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Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745

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Expert Systems with Applications


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/eswa

Using FQFD to analyze island accommodation management in fuzzy


linguistic preferences
Ling-Zhong Lin ⇑, Wen-Chiang Chen, Tsun-Jin Chang
Department of Marketing Management, Shih Chien University, Kaohsiung Campus, Taiwan

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: Tourists’ service management has become a strategic issue for hospitality industry in tourism manage-
FQFD ment field. By improving accommodation performances, hospitality firms increase customer satisfaction
Island accommodation management and gain market shares. Nonetheless, most previously proposed or introduced research paradigms have
Fuzzy linguistic preferences focused on tourists without equally emphasizing the intra-organizational service quality and delivery
processes. The aim of this paper is to propose an approach for both external and internal service manage-
ment issue and service innovations based on the framework of Fuzzy Quality Function Deployment
(FQFD), a methodology that has been successfully adopted in new service development. Specifically,
the paper addresses the issue of how to deploy the House of Quality (HoQ) to improve accommodation
service innovation processes and tourist satisfaction effectively and efficiently. Fuzzy logic is a method-
ology to deal with the ill-defined nature of the tourist linguistic judgments required in the proposed HoQ.
The tourism case in island accommodation demonstrates the implementation of the proposed FQFD. The
effective and appropriate accommodation directions for service innovation designs acquired by applying
the proposed FQFD, thus, enable hotels managers to achieve a competitive advantage.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction the development of extant service quality and satisfaction pro-


grams is to diagnose a company’s service performance and to
Service innovation is an important tool for gaining marketing understand consumer purchase behavior. However, but they do
competitiveness, as positive service innovation affects customer not actively consider the intra-organizational service innovation
satisfaction, stimulates intention to return and encourages recom- development processes that can support the marketing initiatives
mending behavior. Service innovation is an essential process to of accommodations.
visit evaluation. Tsaur and Lin (2004) indicates that 71% of com- Measuring consumer judgment on service innovation design of
plains received in Asia outbound tourism relates to the quality of accommodations is sometimes highly complex, since it incorpo-
service and accommodations. The growing number of new holiday rates a great variety of uncontrollable and unpredictable factors
destinations increases the competition in the Asian travel market that affect the decisions involved (Frochot, 2005; Ghosh, Mehta,
and, therefore, service innovation of accommodations could be & Vera, 1990; Lam & Zhang, 1999). Researchers often neglect sev-
strategic for increasing the competitiveness of the Asian islands eral factors that may complicate the consumers’ decision-making
in the international tourism market (Chang, Lee, & Shin, 2002; process, such as incomplete information, additional qualitative cri-
Chu, 2002; Tsang & Qu, 2000). teria and imprecise preferences (Albacete-Sáez, Mar Fuentes-Fuen-
However, measurement of service innovation in the island tes, & Javier Lloréns-Montes, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to
accommodation receives scant attention. Despite these increased propose a systematic and structured approach called Fuzzy Quality
customer-oriented marketing efforts in the tourism industry, the Function Deployment (FQFD) adopting an analysis based on fuzzy
process of service innovation designs receives little attention. logic in order to design a new extant service innovation design
Although most research programs focuses on measuring customer with the focus on both external consumers’ needs and internal
perceptions of service quality and satisfaction (Johnston, 1995, service management requirements.
2004; Qu, Ryan, & Chu, 2000), few provide accommodation-specific
guidelines for designing service innovation to meet the quality 2. Literature review
standards expected by tourists. That is, the primary purpose of
2.1. Tourism service
⇑ Corresponding author. Address: 200 University Road, Nei-Men Hsiang, Kaohsiung
Hsien 845, Taiwan. Tel.: +886 7 6678888x4251/5712; fax: +886 7 6679999. The importance of tourism service as a strategic issue in tourism
E-mail address: ling@mail.kh.usc.edu.tw (L.-Z. Lin). industry has emerged during the last decade (Bigné, Sánchez, &

0957-4174/$ - see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2010.12.135
L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745 7739

Sánchez, 2001). Today, the breadth of tourism services related to of service attributes or strengths of relationship between tourism
accommodation may play a significant role in the competitive sce- service attributes and service designs, which are highly subjective
nario (Albacete-Sáez et al., 2007; Fleischer & Pizam, 1997). As a and vague (Temponi, Yen, & Tiao, 1999). (2) Formal mechanisms
consequence of this shift towards service, consumers are more for translating tourist requirements (which are generally qualita-
and more excited about accommodation performance. tive) into service innovation designs (which are usually quantita-
Tourist service, hereafter understood to be the service perfor- tive) are lacking. There are normally many tourist requirements
mance perceived by consumers as a result of accommodation pro- for service attributes, each tourist requirement can translate into
cesses and activities, has been widely recognized as a mean to multiple service innovation designs, and conversely a certain tour-
gain competitive advantage. Through tourists’ satisfaction, hotels ism service designs may affect multiple tourist requirements. In
retain their consumers and gain new market shares (Tian-Cole & general, these tourist requirements tend to translate into service
Crompton, 2003). Even though new consumers are welcomed in designs in a subjective, qualitative and non-technical way, which
every line of business, the main objective of hotels is to maintain express in more quantitative and technical terms. Hence, the rela-
tourists for a long-time period. The total value of a lifetime tourist tionships between tourist requirements and service designs are of-
is almost unquantifiable, and allows hotels to achieve a competitive ten vague or imprecise (Govers, 2001; Graessel & Zeidler, 1993). (3)
advantage against competitors (Chekitan & Schultz, 2005). Robledo Owing to the uncertainties in the tourism service design process,
(2001) stresses the significant role of service innovation in the data available for tourism service innovation design is often
achieving competitive advantage, and, conversely, the weak limited and may be inaccurate, especially when an entirely new
importance of sales and profits. tourism service is developed and a certain degree of vagueness is
According to the so-called ‘‘disconfirmation paradigm’’ (Lewis, often inevitable (Chien & Tsai, 2000).
1987; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985), consumer satisfac- In the traditional QFD, most of the input variables are assumed to
tion is achieved when service performances delivered by the ser- be precise and are treated as crisp numerical data. However, linguis-
vice innovation designs meet the requirements of consumers. To tic variables expressed in fuzzy numbers seem more appropriate for
this extent, Robledo (2001) states that tourists evaluate service describing those inputs in QFD. Selection of fuzzy logic as a means
by comparing their perceptions of service received with their to represent a QFD methodology in tourism service innovation de-
expectations. Thus, the gap between tourist expectations and per- signs seems natural, in particular when we review Hisdal’s (1988)
ceptions is a synthetic measure of consumers’ satisfaction. Since proposition: ‘‘Fuzzy logic can handle inexact information and verbal
consumers will be satisfied when perceptions exceed their expec- variables in a mathematically well-defined way which simulates
tations, understanding these requirements is an imperative for ho- the processing of information in natural-language commutation.’’
tels (Gundersen, Heide, & Olsson, 1996; Laws, 1991). For example, expressions such as ‘‘high satisfaction’’, ‘‘low interfer-
In addition, researchers need to adopt a dynamic perspective ence’’, ‘‘low importance’’, and ‘‘high impact’’ in tourism service attri-
when they are working on service innovation. Tourism service is butes and service designs are imprecise. These sentences in a
not a steady concept, and evolves through a continuous improve- natural or synthetic language are the values of verbal variables
ment cycle (Pizam, 2004). Therefore, researchers have to repeat which represent linguistic concepts in tourist’s perceptions.
the quantitative measurement of delivered and expected service
performances over time. That is to audit gaps between expecta-
tions and perceptions periodically (Enright & Newton, 2004). When 3. Construction of fuzzy QFD in service innovation delivers
a lack of correspondence occurs, viable service attributes and inno-
vation designs of intervention have to be identified, pondered and In the tourism service innovation designs, the design team
ranked in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Since interventions needs to create or improve tourism service by incorporating the
imply costs, before taking steps toward implementation, a cost/ service attributes recognized in the fuzzy QFD planning process
benefits analysis is appropriate for undertaking service designs into tourism service innovation development. However, it is not
starting from those service attributes with the highest impact on possible to consider all service attributes during service develop-
tourist service. ment because of constraints in time, budget or feasible facilities
To conclude, providing tourism service which meets the expec- (Poon, 1993). A tourism service innovation design team needs to
tations of consumer is a continuous process, which can be summa- be able to make trade-offs while selecting the service attributes
rized in the following steps: (1) Understanding the consumer’s based on the order of their relative importance ranking to achieve
voice, that is requirements and expectations in terms of relevant more tourist satisfaction (Ryan, 1995). That is to say, the service
service design performance. (2) Assessing consumer’s service per- innovation design priority is a key result of QFD since it guides
ception. (3) If a gap between perception and requirements occurs, the tourism service innovation design team in decision-making, re-
identifying viable steps that can improve tourist satisfaction. (4) source allocation, and the subsequent fuzzy QFD analysis. There-
Identifying costs and benefits related to each step. (5) Implement- fore, deriving the final importance rankings of tourism service
ing the most efficient service innovation design for satisfying con- innovation design from input service attribute variables is a crucial
sumers by means of a cost/benefit analysis. step towards successful QFD.
The approach is based on the translation of HoQ (House of
2.2. The fuzzy concept of QFD in tourism service Quality) principles from accommodation service attribute field to
service innovation design/management requirements, while the
Quality function deployment (QFD) originated in 1972 in Japan traditional HoQ correlates customer requirements (‘‘whats’’) with
as a methodology to improve products quality in Japanese firms, engineering characteristics of new product under development
such as Mitsubishi, Toyota and their suppliers (Hauser & Clausing, (‘‘hows’’). In our approach, customer requirements in terms of ser-
1988). The basic rationale of QFD is to take the customer’s desires vice attribute performances (‘‘whats’’) are crossed over with viable
down to the level of detailed operations. The inherent vagueness or service innovation design/management. Fig. 1 illustrates the
impreciseness in QFD presents a special challenge to the effective process used to conduct an HoQ evaluation in service attributes.
calculation of the importance of tourism service designs. The From Fig. 1, ‘‘whats’’ elements express service attribute SAi,
vagueness and impreciseness are due to a number of reasons: (1) i = 1, 2, 3, . . . , n, affecting accommodation service innovation
The QFD process involves various inputs in the form of linguistic design/management perception. After assessing the customer
data, that is tourist perception, judgment, evolution on importance service attribute, viable service design SDj, j = 1, 2, . . . , m, the
7740 L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745

assessed. To this extent, we adopted the hamming procedure to


evaluate the gap of accommodation performance (Chien & Tsai,
2000). From a mathematical point of view, given the two fuzzy sets
e and B,
A e the Hamming distance dðu ðxÞ; u ðxÞÞ between two fuzzy
eA eB
numbers belonging to A e and B,
e respectively, can be computed as
Z
dðue ðxÞ; ueðxÞÞ ¼ jueðxÞ  ueðxÞj; ð1Þ
A B A B
X

where X is the universe of discourse. The di parameters are them


calculated according to Eq. (1). Then, the fuzzy weighted impor-
f  of SAs can be derived as
tance W i

f  ¼ di  W
W f i: ð2Þ
i

3.2. Fuzzy relationship matrix between service attributes and service


designs

The element strives to determine which service design has the


highest impact on tourist satisfaction in accommodation. It takes
into account the fuzzy weighted importance of service attributes,
the fuzzy relationships matrix and the correlation matrix.
As already detailed, the position Re ij in the relationships matrix
expresses the fuzzy relationship between the jth SD with the ith
Fig. 1. The house of quality for the strategic management of the service design. SA. Again, a fuzzy linguistic scale may be usefully adopted by hotel
managers to interpret the vagueness and incomplete understand-
ing of the relationships between ‘‘hows’’ and ‘‘whats’’.
company can undertake in the tourism field to improve service
The fuzzy importance ReI j of each service design can be calcu-
performances have to be identified and ranked in terms of both
lated using the following equation
effectiveness and efficiency. Those service design correspond to
‘‘hows’’ in the proposed customer service HoQ. Service innovation X
n
ReI j ¼ f  R
W i
e ij ; j ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; m: ð3Þ
design/management requirements are specified on the basis of the
i¼1
hotel’s operations on managerial resource allocation plans in order
where W f  is the fuzzy weighted importance of ith service factor,
to satisfy the customers. i
while R e ij is the fuzzy number expressing the impact of the jth SD
The roof of correlations, the weights Wi [n  1], the relationship
matrix Rij [n  m] and the relative importance of SDs vector versus the ith SA.
In a similar manner, the position T e kj ; j; k ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; m; k – j, in
RIj [1  m] complete the HoQ. It is worth stressing that the weight
vector, the correlations matrix and the relationships matrix trans- the correlations matrix expresses the fuzzy correlation between
late linguistic judgments given by human beings. Therefore, fuzzy the kth and jth ‘‘hows’’. In order to quantitatively ponder the fuzzy
correlation between ‘‘hows’’, we adopt T e kj which can be interpreted
logic seems to be an effective means to deal with them. Fuzzy logic
allows to take into account a different meaning that we may give to as the incremented changes of the degree of attainment of the jth
the same linguistic expression. This is why the fuzzy approach has ‘‘how’’ when the attainment of the kth one is unitary increased.
been so widely adopted in different research fields. In our approach, Thus, the fuzzy weighted importance ReI j can be computed as
four fuzzy elements are added to the traditional HoQ, namely: X
ReI j ¼ ReI j  Te kj  ReI k ; j ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; m: ð4Þ
k¼j
(1) the fuzzy weighted importance of service attribute;
(2) the fuzzy weighted importance of service designs;
(3) the fuzzy cost for the implementation of service designs; 3.3. Fuzzy cost and marginal benefit of service designs
(4) the fuzzy marginal benefit of service designs.
In order to complete the assessment of service designs, their
3.1. Fuzzy weighted importance of service attribute cost of implementation should be considered. In this situation, fuz-
zy logic becomes a fundamental tool in dealing with ill-defined is-
The fuzzy weighted importance W f  of SAs is a [n  1] vector sues such as the evaluation of costs. While hotel managers may
i
which expresses the real importance of each SA. The introduction find objective difficulties in quantitatively assessing the costs of
f  is required to weigh each service attribute considering not
of W implementation of service designs, he/she can more easily give a
i
only the importance the customer gives to it, which is expressed judgement on a linguistic scale, ranging for instance from Very High
by the fuzzy value W f i , but also the performance delivered by the to Very Low. This is why, in the lower part of the HoQ, a fuzzy
parameter C e j is added to consider the cost of implementing the
hotel for that attribute. To gain a competitive advantage, the hotel
must provide superior service to the tourists on critical service fac- jth service design.
The fuzzy marginal benefit U e j of service designs can be calcu-
tors, that is either those that are perceived as the most important
ones or where service perceived is inferior. lated through the ratio between benefits and costs, as expressed
The fuzzy weighted importance W f  is computed by assessing by the following equation:
i
the distance di between accommodation performance and that per-
e j ¼ ReI   1 ;
U j ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; m: ð5Þ
ceived by tourists as superior. Both the performance delivered and j
ej
C
the target superior value could be retrieved from customer service
surveys by directly asking the tourists. Since both performance val- In this way, strategic action which scores the highest impact on
ues are fuzzy, the distance between fuzzy numbers has to be service design and therefore whose implementation should be
L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745 7741

considered by the hotel top management to improve the service the planning of service innovation designs in the hotel. These top
performance. managers realize the administration and hotel management dee-
ply, and have certain level of understanding about consumers’
4. Empirical results requirements. This study finally selects four outstanding top man-
agers of international hotels in Penghu.
4.1. Data collection
5. Results and discussion
In this paper, the methodology developed is applied to a tour-
ism industry, which refers to a major company operating in Penghu 5.1. Identifying the service attributes and service designs in the
island. Penghu archipelago, located between Taiwan and Mainland accommodation
China, covering an area of 127 km2, has been a place of military sig-
nificance ever since the ancient times. Penghu is rich in natural The study conducted by Oberoi and Hales (1990) is notable, as it
ecology as well as in culture and history. Competitive features of identifies the nature and number of service quality dimensions in
the island include its climatic conditions, archaeological sites UK conference hotels for the first time. According to this study,
(e.g. Old Battlefield, Heritage), diverse natural attractions (e.g. perception of service quality is two-dimensional, and consists of
Stone-watching, Bird-watching, Oceanic Ecology) and wide range tangibles and intangibles. A subsequent study undertaken in busi-
of cultural activities. All these make Penghu an internationally ness hotels indicates that the same dimensions are valid (Gunder-
famous scenic spot. In the past decade, it has become one of the sen et al., 1996). Ekinci, Riley, and Fife-Schaw (1998) also support
hottest recreational spots in Asian travel. the validity of these dimensions in seaside resort hotels from the
perspective of British holidaymakers. Initially, the performance
4.2. Survey framework part of the SERVQUAL scale and its hotel version, ‘‘LODGSERV,’’
developed by Knutson, Stevens, Wullaert, Patton, and Yokoyama
The study conducted two separate surveys to collect data from (1990) are tested, but both scales fail to support the five dimen-
departing travelers at Makung airport, Penghu. The main reason for sions (Ekinci & Riley, 1997, 2000). After modifications, the data
selecting an airport for a survey site was that most hotels were fit into the two-dimensional structure of tangibles and intangibles.
reluctant to do surveys for customers inside their hotels. Tourists, ‘‘Tangibles’’ refer to the aesthetic quality and functionality of the
after entering the lounge at the departure gate of the airport, were physical environment, whereas ‘‘intangibles’’ refer to the compe-
interviewed at various times of the day on 4 weekdays and the tence and caring of hotel employees. In other words, tangibles refer
weekends over a 4-week period in 2006. Tourists were approached to what people get from hotel services (benefits such as a nice
and informed about the purpose of the study prior to distributing room) and intangibles refer to the manner in which people get
the questionnaire. At the beginning of the survey, one screening these services. Hence, this study modified some service attributes
question was asked to identify if tourists had stayed at a hotel in and their relative dimensions from the work of Oberoi and Hales
the last 1 year. If tourists who met this criterion, they continued (1990).
to answer the self-administered questionnaire. Instructions in- When applying the proposed HoQ to the accommodation,
cluded in the cover letter stipulated that the questionnaire be com- appropriate ‘‘whats’’ have to be identified. The main service attri-
pleted and returned directly to the researchers who had butes ‘‘whats’’ to be considered in the real case application have
administered the survey. A hotel of 220 travelers were approached, emerged from a preliminary survey phase, which is performed
of which 188 (85.4%) responded and completed the questionnaires. through direct interviews carried out on 120 tourists by academi-
Sixty-eight of them were excluded, since they had not been fully cians. Table 1 shows the relevant service attributes ‘‘whats’’, to-
completed. Thus, hotels of the 120 questionnaires were used for gether with a brief description.
further analysis. The high response rate of 85.4% was partly attrib- The second part of this study is to establish service deliver pro-
uted to the US$4 gift certificates offered in return for participation. cess of accommodations through an in-depth interview with top
Pervious studies showed the effectiveness of using various mone- managers of hotels to collect relational variables. The key question
tary incentives in improving mail survey response rates (Brennan, to ask in this step is ‘‘how’’ the hotel delivers service of accommoda-
1992; Brennan, Hoek, & Astridge, 1991). tion. Table 2 shows a list of possible ‘‘hows’’ for improving the cus-
In order to evaluate various service innovation designs of hotels tomer needs related to service design/management requirements.
and the relationship between service attributes and service designs The third part of application focused on the assessment of
in accommodation, four top managers from four famous interna- viable service designs ‘‘hows’’, their mutual correlations, as well
tional hotels in Penghu participated in filling the questionnaire. as the relationships judgments between service attributes and
This study sets up the three principles of selecting the top manag- hotel service designs. Since the top managers adopt a linguistic ap-
ers of hotels: (a) the manager should work in the hotels industry proach, a first instructive phase is required to introduce the service
for more than 15 years; (b) the chosen manager should be the design members to fuzzy set concept. In a similar manner, appro-
top manager; (c) the chosen manager should be responsible for priate linguistic scales were set up for the evaluation of relative

Table 1
List of viable indicators for the evaluation of service attribute.

Customer needs Service attributes Description


Intangibles Confidence The behavior of employees of the hotel instill confidence in customers
Courteous Employees of the hotel were consistently courteous with you
Problem handling When you had a problem the hotel showed a sincere interest in solving it
Prompt service Employees of the hotel gave you prompt service
Willingness to help Employees of the hotel were always willing to help you
Tangibles Modern equipment The hotel had modern looking equipment
Visual appearance Materials associated with the service (such as menu, furniture) were visually appealing at the hotel
Professional image The hotel had a décor in keeping with its image and price range
7742 L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745

Table 2
Service designs considered in the accommodation.

Service delivers Service designs Description


Front desk Relations Giving tourism information regarding the traditions, celebrations and history of the place
Fast check-in Prompt response to tourist check-in
Complain handling Reliability in handling customer service complains
Housekeeping Cleanliness Individual and communal areas are clean
Timely arrangement Giving prompt service to the tourist at the promised time
Room items in order Individual rooms, along with its fittings, are in good state of repair
Food Food quality Providing quality cooking
Employee friendliness Offering tourist guide and advice menu
Sanitation Hygiene and cleanness of cooking facilities
Variety Providing multi-traditional homemade cooking
Price Price is in accordance with the service and food provided

and weighted importance of SAs, the relative and weighted impor- f i . Table 3 shows the computed results. A comparison of the
W
tance of SDs, together with values in the relationships and correla- spread of fuzzy number among the service attributes in Fig. 3
tions matrixes. shows that the triangular have relatively heavy area in ‘‘Problem
Handling’’ and ‘‘Prompt Service’’. This shows that the tourists have
5.2. Relative importance ratings in the service requirements more recognition discrepancy in these two service attributes. Be-
sides, the triangular areas in the service attribute of ‘‘Confidence’’
5.2.1. Fuzzy linguistic spreads of service attributes in the and ‘‘Willing to help’’ are relatively small, meaning tourists with
accommodation recognition relatively unanimous and more consistently. Further,
During the survey phase, the 120 tourists have also been asked the triangular area is more similar in ‘‘Visual Appearance’’ and
about the importance of service attributes for determining the rel- ‘‘Modern Equipment’’ with significant overlap in the area. This
ative importance of service attributes and to assess the distance shows that the weighted difference is not large between the two
between the service delivered for each attribute and the perfor- service attributes. By all accounts, the tourists consider profes-
mance that is perceived as superior. The 120 tourists have been sional image, problem handling, visual appearance and modern
asked to rank the relative importance of each service attribute on equipment as the important service attributes.
a 9-point linguistic rating scale, ranging from VL (Very Low) to VH
(Very High). The fuzzy scale is shown in Fig. 2. 5.2.2. Fuzzy weighted importance by tourists’ cognition gaps
w~ i;x is the fuzzy triangular number which is adopted to translate Once W f i are calculated, the weighted importance W f  ½n  1 of
i
the linguistic importance judgement given to the ith SA by the xth SAs is computed in according with Eq. (2). With regard to the crisp
tourist, w ~ i;x fuzzy numbers have been pooled to determine an distance di between the accommodations’ performance and the
aggregate value to be used in the HoQ, which is the relative impor- one that is perceived by tourists as superior, the parameter has
tance W f i defined previously. To this extent, the relative impor- been computed as the average of crisp distances di,x, the generic
tance W f i of ith service attribute can be computed as a weighted xth tourist perceives against ith service attribute, as shown in Eq.
average of w ~ i;x . The weighted average takes into account the issue (7):
that not all tourists are equal. In the specific case, the following P120
equation is applied: x¼1 di;x
di ¼ ; i ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; n: ð7Þ
120
X
120
fi ¼
W ~ i;x ;
Ix  w i ¼ 1; 2; . . . ; n: ð6Þ The parameters di,x are obtained based on the survey results and
x¼1 by applying Eq. (1). To this extent, a section of the survey was ded-
Ix being the importance of xth tourist surveyed (x = 1, 2, . . . , 120). icated to performance judgments about the service delivered by
The importance of each tourist have been weighted through the the hotel to its customers. The customers were asked to judge
percentage of staying in the hotels. We suggest that the data from the service level they were receiving for each service attribute,
frequent guests, perceptions may be more important, needs to be using the linguistic scale shown in Fig. 2. Moreover, for each SA,
weighted more heavily than that from first time visitors. the customers had to indicate the judgment which best matched
The importance of each tourist has been expressed with a fuzzy their perception of a superior service. di,x parameters, di values,
and the corresponding weighted importance W f  are shown in
importance judgment using the same 9-point linguistic scale. The i

resulting fuzzy numbers have been used in the computation of Table 4. The outcomes from the analysis reveal that customers per-
ceive a significant difference between the hotel’s service perfor-
mance and optimum one in terms of ‘‘Prompt service’’, ‘‘Problem
Handling’’, ‘‘Visual Appearance’’ and ‘‘Professional Image’’. Tourists
consider that ‘‘Professional Image’’, ‘‘Visual Appearance’’ and
‘‘Problem Handling’’ are the three most important service attri-
butes (see Tables 3 and 4), but since the performance delivered is
far from meeting customer requirements, they should be consid-
ered as the key service attributes to tune.

5.3. Fuzzy relationship matrix assessment

5.3.1. Fuzzy comparisons matrices between service attributes and


service designs
This step in the construction of HoQ was the assessment of fuz-
Fig. 2. The tourists’ linguistic importance terms. zy relationship matrix R e i;j ½n  m. To this extent, service designs
L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745 7743

Table 3
fi.
~ i;x assigned to service attributes by tourists and the relative importance of service attributes W
Fuzzy importance w

Service Confidence Courteous Problem Prompt Willing to Modern Visual Professional


attributes handling service help equipment appearance image
Importance C1 L L SH L M AH H VH
judgment C2 SL SL VH M AH H SH VH
C3 AL M AH AL AL H SH SH
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
. . . . . . . . .
C120 VL L AH M M VH VH H
Relative C1 (0.2, 0.3, 0.4) (0.2, 0.3, 0.4) (0.7, 0.8, 0.9) (0.2, 0.3, 0.4) (0.4, 0.5, 0.6) (0.5, 0.6, 0.7) (0.6, 0.7, 0.8) (0.8, 0.9, 0.9)
importance C2 (0.1, 0.2, 0.3) (0.1, 0.2, 0.3) (0.8, 0.9, 0.9) (0.4, 0.5, 0.6) (0.5, 0.6, 0.7) (0.6, 0.7, 0.8) (0.7, 0.8, 0.9) (0.8, 0.9, 0.9)
~ i;x
w C3 (0.3, 0.4, 0.5) (0.4, 0.5, 0.6) (0.5, 0.6, 0.7) (0.3, 0.4, 0.5) (0.3, 0.4, 0.5) (0.6, 0.7, 0.8) (0.7, 0.8, 0.9) (0.7, 0.8, 0.9)
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
. . . . . . . . .
C120 (0.1, 0.1, 0.2) (0.2, 0.3, 0.4) (0.5, 0.6, 0.7) (0.4, 0.5, 0.6) (0.4, 0.5, 0.6) (0.8, 0.9, 0.9) (0.8, 0.9, 0.9) (0.6, 0.7, 0.8)
Relative (0.19, 0.21, 0.28) (0.22, 0.31, 0.43) (0.67, 0.79, 0.86) (0.30, 0.40, 0.50) (0.40, 0.50, 0.55) (0.48, 0.65, 0.73) (0.52, 0.61, 0.75) (0.70, 0.85, 0.88)
importance
of service
attributes
fi
W

Table 5
Degree of relationship, graphic symbols and corresponding fuzzy numbers.

Degree of relationship Graphic symbol Fuzzy number


Strong d (0.7, 0.8, 0.9)
Medium s (0.4, 0.5, 0.6)
Weak N (0.1, 0.2, 0.3)

5.3.2. Fuzzy comparisons matrices of interdependencies with service


designs
The roof of correlations was built up in a similar manner. Tradi-
tional QFD linguistics are used to express the correlations between
service designs (strong negative, negative, positive, strong positive)
Fig. 3. The spread of fuzzy number among the service attributes.
and the symbols are translated into fuzzy numbers, as shown in
Table 7.
SDs for customer satisfaction listed in columns, and service attri- Once the relationship matrix and the roof of correlations are
butes SAs crossed over in rows. Four top managers of the hotels compiled, the fuzzy relative importance ReI j and the fuzzy weighted
using linguistics cognitions, usually adopted in crisp QFD ap- importance ReI j of each service design are computed in accordance
proaches, express the degree of relationship (weak, medium, with Eqs. (3) and (4), respectively. Fig. 4 shows the computed re-
strong) between SDs and SAs. Since fuzzy logic is exploited to well sults of interdependencies with service innovation designs.
cope with the ill-defined nature of linguistics judgments, graphics The backward 5th row in Fig. 4 shows that the correlations of
symbols and linguistics should be translated into as many fuzzy the eleven service designs that are associated with customer base
triangular numbers as possible instead of crisp ones. Table 5 shows from the total scores. Food Quality occupies the important hub
the correspondence between symbols and fuzzy numbers. relationship with other service designs, such as Cleanliness, Sanita-
In the center of Table 6 shows the resulting relationship matrix tion, Variety and Price. The result also demonstrates that for differ-
between service attributes and service designs from four top man- ent service innovation designs Food Quality represents the ability
agers’ linguistic cognitions. of its innovation and outperforms other service innovation designs.

Table 4
f  of each service attribute.
Distance di from the optimum performance and weighted importance W i

Performance judgments Optimum performance Distance di,x Distance Relative f


W i
di importance
C1 C2 C3 ... C120 C1 C2 C3 ... C120 C1 C2 C3 ... C120
Confidence H SH AH ... H H VH SH ... H 0 0.1 0.15 ... 0 0.072 (0.19, 0.21, 0.28) (0.013, 0.015, 0.020)
Courteous M AH H ... AH M H H ... VH 0.1 0.1 0 ... 0.2 0.093 (0.22, 0.31, 0.43) (0.020, 0.028, 0.040)
Problem AL M M ... L H SH H ... SH 0.2 0.15 0.15 ... 0.3 0.371 (0.67, 0.79, 0.86) (0.248, 0.293, 0.319)
handling
Prompt service M AH AL ... H AH AH H ... SH 0.2 0 0.2 ... 0.1 0.284 (0.30, 0.40, 0.50) (0.085, 0.113, 0.142)
Willing to help H AH SH ... AH H H SH ... AH 0 0.1 0 ... 0 0.049 (0.40, 0.50, 0.55) (0.019, 0.024, 0.027)
Modern AH AH M ... AH AH AH VH ... AH 0 0.1 0.1 ... 0 0.164 (0.48, 0.65, 0.73) (0.078, 0.11, 0.12)
equipment
Visual AH H M ... H AH H VH ... H 0 0 0.15 ... 0 0.525 (0.52, 0.61, 0.75) (0.273, 0.32, 0.394)
appearance
Professional AL SL M ... L H H VH ... SH 0.2 0.3 0.25 ... 0.35 0.358 (0.70, 0.85, 0.88) (0.251, 0.304, 0.315)
image
7744 L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745

Table 6
The relationship between service attributes and service design in house of quality.

Service attributes Service designs


Relations Fast Complain Cleanliness Timely Room items in Food Employee Sanitation Variety Price
check-in handling arrangement order quality friendliness
Confidence Medium Strong Strong Medium Strong Weak
Courteous Medium Weak Strong Medium Medium Strong Weak
Problem handling Weak Medium Strong Weak Weak Weak Medium
Prompt service Strong Strong Medium Strong Medium Medium
Willingness to Strong Medium Medium Weak Weak
help
Modern Strong Medium Strong Strong Weak
equipment
Visual appearance Strong Strong Strong Medium Strong
Professional Weak Medium Weak Strong Medium Medium Strong
appearance

design, by using the 9 value fuzzy scale previously shown in


Table 7
Fig. 2. As shown in Fig. 4, the results indicated that fuzzy logic is
Degree of correlation, graphic symbols and corresponding fuzzy numbers.
a very flexible tool to handle such a vague, imprecise and ill-de-
Degree of correlation Graphic symbol Fuzzy number fined issue as cost estimation for service designs.
Strong positive d (0.7, 0.8, 0.9) From Fig. 4, ‘‘Sanitation’’ emerged as the strategic action with
Positive s (0.5, 0.6, 0.7) the highest implementation priority, since, despite the very high
Negative h (0.3, 0.4, 0.5) cost for implementation, it makes it possible to improve the impor-
Strong negative j (0.1, 0.2, 0.3)
tant service attribute, such as ‘‘Modern Equipment’’ and ‘‘Visual
Appearance’’. In addition, ‘‘Sanitation’’ has positive interdepen-
However, the conducted cost adds to the service innovation de- dence against other service designs. In particular, the results find
signs for further evaluating the final importance. that there is a strong positive relationship between the ‘‘Food Qual-
ity’’ implementation, and there is a positive relationship between
5.4. Final importance ratings of service designs in the accommodation the ‘‘Cleanliness’’.

Then, the fuzzy cost C e j for the implementation of each service 6. Conclusion
design was determined to evaluate the fuzzy marginal benefit U e j.
To this extent, the four top managers were asked to express a lin- This study has addressed the applicability of FQFD in the tour-
guistic judgment about the investment required for each service ism and service design management context. The proposed

Fig. 4. The fuzzy weighted importance evaluation of service designs in HoQ.


L.-Z. Lin et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 38 (2011) 7738–7745 7745

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