constructs to measure the performance of the luxury brand named Westin Hotels. In this research, it is analysed that how customer relationship management and strategic brand management are influencing the customer satisfaction, customer retention and brand loyalty.
In marketingcustomer satisfaction is a commonly used term and it is one of the important measures of brand performance. It is an accountability of how services and products provided by a firm meet expectations of customer. It is described as the total number of consumers, whose reported experience with a firm surpasses stated satisfaction goals (Luo & Homburg, 2007). It is often part of a balanced scorecard and within business it is considered as a key performance indicator. It is considered as a basic differentiator and become a fundamental constituent of business strategy in a competitive marketplace where organizations compete for consumers and customer satisfaction (Anderson, Fornell & Mazvancheryl, 2004). In the present research, it is also analysed for measuring the performance of Westin Hotels.
Customer satisfaction ratings can have strong effects within company. Firms ask workers to focus on the significance of meeting expectations of customers. Additionally, when these ratings fall, it is important to note that it can affect profitability and sales. Brand attains a positive word-of-mouth marketing, when it has loyal consumers, which is highly effective in progress and development of firm (Hill, Brierley and MacDougall, 2003; Ashworth and Kavaratzis, 2010). Therefore, it is used a measure of performance of Westin hotel brand.
It is said by Bergman and Klefsj (2010), for luxury hotel businesses it is significantly important to manage customer satisfaction effectively. Organizations required authentic and well-grounded measures of satisfaction to be able to do this. Companies in researching satisfaction, commonly ask consumers whether their service or product has fulfilled their expectations. Hence, the basic element behind satisfaction is expectations (Riezebos, 2003). Customers will be depressed and will rate their experience below than satisfying when the reality falls short than their expectations. This is why, a luxury resort as compared to a budget motel for example, might get a lower satisfaction rating—even though in 'absolute' terms." its offers, products and service would be deemed superior (Horovitz, & Panak, 2010). Hence, it is of utmost importance for luxury hotels to exceed the expectations of customers.
Brand loyalty is another important measure of the brand performance which refers to the positive feelings towards a brand and this also motivates the customers to purchase a certain brand. According to Kim and Kim (2005), a brand is considered to be a notion or conception but not a good. This notion of a brand shows descriptions and representation for a good or variety of goods. Brands possess the influence to involve customers and make them feel emotionally committed. The values, principles and approaches of consumers are useful in building the reputation of any brand. Customer experiences any brand when they buy any product from it and use it. General experiences including intellect, connection, acting and sensation and this happens when one comes into contact with a particular brand’s products or services. When such types of senses are stronger to the person then they rebuy the product of brand which actually shows that a brand has become successful. Yang and Lau (2015) mentioned that when a customer comes in contact with the brand then he/she has to make a decision about its purchase and it may lead towards repeat purchase conduct. The repeat purchase of the customer also shows the better performance of a brand. From this point, the base of brand loyalty is made. However, Bahri-Ammari et al., (2016) mentioned that brand loyalty is not restricted to repeat purchase conduct, as there is profounderemotional perceptive as to why a person will constantly re-buy goods from a single brand. The willingness or readiness of a customer to buy products and maintain long term relationships with a brand is considered to be brand loyalty. A survey was conducted in which it was found that among 200 senior marketing supervisors, sixty-eight percent replied that they found the "loyalty" factor very significant. This shows that success or performance of a brand could be measured through its brand loyalty measure. True brand loyalty happens when the consumer is ready to pay higher prices for the brand products. Therefore, consumers often purchase the services of the luxury hotels because they are actually loyal to that brand (Narteh et al., 2013). In this research, brand loyalty is used as measure for analysing the performance of Westin Hotels of China. If customers of Westin Hotels are loyal to this brand, then it could be concluded that strategic brand efforts and customer relationship management have an influence on the brand performance of this luxury hotel.
In actual, the brand loyalty is quite important for performance of luxury hotels. Brand loyalty includes customer’s dedication, connection, and enthusiasm to rebuy and continuously buy the brand goods for a long period of time. Actually, the brand loyalty reveals the devotion and dedication of consumers to stay in a relation with the specific brand, for a long time span (Zhang et al., 2015).
A significant aspect of developing brand loyalty is evolving a link or association between the brand and customer. If there is an emotional connection between the brand and customer, then the brand can gain competitive edge over the rivalry. Customer loyalty comprises of both attitudinal and negotiating constituents. Attitudinal loyalty is relevant with the consumers’ readiness to buy good or service from the brand at any realistic price. Behavioral loyalty is considered to be rebuying of the product or service. Both constituents are significant (Esmaeilpour, 2015). One instance is that a customer shows behavioral loyalty by purchasing Coca Cola when there are some substitutes accessible and attitudinal loyalty is that when customers will not purchase a substitute product when Coca Cola is not present. It is important to note that the attitudinal constituent is emotional in nature and it can enable the repeat buying by customers. Due to the attitudinal loyalty, customers make repeat purchase and become attached with the specific product or brand.Brand loyalty is preferred by companies for the reason that retention of current consumers is less pricey than attaining new customers. Companies earn huge profits when the customers are loyal (Nam, Ekinci & Whyatt, 2011). This research is going to analyze how the strategic brand management and customer relationship management are beneficial for the brand loyalty of Westin Hotels of China.
According to Schultz and Block (2015;2013), for luxury hotels, there are numerous benefits if their customers are loyal to their brand. Brand loyalty is considered to be highly useful factor for companies as it is the source of high profitability for them. The benefits that can be attained by business concerns due to loyal consumers are discussed as under:
As this is also said by Empen Loy and Weiss (2015), in short, brand loyalty is highly useful for luxury brand and is source of high profitability over time as luxury brands do not have to devote as much time and finance on retaining associations or marketing to current buyers. Loyal long-term buyers spend more money on buying a product of a specific brand.
Customer retention is another measure of the brand performance for luxury brands. According to Nitzan and Libai (2011),customer retention is considered to be the capability of a firm or good to retain its consumers over a certain period of time. The phenomena known as high customer retention indicates that consumers of a firm are ready to buy goods on continuous basis. According to Li (2015), customer retention initiates with the very starting contact of customer with a firm and endures throughout the whole period of a relation and successful retention struggles take this entire lifespan into consideration. The firm’s capability to appeal and retain new consumers is connected not only to its goods or services, but then also to the manner it services for its current consumers, the worth the consumers really produce as a consequence of consuming the answers, and the goodwill it produces inside and throughout the market (Degbey, 2015). Therefore, the importance of strategic brand management and customer relationship management is crucial for retaining the customers for a longer period of time.
Gustafsson, Johnson and Roos (2005) said that in luxury hotel industry, successful customer retention includes more than providing consumers what they anticipate. Creating loyal supporters of the product may mean surpassing customer hopes. Generating customer loyalty focuses on customer value instead of increasing revenues and shareholder value at the center of business approach. The main difference in a competitive setting is often the supply of a constantly high standard of customer service. Moreover, in the developing world of customer Success, consumer retention is a main goal and luxury brands are showing high tendency for retaining their customers as this has become quite critical for their success. The most commonly used strategies used for retaining the customers are customer relationship management and strategic brand management (Verhoef, 2003) and this is what is explored in this study in the context of Westin Hotels. As found by Jyh?Fu Jeng and Bailey (2012), there is a direct effect of customer retention on profitability and success of a firm. It was found by Yen (2015) that the committed and devoted customers produce 1.7 times more sales as compared with normal consumers, this shows that this is the time where luxury hotels are required to be more vigilant for retaining their current customers.
The purpose of this chapter was to analyse which factors are influencing the brand performance. The thorough literature review has led to the conclusion that brand image and customer relationship management along with strategic brand management are the factors which have significant influence on the brand performance of any organization. Further critical evaluation has also told that the role of CRM and brand image is higher for the luxury brands. As Westin hotel is a luxury brand, therefore, this will be further explored in the next sections. In this chapter, brand performance is measured with the customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention. Hence, it is proposed that with the strategic brand management and CRM, the customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention could be improved.
This research chapter is about the research methods which are selected in this study. the aim of this chapter is to shed light on those methods which are selected for this research study. This chapter also provides the justification for selecting the research methodology.According to Bryman and Bell (2007),the purpose of methodology chapter is to provide sufficient information for replicating the research. Likewise, Creswell (2013) has highlighted that methodology helps in ensuring rigour in the research process as everything follows a step by step approach. Therefore, this chapter provides sufficient information for ensuring rigour and facilitating replication of the research study.
Mainly, the present research is based on the primary data collection method. This research collects the first hand data about the strategic brand management in luxury hotels of China. The rationale for relying on primary research is that it allows to target the research issue in a more direct manner. This is the drawback of secondary research that research issue could not be dealt in a direct manner (Angen, 2000), therefore, the researcher has selected the primary research method. Further to this, primary data has better data interpretation potential and it is also recent data, hence, as Creswell (2013) told the value and significance of the research increases with the primary research design. Furthermore, there is no involvement of proprietary issues in the primary data collection method. Hence, this research has used the primary research design for analysing the role of strategic brand management and customer relationship management in the Westin Hotels of China.
However, it should not be ignored that this research has also used the secondary research methods. A particular inclusion/exclusion criteria is used for the secondary data which is used as the foundation of this research in the literature review chapter. For accessing the secondary data, digital library of UCB is used. In secondary data, journal articles and books are critically analysed. For collecting secondary data, it was being ensured that updated secondary data is being collected, therefore, range of 2000 to 2016 was being set. While collecting data, authenticity and reliability was being given the utmost importance, and it was ensured that only authentic and reliable sources are used. The rationale for combining the primary and secondary data was to ensure triangulation. Moreover, the secondary data has acted as the foundation for this research.
This research is based on the interpretivism research philosophy. According to Collis and Hussey, (2013), the interpretivist tactic interprets realism as something particular and grounded on implications and knowledge. Interpretivists have faith in that just as persons can't be detached from their understanding, investigators can't be detached from their study topic (Bryman, 2015). The objective of the studies based on interpretivism is the understanding but not only making forecasts (Bryman and Bell, 2015). Interpretivist investigators don't deliberate the information produced from the study to be enduring but admit it as comparative to the time, setting or framework in which the research was done (Guba and Lincoln, 1994). Investigators are more collaborating and involved in conducting their studies. The primary data collection approaches focused by an interpretivist contain interviews as well as observations of the issues (Zikmund et al., 2013). This research relies on the interpretivism research philosophy and it uses the interviews for the collection of primary data.
Moreover, this research uses the qualitative research design for examining the strategic brand management and customer relationship management in Westin Hotels in China. Qualitative research is considered to be an important form of scientific research approach. Generally, scientific research involves a study that, pursues responses to a query, methodically practices a planned set of processes to reply the problem, gathers proof, reveal outcomes and reveals findings that are applicable outside the instant limits of the research (Gray, 2013). This research also aims to do the same. The above mentioned features are included in present research where qualitative research method is used for examining the strategic brand management and customer relationship management in Westin hotels of China. Moreover, Bryman and Bell (2007) told that it pursues to recognize a given research question or subject from the viewpoints of the local population it includes. The rationale for using the qualitative research is particularly useful in gaining traditionally detailed information about the morals, views, actions, and social settings of the sample (Marshall and Rossman, 2014). Therefore, this is considered more feasible for the present study. Another rationale for using qualitative approach in exploratory research is that it focuses on open-ended questions, which gives a chance to participants to react in their own words, instead of selecting the given options (Creswell, 2009). Open-ended questions have the capability to get answers that are expressive and traditionally noticeable to the respondents, unexpected by the investigator and rich and descriptive (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2010). Likewise, another rationale for selecting qualitative approach is that it provides the researcher the flexibility to review the primary participant reactions but for this it is important for the investigator to listen carefully the answers of respondents to get the required knowledge (Collins, 2010) and this is what is ensured by the researcher of the present research.
According to Cooper and Schindler (2007), there are various research types, namely explanatory, exploratory and descriptive. The explanatory research is more like the quantitative research methods where the purpose is to examine the relationship between two or more variables. The descriptive research type does not examine the relationship between any variables, but it only describes the research results using various techniques like charts, tables and graphs. The exploratory research type is the most novel research method where the research aims to explore the new phenomenon which are not fully explored yet (Kumar, 2005). Using the qualitative research methods, new research issues are the explored in such that the new knowledge is created. The present research is the exploratory research type where the aim is to explore the role of brand management and customer relationship management in the performance of the luxury hotels.
As already explained this is a qualitative research, for doing the qualitative enquiry, it relies on the case study method. The case study research method is preferred for this research as Matthews and Ross (2014) told that the case study helps in understanding the complex issue which is difficult to be explored through some other research method like survey or observation. This research strategy highly focuses on the detailed contextual analysis where the research issue is analysed using the context in which the phenomenon exists (Stake, 2013). Though, it is used for many disciplines but in business and management sciences its usage has increased tremendously. Case study method is defined as an empirical inquiry in which modern or novel research issue is analysed considering the real life context (Yin, 2013).This method is selected because it is useful when boundaries between the context and phenomenon are not clearly observable. For the present research, it is also analysed the luxury hotels and their context is difficult to be separated from each other. Therefore, the case study method is preferred for this research. In this research, the single case study is used where Westin Hotels is selected as the case study.
Though, there are various research data collection methods which could be used in the case study method. The present research uses the interviews as the method for data collection. The rationale for selecting the interviews as the data collection technique is that it helps in collecting the rich data. Therefore, for collecting the rich data, the interview method is selected. Further to this, Ramamurthy (2011) told that in-depth findings could be gathered with the help of interview method, hence, this research uses the interview as the strategy to collect in-depth and rich data about the strategic brand management and customer relationship management in Westin hotels.
There are various reasons which has motivated the researcher to use the interview as a data collection tool. The most important one is that it allows to collect the in-depth data hence the issues could be explored in a detailed manner (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2003). Hence, using the interview, the researcher has become able to collect the in-depth data related to the strategic brand management and brand image of the Westin Hotels in China. With this method, a human dimension is added in this research hence this is not a research which is based on impersonal data only (Sekaran and Bougie, 2010), hence it has become possible to deepen the understanding about the strategic brand management and brand image in the luxury hotels of China. Likewise, interview method allowed to add the perception and opinions of the marketing managers of Westin Hotels in this research. Moreover, as Sekaran (2003) told the response rate for interview was quite high, hence, it became easier to collect the data for this research such that the research is completed in a timely manner.
As per the recommendation of Seidman (2013), for conducting the interviews, an interview guide is developed [Appendix A]. This interview guide had the questions which emerged from the literature review. After reviewing the literature, main themes are identified about the strategic brand management, brand image and performance of luxury hotels. These questions are asked from the participants in the interview. While designing the interview guide, it was ensured that such language is used which is easier to understand for the participants (Silverman, 2013). Moreover, it was based on the semi-structured interviews where the interviewer followed the questions of the interview protocol for taking the guidance but the interview was not fully structured around those questions. As per the situation and answers of the participants, further modifications were being made in the interview design.
The sample of this research are the marketing and brand managers of Westin Hotels of China. The rationale for their selection is the knowledge and experience about the luxury hotels. The researcher ensured that those interviewees are selected for this research who possess more knowledge and experience as it is expected that such participants can provide more rich and valuable information about the research issue. The purposive sampling technique is used for the selection of the participants. Those participants are selected who were knowledgeable and experienced about the brand management of Westin Hotels. The sample size is three marketing managers of Westin Hotels of China.
For secondary data, the sample is decided by the exclusion and inclusion criteria, as depicted in the below table.
Year of publication
The literature which is published after 2000 is included to ensure that updated literature becomes part of this research.
The literature which is published before 2000 is excluded in the literature review with the intention to ensure that updated literature is analysed.
Only literature articles which were published in English language have become part of the literature review chapter.
The secondary material which was published in other language like Chinese are not part of the literature review.
Authentic and Reliable Publisher
The literature review has only considered those chapters which were published by the authentic and reliable publishers.
The secondary data whose authenticity and reliability could not be ensured are not part of the sample of secondary data.
In this research, only those secondary data is critically reviewed which could be accessed through UCB digital library.
The secondary data which was not accessible through UCB digital library is not included in this research.
For conducting interviews, a formal procedure was being followed. After taking the email addresses of the marketing managers of Westin Hotels from their official website, an email was being dropped. This email had the formal request for participation in this research. That email mentioned that sufficient information about this research. After two days of sending an email, one phone call was being done. In this phone call, a gentle request was done to the participants. The participants who agreed for the interview were asked about their availability in the next two weeks. After taking their appointment, the interview was being conducted on the scheduled time and decided venue.
There are various alternatives which could be used for the data analysis purpose. This research uses the thematic analysis technique for analysing the qualitative data. It has collected the qualitative data through interviews which is transcribed in English language. These transcriptions are analysed for patterns and themes related to the strategic brand management and customer relationship management and its impact on the performance of the luxury hotels. Though, this research does not rely on any software for doing the qualitative analysis, it is ensured that rigor and logic is not compromised while analysing the data (Altheide, 1996)
As told by Alvesson and Deetz (2000), it is important to follow the ethical standards for conducting the research. This research attempts to follow relevant ethical standards to ensure that the whole study is completed in an ethical manner. Most importantly, it is ensured that confidentiality of the participants of this research is not compromised in any manner. The privacy of the interviewees is taken care. Though, three participants from Westin Hotels of China are selected, none of them was being forced to become part of this study. their consent was being taken before starting the interview. As the interviews were recorded, therefore, their approval and permission was also being taken for recording the interviews. Likewise, their consent was being taken through a consent form which was given to them before their participation. It was communicated to them that they possess the right to withdraw from this study anytime, if they want.
In this chapter, all the research methods are explained. This research is based on the primary and secondary research research methods where interpretivism research philosophy is used. This is an exploratory research which uses the case study method. Interviews are conducted with the managers of the Westin hotels of China. The data is analysed using the thematic analysis technique. All ethical standards are duly considered.
In this chapter, interview findings are critically analysed. This research has objectives related to the case study of Westin hotels China, and this section analyses the interview findings for exploring the role of strategic brand management and customer relationship management on the brand performance of Westin hotels in China.
As per findings of literature, it is found that the role of CRM in brand performance is of critical importance. Therefore, it is important to analyse and explore how CRM activities are undertaken at Westin Hotels for improving the brand performance. This section explores the role of CRM on brand performance of Westin Hotels. While explaining the CRM strategy of Westin Hotels, one of the interviewee mentioned that:
‘At Westin Hotels, CRM’s main components are about building and managing the customer relationship with the help of marketing. The relationships are observed at the different stages and appropriate strategies has to be developed for managing the relationship with the customers which are at different stages of consumer buying behaviour. There are various tools which could be utilized for integrating the marketing strategies with the customer relationship management; examples involve customer structure (profile of customers), incentive schemes and organizational designs. When distinct phases of CRM are acknowledged, Westin Hotels are in position to take the advantage from analysing the interaction of multiple relationships with its customers. These tools allow us to maintain the data base of the customers needs and demands. This information system helps in understanding the needs more effectively.This enables the Westin Hotels for becoming more proactive and vigilant in understanding the needs, wants and expectations of customers.”
From this, it could be analysed that currently Westin Hotels is investing in CRM as it has understood that it is beneficial for their performance to understand the needs, wants and expectations of customers through CRM. Consistent with the arguments ofWang et al., (2004), at all of the stages of consumer buying behaviour, the CRM tools are utilized. The stages of consumer buying behaviour are pre-purchase, during purchase and after purchase. These all stages have different implication for CRM implications. Westin Hotels is targeting equally to all of these stages (Verhoef et al., 2009). For example, in pre-purchase behaviour consumers or customers of luxury hotels are concerned about the information search so that they can evaluate the available opportunities(Rauyruen and Miller, 2007). For this purpose, Westin hotels provide sufficient information to customers through its CRM activities. This helps the customers to gain sufficient information about the services and level of experience offered by the Westin Hotels. Hence, it becomes easier for them to evaluate the expected level of service. Therefore, the chances of selecting this hotel as their choice increases. When customers have decided to select this brand, Westin Hotels provide the necessary support to its customers during the process of payment and account management. As per the recommendation of Winer (2001),the purpose is to provide them with required support so that process of purchasing the service becomes easier. Once they have experienced the service, Westin Hotels maintain after-sale relationship with them. This tells how Westin Hotels is managing the CRM at all of the stages of consumer behaviour.
It could be analysed that Westin is using different tools for its CRM and integration of all such tools help this brand to succeed.
“We are currently using the the best of information and communication technologies (ICT) for developing good relationship with those customers who are our regular customers. The name of this ICT strategy is Starwood Preferred Guest where regular customers are provided with better opportunities for staying loyal to the Westin hotels. Basically, through this program of CRM which has its foundation on ICT technology, we are managing the current customers’ relationship in an effective manner. Basically, we offer the best prices to our regular customers through this CRM program. Since the implementation of this strategy, we are able to enhance the brand performance effectively where the number of satisfied customers has improved.”
The above response of the manager of Westin Hotels has helped to analyse that how effectively information and communication technology is used for managing the customer relationship. Through its software named Starwood Preferred Guest, it has maintained the data of its regular and loyal customers. As also told by Boulding et al., (2015),with the identification of loyal and regular customers, it becomes easier to offer them such incentives that they are retained for a longer term. With such initiatives which are based on the information and communication technology, it becomes more easier for Westin Hotels to actually convert their satisfied customers into loyal customers hence the brand loyalty is ensured with this. Moreover, as Parvatiyar and Sheth (2011) told when customers are being treated in a special manner where various incentives are being given to them when the repurchase their services, they are retained for a longer term. This shows that the information and communication technology used at Westin Hotels is helping to enhance the brand performance by making more customers loyal to this brand and improving their retention rate. This is due to the responsiveness which has been ensured with the CRM system. Westin Hotels have become more responsive to needs of customers hence they have customized their offerings to fulfil demands of their customers. This has helped them to improve their performance.
As stated by Adalikwu (2012), the role of CRM in customer satisfaction is higher and it is not reasonable to ignore it for satisfying and retaining the customers for a longer time period. The analysis of CRM has showed that it is helping Westin Hotels to satisfy its customers in a better manner. One of the interviewees has told that through its ICT it is ensured that customers relationship management is done effectively and this is helping it in satisfying its customers. As per the wording of the interviewee:
“As per the current CRM strategy, we are not only focusing on the current customers but we are also identifying and developing potential customers, niche markets and new products. All of this is ensured through the ICT strategy where customers needs are understood in a better manner. Understanding the current needs and wants of potential customers has allowed us to make strategic plan to dealing with their needs. Thus, when relationship is maintained with the customers with the intention of fulfilling their needs, it help us to retain them for a longer time. Moreover, they also remain satisfied.”
Another interviewee mentioned that:
“The customer satisfaction improves with the help of CRM system at our hotels. There are five ways through which this customer satisfaction has improved. The implemented CRM software allows us to be in continuous contact with the customers, hence, we can better understand the dynamics of their needs and behaviour. We become able to compile the data about the customers needs to modify the service quality and product offerings. We conduct surveys on regular basis whose results are incorporated in our offerings. This system also helps the customers of Westin Hotels to be our customers in an easier manner. Moreover, using CRM data, we can reward the loyal customers.”
From the previous response, it becomes clearer that customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention is ensured with CRM, and the above mentioned response of the interviewee is shedding light on the relationship with exists among customer relationship management and customer satisfaction as also dictated by Adalikwu (2012).Using the information and communication technology, Westin Hotels understand the needs and wants of the potential customers hence it is in position to offer those products and services at their hotels which are demanded by the potential customers. It analyses the trend of needs of potential customers and incorporate the needs of customers in its offerings. That is how it has ensured the customer satisfaction(Reimann, Schilke and Thomas, 2010). Similar to the above response of the interviewee, two more interviewees told that:
“In Westin Hotels, CRM approach helps to understand the needs of their domestic and international customers by learning more about them with the help of the information collected through various channels.”
“One of the important aspects of CRM approach implemented by Westin Hotels is to compile the information which is collected from various communication channels like telephone, email, company’s website, live chat, social media, marketing materials and more. The purpose of this information is to learn more about the targeted customers which helps to understand how to cater the needs and demands of them.”
Consistent with the previous responseand findings of Trainor et al., (2014), it becomes obvious that CRM is helping it to maintain the record of the needs of the domestic and international customers in a better manner. Hence, as also mentioned by Wang et al., (2004),when they do understand that what is demanded by their customers and they have sufficient information about the needs of the customers, Westin Hotels is enabled to fulfil the needs of customers which eventually results in the customer satisfaction. It could be analysed that when five star hotels of China will understand the spending habits of both domestic and international tourists, it will allow them to attract more tourists to them. Understanding the needs and spending habits of tourists has been identified as a critical success factor for luxury hotels (Padilla-Meléndez and Garrido-Moreno, 2014). Hence, this is helpful for ensuring the future success and development of the hotels in China.
While analysing the role of customer relationship management, the interview findings has also revealed that CRM allows to improve the brand loyalty of its current customers. As one of the interviewees stated that:
“Our current CRM strategy allows us to process the orders and requests of guests in a timely manner where there is no room for the mistakes and accuracy is maintained throughout the process of checking-in and checking-out at Westin Hotels. This timely processing of requests and accuracy has allowed us to improve the brand loyalty of customers.We are basically using ‘Guestware’ as CRM application”
From the above response, it is found that use of ‘Guestware’ has allowed Westin Hotels to improve the loyalty of their customers. Guestware is a hotel Guest Experience management system which helps in efficiently orchestrating the experience of guests in a single application. This helps in engaging employees as it also helps in anticipating the needs of guests. It also ensures the prompt response. The customers can get every information what they need and Westin Hotels are also able to extract the information about their customers. This help them to have ‘happy guests’ as this information is further used in designing the service experience. This application of Westin Hotels delivers the actionable information to relevant departments who could use it for useful purposes. This is also asserted by Reimann, Schilke and Thomas (2010) if information is delivered to relevant people on timely basis, they become better able meet the needs of customers.
It could be analysed that the link between timely processing of requests and brand loyalty is that when customers requests are handled in an efficient and timely manner, they become more satisfied with the certain brand(Selnes, 2013). This is observed in the case of Westin Hotels that the continuous timely response by the customer representatives proves helpful for enhancing the brand loyalty of customers. Likewise, for making someone loyal to a certain brand, it is important that the requests of customers are processed in an accurate manner. The inaccurate response by the customer representatives only destruct the experience of customers and it adversely influence the brand loyalty and this is observed in the case of Westin Hotels that they are providing the accurate response to their customers requests, hence, they are improving the brand loyalty of their customers.
According to Nwankwo and Ajemunigbohun (2013), one of the purposes of CRM strategy is to retain the customers for a longer period of time. Therefore, Westin hotels have implemented this strategy to retain its customers. The interview with one of the marketing managers has revealed that CRM is helpful for retaining the customers hence they make repeat purchases at Westin Hotels instead of using alternative services. One of the marketing managers of Westin Hotels stated that:
“With the CRM strategy, it is ensured that personal and business accounts of our customers are managed in the best possible manner. We provide convenience to the customers through providing the easiest way of managing their account. We have also introduced applications which customers could install in their smartphones. This makes the process of requesting anything more easier. Using their personal accounts and application, customers can very easily order for the customized services and we provide them with the desired services. This is something what has helped us tremendously to retain our customers for a longer period of time.”
From the above response, it could be analysed that customers always look for ease of use and convenience related to all products and services (Kishor and Nagamani, 2015). Using this aspect, Westin Hotels has introduced this in its offerings where it is incorporating ease of use and convenience, and it is helping it to retaining the customers for a longer period of time.
Theory and literature has lead towards the argument that the performance of the companies is improved when they implemented the CRM approach(Wang and Feng, 2012). There are various ways through which the performance of Westin Hotels is improved with the implementation of its CRM strategy. This section analyses various views regarding how the performance of Westin Hotels is improved with the implementation of CRM strategies. One of the interviewees stated that:
“Moreover, CRM approach also focuses on the accounting for the profitability through managing the customer relationships. In short, when Westin Hotels study the spending habits of its customers, it is in better position to utilize its resources such that the required amount of attention is given to the offered products.”
The above response has provided the evidence that CRM helps in increasing the profitability of Westin Hotelsby helping the firms to satisfy their customers. This increase in profitability is due to the better utilization of resources. It becomes possible to give the sufficient and desired attention to those products which are demanded or needed by more customers. When this is ensured by marketers, the profitability of Westin Hotels is also improved. From this response, it becomes clearer that CRM has implications for the overall performance of luxury hotels as they can better satisfy the needs hence improve the profitability. Similar results were also found by Mohammed and Rashid (2012) where researchers stated that resources could be allocated to those business activities which has higher value for customers, hence, the profitability enhances. Another respondents stated that:
“With CRM, we have become able to do the knowledge management in an effective manner. Whatever information is received about the potential or current customers is used as a valuable knowledge. This information is transmitted to the relevant departments (i.e. marketing, product development and research and development). From here, it is further used for business activities design, products and processes. The use of information in all business activities help in improving the performance.”
From the above response, it could be analysed the link between CRM and performance is based on the information management. If information obtained through CRM software or application is effectively incorporated in the business activities, it results in fruitful performance results.Similar is also presented by Hendricks, Singhal and Stratman (2007).
While discussing about how CRM has helped in improving the performance of Westin Hotels. The interviewees has discussed the benefits of CRM approach. One of the interviewees stated that:
“There are various benefits of CRM for customers, therefore, customers are more attracted towards those companies which has effective and better CRM. Customers can be served in a better manner with the help of CRM approaches.”
The above response has not provided the strong evidence regarding ‘how’ customers are attracted but this helps to understand that today’s customers who are already aware and knowledgeable prefer those five start hotels which are having better CRM. Perhaps, as also found by Grissemann, Plank and Brunner-Sperdin (2013),this is related with the general perception of the customers that customers perceive those luxury hotels better which have the strategy of implementing CRM. Another interviewee has highlighted another benefit of CRM in the following manner:
“The day to day processes could be managed in a reliable manner. Customers are even in position to demand for self-service with CRM. There remains little need for interacting with the company through CRM, and this is what is more attractive for the international tourists.”
The above response is related with the interaction between hotels and customers. With the implementation of CRM systems, customers do not have to be in continuous contact with the service providers. According to Shani and Chalasani (2013),in this age of advanced technology, customers prefer the self-service features of the services. When international customers come for purchasing some service, they are often hesitant if the service involves greater interaction with the service providers. Due to cultural differences, high-contact between customers and service providers often becomes challenging. In this situation, instead of managing the cultural differences in the high contact services, marketers are showing the inclination for making these services as low-contact services. Hence, the feature of self-service is not only appropriate and beneficial for customers but also for the service providers. Instead of managing the hassle of serving the customers who speak different language, who have different background and who are from different culture, it is more appropriate to promote the self-service(Narteh et al., 2012). This CRM has allowed the self-servicing feature to Westin Hotels, hence, it is more attractive for its international tourists and they are more satisfied when this is offered to them.
Further, it is told byMarwick (2013), the brand reputation is based on the relationship which exists among customers and the service providers. The foundation of this relationship is of hundreds of small interactions. These interactions are not only the direct face to face interactions but they are also about interacting through phone calls, emails and leads. The interaction quality has the potential to build or destroy the brand. It is of utmost importance for service providers to improve these interactions and CRM technologies could influence these interactions. With quality interaction through CRM technologies, overall service quality could be enhanced. This helps in enhancing the brand reputation overall.
Another interviewee stated that:
“There are many benefits of CRM which are connected with the relationship, value and brand and customer equity. In Westin Hotels, we have enjoyed these benefits, owing to our CRM system. These benefits are enhanced ability of firms to target those customers which are profitable, improved pricing, enhanced sales force effectiveness and efficiency, customized products and services, individualized marketing messages and improved customer service effectiveness and efficiency.”
The above response of the interviewee has highlighted number of benefits of the CRM approach. Firstly, it is helping in managing the relationship. Secondly, it enhances the value for customers and it improves the brand and customer equity. Thirdly, CRM allows Westin Hotels to target those customers who are more profitable for this luxury hotels (Grissemann, Plank and Brunner-Sperdin, 2013). As there are always various segments of the customers, the CRM system allows Westin Hotels to identify those customers which are more profitable for this business.As also mentioned by Chen and Chen (2014), it helps in developing the appropriate pricing strategies as using the data of customers it becomes easier to identify which pricing level is acceptable by the customers. Moreover, Westin Hotels could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its sales force through CRM as they know the techniques which should be used to motivate the customers for purchasing the services and products from Westin Hotels. With the help of CRM, individualized marketing messages could be designed. This helps in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of customer service. The role of customer service is higher for performance of brands. This is also said byElliott and Percy (2007), that the brand loyalty is ensured only when the product quality and the level of customer service is excellent. When it comes towards purchasing a service hotel, there are always numerous choices for customers and all of them offer the similar products. What differentiates one hotel from other is that level of customer service which is being offered in the hotels. With the help of CRM technologies, Westin Hotels are in position to improve the level of offered customer service.
The role of strategic brand management is important for Westin Hotels. One of the interviewee stated that:
“The strategic brand management process enables us to distinguish themselves from their opponents, and transmit its market position and message in a reasonable and consistent way.”
Consistent with the argument of So et al., (2013), this shows that brand management helps them to be different and differentiate themselves from others. With this a strong brand image could be developed in the mind of customers. This brand image is important for attracting more customers and retaining them. As brand image is an important dimension of strategic brand management system, therefore, marketing managers are in efforts to continuously improve the brand image. One interviewee has told that:
“The brand image could not be created, it is automatically formed in the minds of the customers and it is about the ease of use, fame, products’ appeal, functionality and overall value. The content of the brand is actually the brand image. Therefore, when customers purchase a brand, they purchase the image along with the product. This is also the mental and objective feedback of the consumers. We as the marketers have to work on the various aspects of the brand for improving the brand image of Westin Hotels. We know that positive brand image helps us in improving the brand loyalty and customer retention. So, we continuously work on developing a positive brand image.”
From the above response of the interviewee, it could be analysed that brand image of Westin Hotels is managed in a manner that its customers could have a positive image in their mind. This positive image helps the marketers to improve the brand loyalty and customer retention (Hwang and Han, 2014).As mentioned by Kapferer (2012), the strategic brand management is helpful for Westin Hotels in developing the brand image as it helps in identification and development of brand positioning and values. This also helps in planning and implementing the brand marketing programs which are helpful for developing the positive brand image. The role of strategic brand management is critical as it also helps in measuring and interpreting the brand performance. The positive brand image also helps in increasing the brand equity.
Another interviewee mentioned that:
“When customers expectations are exceeded, it is known as the positive brand image which eventually improves the goodwill and brand value which leads towards better performance of the brands in terms of brand loyalty and customer retention. The positive brand image definitely improves the chances of good performance of five star hotels and we are also doing this at Westin Hotels.”
The above two responses has provided the overview that how brand image is crucial for brand performance of Westin Hotels. The brand image of Westin Hotels has helped it to retain customers and improve their brand loyalty.
Further to this, Westin hotels have a particular brand management system which has helped this luxury hotel to manage the performance in terms of customer satisfaction, customer retention and brand loyalty. In strategic brand management of Westin Hotels, there are few aspects which are the most significant and these steps have a vital effect in building a brand. In the strategic brand management of Westin Hotels, the interview results have showed that brand positioning, brand marketing, brand performance analysis and building brand value are key to its successful performance. One of the interviewee mentioned:
“In strategic brand management of Westin Hotels, to determine the brand positioning which the company desires to attain is the most important aspect. To detect differentiating factors the marketer has to analyse or explore the each brand positioning in the market. Brand will gain a boost and overall performance or potential of the brand will be affected consequentially by this unique positioning.”
It could be analysed that as mentioned by Hsu (2014),this brand positioning is a massive or difficult task in itself. The differentiating factors of Westin Hotels are crucial as in the mind of the customers brand can attain a distinguish position by utilising these factors. From this it can be analysed that defining the positioning that the brand desires to attain is the first most step of strategic branding.
In the strategic brand management of Westin Hotels, one important role is played by the brand marketing efforts. As one of the interviewee has mentioned:
“After concluding the brand positioning, firm needs to carry out brand marketing to implement the positioning. Brand marketing includes marketing through different media sources and implementing ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ strategies as well in order to reach the end customer.”
From the above response of the interviewee, it could be analysed that it is very significant to build a value through brand marketing activities as well. Besides using media vehicles, and price can be added through innovation and research in marketing communications. In strategic brand management, brand marketing covers the space between planning and implementation so it is a significant middle step (Hwang and Han, 2014).
One of the interviewees has shed light on the importance of brand performance analysis. As also said by Kapferer (2012),once brand performance analysis is conducted effectively, it helps in improving the brand performance of Westin Hotels. The following is the response of one of the interviewees.
“It is significant for Westin Hotels to analyse the performance of the brand in the industry, after the determination of the brand positioning and once a firm has marketed the product accordingly. To analyse the real performance of the brand and benefits that the company gains from the product, brand audits can be organized on regular basis. Is the brand on top or 2nd or 3rd in mind positioning, when compared to rivals? Correct measures can be taken according to the situation. This helps in improving the performance of Westin Hotels.”
From the above response, as also stated by Yang, Wan and Wu (2015),it could be analysed that the brand performance analysis which is conducted regularly at Westin Hotels help this brand to manage the performance. It is analysed that it is continuously performing the brand analysis to develop such strategies which will improve its image in the mind of customers and it will become better than its competitors. The brand analysis is also helping it to take corrective actions if there are any problems related to the performance of brand.In the brand management process, the role of brand performance analysis is critical as weak areas of brands could be identified with the help of this step. This needs to be ensured that brand performance analysis is conducted effectively if the brand performance has to be improved at Westin Hotels. Hence, brand performance is improved with the brand analysis.
For improving the customer satisfaction and customer retention, brand value has to be developed as a part of strategic brand management system. One of the interviewees said:
“When Westin Hotels build value for its brand by taking different important measures then it is considered to be the most important element in strategic brand management system of Westin Hotels. It takes decades in brand building. It has to make with whatever it has. The firm has to introduce fresh products and possibly new markets to increase the value or worth of the product. To keep enhancing price and take steps to keep brand positioning up to date according to the demands of market or according to customer’s demand is the duty of the brand manager. Once the brand value is developed, to satisfy customers and retain them becomes easier.”
As also told by Wang and Chung (2015),it is the main function of the strategic brand management to research and plan not for short time period but for decades. It is impossible for a firm to offer too much of value to the consumer which is just two or three years old itself. Hence, brand management is a long term process and the desirable results can be attained only if a firm plans decades in advance(Sun, Tong and Law, 2015).Westin Hotels is enabled to manage coming years with the help of its CRM system. This long term perspective which is given to Westin Hotels will help it for its future development.
The interview results have showed that CRM is playing a crucial role in the brand performance of Westin Hotels. At all of the stages of consumer buying behaviour, it has incorporated the CRM. From the pre-purchase behaviour to the post purchase behaviour, CRM is effectively managed in manner that its customers are satisfied. This is consistent with the views of Ashworth and Kavaratzis (2010) who have stated that CRM helps in satisfying the needs of the customers as it enables them to learn the needs and demands of the potential and existing customers in a better way. At Westin Hotels, CRM has relied on the information and technology and it has introduced a program which is based on this. This ICT based program has helped this hotel to design it CRM activities in a better manner such that the brand performance is enhanced. Consistent with the theoretical model presented by Gharaibeh and Forbrig (2013), this ICT based CRM program is helping Westin Hotels to do the appropriate data classification such that this could be analyzed for designing the effective CRM strategies for support, selling, marketing and management. As presented in the model, the CRM model of Westin hotels is also based on tools like verbal communication, internet, email advertisement and telephone marketing. The findings of this study has revealed it that customer satisfaction is influenced with the help of CRM as this CRM is helping the Westin Hotels to understand the needs and wants in an effective manner. When these needs and wants are understood by Westin Hotels, it actually offers those services, products and experience which is valued by its customers. this is also consistent with the arguments of Loken, Ahluwalia and Houston (2010) who have presented the views that customer relationship management helps in understanding what is demanded by the customers.
Further to this, it is revealed from interview findings of this research that Westin Hotels has become able to build the brand loyalty on the basis of its CRM system. It has become possible to deal with the customers requests and queries in a quick and accurate manner. This quick and accurate information provided to customers is helping this luxury hotel brand to develop the brand loyalty in its customers. This views is consistent with the findings of Kandampully and Suhartanto, (2000) and Maggon and Chaudhry (2015) where it is found that customer relationship management strategies are helpful for building the brand loyalty. Further to this, the findings of present research has told that CRM system has allowed to manage the accounts of both domestic and international customers such that they are provided with the higher level of ease and convenience. It is not a problem now for any of the customers to order or request anything from the account which is provided to its customers. This account could also be accessed from the smart phones of the customers. This ease and convenience offered to customers helps the Westin Hotels to retain its customers for longer period of time. This is consistent with the findings of Chadha (2015) who has also opined that CRM strategies help the brands to retain the customers for a longer period of time.
Further to this, this research has also showed that CRM also has an influence on the performance of Westin Hotels. This satisfies the customers and brand loyalty is developed. Further to this, there are numerous benefits of the CRM strategy. These benefits are helping in improving the overall performance and future development of Westin Hotels. This is consistent with the findings of Elliott and Percy (2007). Moreover, strategic brand management is useful for improving the performance and future development of Westin Hotels. Most importantly, brand image of Westin Hotels is helping to improve the brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and customer retention. The strategic brand management system of Westin Hotels is beneficial for improving the performance and future development of Westin Hotels. This is consistent with the views of Nitzan and Libai (2011) who has stated that strategic brand management is useful for improving the performance and future development.
In this chapter, findings of the research are analysed. This research is based on interviews, therefore, this chapter has analysed the interview findings. Using the thematic analysis technique, the interviews which are conducted with three marketing managers of Westin Hotels are analysed. It could is concluded that customer relationship management and strategic brand management is helping Westin Hotels for improving its performance.
The purpose of this chapter is to conclude regarding the impact of customer relationship management and strategic brand management of luxury hotels of China. For concluding, findings from previous sections of this research are used. This chapter also provides recommendations for future research.
This research is based on various objectives. On the basis of aim and objectives, following conclusions are provided for this research.
Strategic brand management and customer relationship management are crucial for brand performance of luxury hotels of China.
The first three objectives were based on reviewing the previous studies. After reviewing the previous studies about strategic brand management and customer relationship management, it can be concluded that the role of these two factors is quite important. These are the factors basically which could help in ensuring the better performance of five star hotels of China. Therefore, it is concluded that strategic brand management and customer relationship management are those factors which are determinant of the performance of five star hotels in China. With the analysis conducted on the basis of literature review and interviews, it is found that there are numerous benefits of strategic brand management and customer relationship management. It is concluded that these factors are helpful because these are helping in increasing profitability, brand equity, improving brand image, customer satisfaction, retention rate and loyalty of customers. Hence, it is concluded that both strategic brand management and customer relationship management are significantly important for luxury hotels i.e. Westin Hotels.
Customer relationship management is playing a significant role in improving the brand performance of Westin Hotels.
One of the objectives of this research was to examine the role of CRM on the brand performance, using the case study of Westin Hotels in China. The interviews were conducted with the managers of Westin Hotels to analyse how customer relationship management is helpful for brand performance of Westin Hotels. It is found that Westin Hotels has adopted information and communication technology for managing the customer relationship management system. It is using the tools like incentive schemes and customer profile structures in its CRM system. these are helping this hotel to manage the customers relations in a better manner.This information and communication technology based system is allowing Westin Hotels to understand the needs and wants of existing and potential customers.The needs and wants of particular stage are not targeted but all of the stages needs are targeted through this customer relationship management systems at Westin Hotels. This increases the chances that customers will be satisfied with the offerings of this particular hotel, hence they are attracted towards the offerings of this service business. Further to this, it is enabled with this CRM system to understand the needs of not only domestic customers but of international customers. With this knowledge about the needs of targeted customers, it is in position to satisfy their needs. This helps in improving the customer satisfaction. The customer satisfaction level improves with the implementation of CRM system because it provides the opportunity to be in continuous contact with customers. It helps in compiling the data about the needs of customers which is very important for satisfying the needs of customers. It also ensures to get the regular feedback from customers in the form of surveys. This is helpful for enhancing the customer satisfaction level as the results of feedback are incorporated by the Westin Hotels. It actually compiles the information which is collected through various ways and this information is used in the most useful manner for the benefits of customers. Further to this, it also identifies those customers which are loyal for it and this is useful for introducing those schemes which could help turning the satisfied customers in the loyal customers.
Moreover, it has allowed the customers to manage their accounts in an efficient and effective manner. It has provided the self-service feature. Through CRM system, the accessibility of its account management system is improved and customers are able to access them from their smartphones.The purpose of these account management systems is to provide the convenience to customers. This feature of its CRM through which it provides convenience to its customers is one of the differentiating features. With the offering of convenient service features, it has become able to gain the loyalty of its customers. therefore, it can be concluded that one aspect of CRM is that it provides convenience to customers, hence they become more attached to the brand which highlights their loyalty for the particular brand.Further to this, it ensures that accurate and quick response is provided to customers. It could be concluded that satisfaction and loyalty of customers improve with the help of timely and accurate response by the company. For improving the loyalty of customers, it is using Guestware which helps it in managing the experience of customers from the first point till the end point of their journey at the Westin Hotels. With the implementation of such systems where the customers are given utmost importance, With these features which are part of its CRM system, it is able to develop the brand loyalty of its customers. Moreover, it is also found that it is in position to offer special packages and incentives to its regular and loyal customers, hence, Westin Hotels is retaining its customers for longer term. This research has also found that when the needs are satisfied, loyalty is obtained and customers are obtained, this results in enhanced profitability of Westin Hotels. It is also because of the knowledge management aspect which is relying on the CRM system of Westin Hotels. Though, information could be obtained easily, it is important to utilize it in an effective manner. Westin Hotels has ensured to do the knowledge management of all information which is obtained through CRM. Hence, this information is shared with the relevant authorities and this is something which actually leads towards the enhanced performance.These all aspects are helping to conclude that performance of Westin Hotels is improved through CRM.
Strategic brand management is beneficial for improving the performance and future development of Westin Hotels.
One of the objectives of present research is explore the role of strategic brand management on the brand performance, using the case study of Westin hotels in China. The performance of luxury hotels is enhanced with strategic brand management process which is helping Westin Hotels to distinguish this brand from its competitors. For analysing the strategic brand management, brand image was analyzed. It is found that brand image of Westin Hotels is continuously working on developing the positive image of its brand. As per the response of the interviewee, it could be concluded that Westin Hotels is managing the brand for ensuring that customers become loyal and they are retained for a longer period of time. At Westin Hotels, the strategies of brand positioning, brand marketing, brand performance management and brand development are introduced. These strategies are helping this luxury hotel to manage the performance and future development of Westin Hotels. Through these elements of its strategic brand management, Westin Hotels is enabled to improve its performance and future development. It could be concluded that it is continuously working on having a positive image in the mind of customers through its strategic brand management programs. For having a positive brand image, Westin Hotels strive for exceeding the expectations of the customers. Other than brand image development, it is found that the role of brand positioning is critical. Basically, it is with the help of its brand marketing activities that positive brand image and strong positioning of Westin Hotels has been developed. In this whole process of strategic brand management, it has relied significantly on the brand performance analysis where it is investigated that how effectively a brand is working and what are its weaknesses. Through this continuous process of managing the brand, Westin Hotels has become successful in gaining the customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and customer retention.
This research encounters certain limitations which must not be ignored. First of all, this research is only limited to the strategic brand management and customer relationship management of Westin Hotels. Though, this research is conducted on the five star luxury hotels of China but it only considers the Westin Hotels as a case study. Though, researcher tried to select that hotel which could provide the best responses regarding the strategic brand management and customer relationship management of five star luxury hotels, however, this should not be ignored that its results could not be generalised to other hotels without considering their context. Considering this limitation of the present research, it is recommended to future researchers that similar research should be conducted on other five star luxury hotels of China. This will help in improving the generalizability and transferability of the findings of present research. This research uses the single case study for this research, and it is recommended to future researchers that they should also opt for the multiple case studies. This research has relied on the three interviews, though rich and adequate data is being collected, but the sample size is relatively small. Therefore, it is recommended to future researchers that they should consider increasing the sample size.
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What is your current customer relationship management strategy?
How do you ensure the strategic brand management at Westin Hotels? Which brand image you try to portray to your customers through strategic brand management.
Do you believe that CRM has any influence on customer satisfaction? If yes, how?
Do you believe that CRM has any influence on brand loyalty? If yes, how?
Do you believe that CRM has any influence on customer retention? If yes, how?
Do you believe that strategic brand management has any influence on customer satisfaction? If yes, how?
Do you believe that strategic brand management has any influence on brand loyalty? If yes, how?
Do you believe that strategic brand management has any influence on customer retention? If yes, how?
What are your recommendations for improving the role of CRM at Westin Hotels for improving its brand performance?
What are your recommendations for improving the strategic brand management process at Westin Hotels for improving its brand performance?
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