In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the concept of kindness to strangers traces back to the Israelites’ days of slavery in Egypt. In the Torah, the following is written:
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you will do him no wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you should be to you as a native among you, and you should love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Israel. (Leviticus 19:33–34)
Early Christians believed that what separated the “sheep” from the “goats” on Judgment Day was whether they “took strangers in” (Matthew 25). Early Christians built houses that served as lodging (where food was served) for travelers and other strangers. Eventually, they added sections to these houses where sick travelers could stay to get care and treatment for infectious diseases. After many centuries, these houses for strangers were renamed “hospitals”—from the Latin hospitas, meaning “guest” or “host.” Only much later did hospitals come to specialize in caring for the sick and injured (Willis 2000).
Today’s consumers are looking for the same type of hospitality from their providers. Organizations must have functional service quality characteristics—attributes of caregivers that please (and are easily evaluated by) consumers. Research has identified the five most important service quality characteristics (Mittal and Lassar 1998; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry 1988):
? Responsiveness: willingness to help and provide services
? Assurance: knowledge and courtesy of staff
? Empathy: caring and individualized attention
? Tangibles: availability of equipment and appearance of physical environment
? Reliability: ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
Possessing these characteristics sets the stage for a superb guest experience and turns customers into loyal patrons or repeat guests. Treating customers as guests may seem simple, but it is a major undertaking that organizations must master to compete successfully in a customer-driven marketplace (Ford, Heaton, and Brown 2001).