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Service businesses risk bad reviews if they don’t tackle disruptive customers in group activities – new study

New research into why rapport matters in guided group activities has shown that businesses are at risk of bad reviews if they do not actively encourage positive interactions among their clients and prevent disruptive customers from spoiling the experience for others.

Group of people walking
Research has shown that 'getting along' matters in group tourism activities

A study led by Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, identified four dimensions of group rapport: whether group members showed interest and consideration towards each other; whether they all felt the same about the experience; whether they formed bonds with each other; and whether they had pleasant exchanges with each other.

Along with analysing participant reactions to videos which presented various levels of rapport among a group tour, the researchers placed actors in a real guided group food tour to engage with others and create low, moderate and high rapport. They also conducted interviews with managers, customers and tour guides from a range of activities, including wine and city restaurant tours and recreational and educational activities.

The findings revealed that even when all other aspects of the tour are first-rate, having moderate to high levels of rapport within the group can increase overall satisfaction with the tour experience. However, a lack of rapport between tourists leads to dissatisfaction with the whole tour.

Lead researcher Dr Linda Lee, senior lecturer in Marketing at Nottingham Business School, said: “The demand for social experiences is likely to increase as people start venturing out of their homes, but customers may be out of practice when sharing services and interacting with others. Businesses which provide group activities must ensure that a few disruptive customers do not taint the experience for others, otherwise what could have been a five-star review could easily become a three or four-star review.”

Based on the findings, the researchers recommend a number of steps that businesses can take to prevent customers from clashing and impacting on others:

  1. Be very clear in marketing communications on what a customer is expected to do during an experience, for example walking five kilometres including steep stairs and uneven ground.
  2. Set out expectations for customer behaviour and the group activity at the outset, allowing for removal of those who are not prepared for the activity, such as grouping customers by ability.
  3. Intervene when the topic of conversation veers into dangerous waters, such as politics, or when a customer behaves selfishly, for example offering more food to those who did not get any.
  4. Quickly remove unhappy or disruptive customers - including pulling them aside and offering compensation - before their negativity infects other customers.
  5. Introduce customers to other compatible customers and separate incompatible customers.

The research was carried out in conjunction with Webster University, Geneva, and Simon Fraser University, Canada, and has been published in leading business journal Tourism Management.

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    About Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Business School (NBS) at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is a world leader in experiential learning and personalisation of business, management and economics education and research, combining academic excellence with positive impact on people, business and society.  NBS has an unrivalled level of engagement with business, public and voluntary organisations and thus is known as the business school for business. With more than 6,000 students, NBS is also one of UK’s largest business schools.

    NBS is accredited by EQUIS and AACSB, which are internationally recognised hallmarks of excellence and quality for business education. NBS courses are ranked in the Top 20 for Accounting and Finance and for Economics in The Guardian Good University Guide 2021. The School is one of only six UK business schools recognised as a PRME Champion and held up as an exemplar by the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME).

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

Service businesses risk bad reviews if they don’t tackle disruptive customers in group activities – new study

Published on 8 September 2021
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School

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