THE INFLUENCE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE FEATURES ON CUSTOMER RETENTION: A CASE OF COFKANS HOTEL. ABSTRACT: Organizations in the hospitality industry are employing various strategies to retain customers to their facilities due to the increasing competition in the industry and the complexity of customers demand. One key strategy is to ensure efficient customer service to patrons of hotels. This study examines the influence of customer service features on customer retention in one of the prestigious indigenous hotels in the Obuasi municipal-Cofkans hotel. The study used a qualitative design to understand the effects of customer service features from two stakeholders, guest and employees of the Cofkans hotel. A sample of fifteen (15) respondents were obtained via purposive and convenience sampling. An interview guide was used as a research instrument to obtain guests and employees experience on the customer service features and its influence on their retention. The ethically obtained data was analysed using Thematic analysis and the results presented with quotations to support the themes. The findings indicated that customer service features such as professionalism, empathy, responsiveness, communication, friendliness, customer reward and product knowledge were reported to be important characteristics which when practiced and harnessed will ensure greater retention of customers. Also, it was found that there were challenges that limit employees from delivering at the zenith, effective customer service features including; resource constraints, poor recruitment and selection practices of employees and lack of adequate training.TABLE OF CONTENTSDECLARATION iCERTIFICATION iiDEDICATION iiiACKNOWLEDGEMENT ivLIST OF TABLES viiiABSTRACT ixCHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1 Background of Study 1 Problem Statement 2 Objectives 3 Significance of Study 4 The organisation of the study 4CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW 5 Introduction 5 Definition of Concepts 5 Customer 5 Customer Service 5 Good Customer Service 6 Superior Customer Service 7 Customer Service Features 7 Friendliness 7 Responsiveness 8 Professionalism 8 Product Knowledge 8 Empathy 9 Rewarding Customers 9 Communication Skills 9 Customer Satisfaction 10 Impact of Customer Satisfaction. 11 Customer Retention 11 Influence of Customer Service on Customer Retention 15 Challenges to the Provision of Customer Service Features 16 Over/Under worked Staff 16 Having a Non-Caring Culture 17 Poor Accountability 17 Communication of Customer Value 17 Inadequate Understanding about Customer Needs 17CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 19 Introduction 19 Research Design 19 Data Sources 19 Population 20 Sample Size 20 Sampling Technique 20 Research Instrument 21 Method of Data Analysis 21 Limitations of the Study 21 Ethical Consideration 22 Profile of Organisation 22CHAPTER FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS 24 Introduction 24 Profile of Respondents 24 Customer service features influence on customer retention 24 Knowledge about the hotel’s services 25 Customer reward programs 26 Empathy influence on customer retention 27 Communication style influence on customers patronage of hotel’s services 27 Staff friendliness influence on patronage intentions 28 Professionalism influence on customer retention 29 Staff responsiveness influence on hotel patronage 30 Barriers to the customer service features at Cofkans hotel Ltd. 31 Resource Constraint 31 Poor Recruitment and Selection Practice 32 Lack of training 33 Critical customer service features for staff retention 33 Conclusion 35CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION 36 Introduction 36 Summary 36 Conclusion 37 Recommendations 38 Practical Implications. 38 Limitations of the Study 40 Recommendation for Future Study 40REFERENCE 41APPENDIX 45CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTIONGlobalization has impacted all forms of human endeavour including businesses in the hospitality industry. The many interventions by the governments of Ghana to boost tourism cannot be over emphasized. Hotels are critical component of the hospitality industry. However, the main difficulty facing most businesses is the ability to provide excellent customer service to satisfy customers, retain them and remain both competitive and profitable. Most hotels find themselves uncertain about the influence customer service features has on their customer retention (Lu, Berchoux, Marek, & Chen, 2015). People travel from their places of habitation to other locations for various reasons which may require them to lodge in a hotel. Some of the reasons people travel include; to attend seminars, conferences, and summits to meet existing business partners or explore new business opportunities, to inspect, handover, commission projects, take up appointment in places other than where one lives or in foreign lands and for vacations or holidays (Aziz & Ariffin, 2009). Customer service is an organisations ability to supply their customers’ wants and needs. It is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase which enhance a customer’s experience to recommend to others (Goodman, 2019). Ettore (2001) is of the opinion that focusing on a customer’s information can and ought to be obtained to better understand their view of the service provided by a firm.Customer service can be expressed in personal and interpersonal skills such as communicational skills, professionalism, friendliness, responsiveness, product knowledge and assurance, empathy and rewarding customers. These constitutes the features of customer service. According to Jeng and Bailey (2012) customer retention refers to customer engaging in a contract, either formal or informal, over a period of time, which includes repeated transactions. In loyalty literature, retention means the number of customers who stay with theprovider in the course of an established period, for example a year (Dawes, 2009; Kaura, Durga Prasad, & Sharma, 2015). Customer retention is ‘customers’ intention to stay loyal with the service provider especially in the context of switching cost (Edward & Sahadev, 2011). The difference between companies that grow and those that don’t is customer retention. The more customers that can be kept and continual sales made to, the more likely business goals are to be achieved (Kulbyte, 2019).According to KPMG (2017), customer retention is the biggest revenue driver. Existing customers who stay with an organization’s brand over time spend 67% more than new customers (Trust Barometer report, 2018). Studies have indicated that an increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by a large margin (Alshurideh, 2016; Kumar & Reinartz, 2016). Cofkans hotel has customer service as one of its pillars on which the hotel operates and this research seeks to find out whether the service features being provided has an influence on its customer’s retention. Problem StatementThe core issue to be addressed with the study is to bridge the gap of customer service features and customer retention at Cofkans Hotel. Customer service has been gaining increasing attention from the researchers and practitioners as a recognized field of scholarly study and is a fundamental tool used by hospitality industries for enhancing customer retention and ultimately organizational performance and profitability. The importance of customer service cannot be overlooked because happy customers are like free advertising for an organization as they are more like to recommend the organization’s service to others in their social network (Kierczak, 2019). A lot of studies have been done on the influence of customer satisfaction on customer retention, but little has been done on the influence customer service features has on customer retention. Recommendations from expert, scholars and consultants on current trend for businesses is to become highly customer-centric, that is to put the customer at the centre of business in terms of strategies, actions and processes. Despite this fact, most companies haveignored the influence these customer service features have on customer retention, believing that customers will patronise their services regardless of the services provided. Such organizations are always shocked when customer base erodes and their existence is threatened resulting from poor sales and cashflow for the such firms that downplayed the significant influence of customer service quality (Allan, 2016). It is common to think that if you have a great product or service, then customer retention will naturally follow. And while this might be the case in some instances, the truth is that it’s a short-term strategy. Sooner or later, customers’ feel that you don’t care about them and eventually leave (Kulbyte, 2019).The researcher is a staff of Cofkans Hotel and has constantly been witnessing customer base erosion. Customers are excited about the facilities available during during their first visits. They visit probably for a second time and do not patronise the hotel again. This greatly affects the revenue of the hotel. From the researcher’s experience as a marketing executive, the old truths still hold well, such that it is easier and more profitable to sell to existing customers than to find new ones (Baker & Hart, 2016). The researcher thus wants to find out if the customer service features being used by Cofkans Hotel has an influence on their customers’ retention. ObjectivesGenerally, the study seeks to examine the relationship between customer service features and customer retention and to further analyse how this relationship influences customer retention at Cofkans Hotel. The specific objectives of the study are;1. To evaluate how customer service features influence customer retention at Cofkans hotel.2. To identify if there are some barriers to the customer service features provided at Cofkans Hotel3. To examine other customer service features that customers’ need to enhance retention of customers at Cofkans Hotel. Significance of StudyCofkans Hotel has customer retention as one of the ways to increase revenue and be profitable, hence the need to find out if the customer service features being employed by the hotel has an influence on customer retention. This work will therefore provide information regarding customer service features and its influence on customer retention. This work will be available to management of Cofkans Hotel to enable them to know the perception of their customers on the customer service features being provided by the hotel and help improve customer retention.The importance of the findings of the study is to bring to the fore the relationship between customer retention and the customer services that the hotel provides. This study, apart from contributing to knowledge on the concept of customer service features and customer retention, will also provide information for the stakeholders in the hotel industry on the influences the services rendered to their customers have in keeping them in or out of business. It will also guide the management of the hotel to identify training needed by the staff of the hotel. Policy makers and stakeholders may be guided by the outcomes of this study in formulating and making certain decisions that will enable them to keep their existing customers. The organisation of the studyThe study is organized into five (5) chapters. Chapter One concentrates on the background of the study, problem statement, research objectives. Also, it identifies the significance of the study as well. Chapter Two gives insights on review of related literature and the theoretical underpinning of the study. This is followed by Chapter Three which discuss the methodological approach of the study. Further, Chapter Four presents the data analysis of the study and Chapter Five discuss the summary, recommendations and suggestions for future studies..