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Conducting a literature review by using selected keywords inevitably means that some relevant papers that used different terminologies may have been missed. We used four databases to achieve as wide a cover of relevant literature as possible, but research published, for example, in book chapters or conference proceedings, or written in other languages was excluded from this study. Nevertheless, the review method allowed us to achieve a good cover of relevant peer-reviewed research on the topic, and focus on a manageable number of papers to analyze. To complement and enrich the literature review, we invited established scholars and practitioners in the field to submit short commentaries on the topic of CEM.

The infusion of expert opinions, knowledge and descriptions of managerial practices increased the external validity of our findings and allowed us to gain insight into timely, emerging topics not yet observable in existing journal publications. From academia, we chose eight professors who represent four key approaches to hospitality research: marketing;.

Each invited scholar is a distinguished expert in the selected area, as demonstrated by, for example, numerous widely cited articles and influence in key hospitality journals, education or industry affiliations Appendix 2. Our list is naturally not exhaustive, but other scholars could have been invited; our aim was to approach a broad set of scholars who could provide complementary perspectives.

We contacted these scholars by e-mail in August Each scholar agreed to provide a short written commentary that summarized his or her views on the meaning and influence of CEM in the field, as well as predictions about future CEM developments that likely will be important for research, practice or society. In February , we contacted by e-mail general managers in high profile full-service hotel companies in the hospitality industry.

Therefore, their managers represent perspectives from multiple hospitality sectors.

The commentary request began by explaining the goal of the study. We contacted 12 managers, 8 of whom provided commentaries. The commentaries primarily reflected their company policies and priorities.

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We analyzed a total of 16 commentaries, from eight academics and eight practitioners, to identify important themes and aspects of CEM in a hospitality context. In particular, we relied on the commentaries to identify emerging research topics. We read the commentaries and used thematic content analysis Kolbe and Burnett, to identify and categorize themes; we, then, compared and revised the themes until we found common perceptions.

The commentaries are not empirical research data, and we do not claim that the views of our informants are generalizable to the industry as a whole. Excerpts from these commentaries are incorporated throughout this text.

Customer experience is an elusive and indistinct notion. Think about the last time you went to a movie with someone. You both sat in the same theatre, ate the same popcorn, and saw the same film, yet you each walked out with a totally different experience. This is because each consumer is unique.

Bonnie J. Professor Knutson captures the elusive nature of CE. A multitude of CE definitions appear in literature; Gentile et al. Through various interactions with the firms, customers develop sentiments that reflect their involvement from rational, emotional, sensorial, physical or spiritual angles. Meyer and Schwager stated that CE refers to internal feelings of customers when facing various interactions with firms, whether direct e.

According to this definition, companies that compete to achieve a satisfactory CE must orchestrate all customer contacts, direct or indirect, during the service process.

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Verhoef et al. Puccinelli et al. According to Grewal et al. Palmer suggests three key constructs — involvement, emotions and interpersonal relationships — that either parallel or contribute to CE. Recent research suggests that CE is derived not only from interactions in employee—customer dyads but also from broader networks of actors, stakeholders, customers, suppliers, managers, frontline employees and brands Jaakkola e t al. This interactive, co-created perspective reflects the rise of customer collectives organized around shared interests and complicated service delivery networks that encourage various suppliers and providers to contribute to the creation of CEs Akaka et al.

Therefore, CEM in contemporary markets must go beyond the customer—provider dyad and service encounters. Our review of extant research reveals that CEM studies reflect three disciplinary perspectives: marketing including technology and social media , operations including service design and human resources including organizational behavior and strategy Table I. Marketing scholars study the positive implications of creating superior CE and advocate for the importance of this concept Grewal et al.

Several studies connect CE to the management of customer relationships in multichannel environments, noting the importance of insights into the experiences customers have through various encounters with firms or brands Chan, ; Frow and Payne, Retailing research with a marketing focus also addresses constructs that affect CEs, with a strong emphasis on characteristics and stimuli in the servicescape Baskaran, ; Verhoef et al. The operations management perspective directs attention to service delivery and the role of service design in facilitating superior CEs Teixeira et al.

Studies that draw their theoretical foundation from human resource management HRM research highlight the importance of the people factor, that is, of employees within the organization who help shape CEs. The HRM perspective also emphasizes the importance of selecting service-minded employees and providing them with service-focused training; in addition to an empowered environment and the overall service climate, such factors are critical for managing CEs Gazzoli et al.

It also shows that extant research has focused mainly on a single perspective; studies that integrate multiple perspectives are rare. Although hoteliers and restaurant managers embrace CEM as a key goal Bharwani and Jauhari, , only a limited number of hospitality studies focus on CEM Johnson et al. The following section provides a summary of the few studies that explicitly address CEM in the hospitality sector. Johnson et al. They find that it is important to balance service quality and price to enhance joyful experiences.

Morgan et al. Using a case study of Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Nixon and Rieple highlight the importance of service design and systems that help create employee customer engagement and manage CEs. Johansson and Naslund show how cruise ship experiences are created by the effective management of spaces, passengers and emotions emotional labor of the service providers.

So and King develop a measure to evaluate hotel brand equity as an outcome of brand strategies. Their findings suggest that CE can be influenced by three service dimensions: core, servicescape and employee. Nicholls examines the role of culture and the value it brings to customer-to-customer interaction and its subsequent influence on CE in the hospitality industry.

Miao et al. These findings are summarized in Table III. However, researchers and managers have pointed out that CEM is particularly important for the hospitality industry Bharwani and Jauhari, ; Kandampully et al. Hospitality services involve relatively longer interactions between customers and employees, which provides unique opportunities to create relationships.

In service contexts, shared experiences between customers and employees result in the co-creation of memorable experiences McColl-Kennedy et al. Thus, employees help create unique, memorable experiences Bharwani and Jauhari, In most hospitality services, experiences are created not only by the firm and their employees but also by other customers; customer-to-customer interaction is critical to the hospitality experience McMillan et al. We, therefore, expand this understanding by drawing on insights from CEM literature as well as commentaries from scholars and practitioners.

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Four themes emerge from this synthesis, which have implications on CEM in the hospitality context: Service aspects are integral to the hospitality experience. The following sections provide detailed discussions of these themes Table IV. As we noted previously, service is integral to a hospitality experience. Within hospitality contexts, many typical service research topics such as service quality Johnson et al. A service orientation is an organization-wide embrace of policies, practices, systems, people and behaviors focused on service, to ensure customer satisfaction Carraher et al.

As a core component of hospitality, service is essential to ensure that customers perceive value and also is critical for long-term business sustainability Ariffin et al. Because of the importance of service to hospitality experiences, a service climate is also pivotal. A service climate is defined as the subjective perception of organizational support that employees receive from the firm, in the form of policies, practices and procedures He et al.

The creation of an appropriate service climate is a key aspect of CEM in the hospitality industry. Both theory and practice have recognized the growing importance of employees not only from an operational perspective but also from the perspective of value that leads to business success Karatepe, Hospitality employees engage in frequent, intimate interactions with customers Sathish and Venkatesakumar and are, therefore, in a key position to ensure customer satisfaction Tsai, and prompt repeat business and customer loyalty Van Doorn et al.

Employees act as an interface that provides positive CEs and gains customer commitment Bharwani and Jauhari, During service delivery, employees guarantee service quality and live up to customer expectations He et al. They also act as brand ambassadors Veleva et al. Employees are, thereby, primary drivers of competitive advantage, accentuating the importance of attracting the right employees He et al. This notion is reaffirmed by Professor Solnet:.

The importance of the connection between worker attitude and customer experience was well argued by Ben Schneider and David Bowen in the mid s. David Solnet. Scholars have sought to identify factors that influence indicators of employee commitment and engagement, such as reduction of employee turnover Jung and Yoon, ; Karatepe, , retention Deery and Jago, ; Milman and Dickson, and citizenship behavior Hui et al.

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In particular, fun at work appears essential for enhancing employee motivation and productivity while reducing their stress. A fun working environment is a frequently cited employee need and, according to employees, the boundaries between work and play are melting away So and King, In many cases, fun at work creates an environment that promotes an organizational culture, leading to positive experiences in the workplace. Employees share their experiences, both with co-workers and during the co-creation of value to create memorable experiences with customers Akaka et al.

In highly interactive services, such as hospitality, the service quality that customers perceive depends greatly on their interactions and subsequent relationships with employees. Only through on-going interaction and mutual dependence can service providers and customers form strong emotional bonds and trust Kandampully et al. Both Professors Roberts and Solnet note the role of emotions in customer—employee interactions:. Central to service-based firms is the role of the employee with the guest.

There is human emotion and memory at play, too, creating an experience based upon the interaction of these business domains. Both customer and worker share this emotional and memorable experience. Thus, as a memory, it can carry over to future interactions with other customers or workers — for good or for bad.