Although early events in the encounter cascade are likely to be especially important, any encounter can potentially be critical in determining customer satisfaction and loyalty. If a customer is interacting with the hotel for the first time, the initial encounter will create a first impression of the hotel. In these first encounter situations, the customer frequently has no other basis for judging the hotel, and the initial phone contact or face – to – face experience with the customer can take on excessive importance in the customer’s perceptions of quality. Even when the customer has made multiple interactions with the hotel, each individual encounter is important in creating a composite image of the hotel in the customer’s memory. Many positive experiences add up to a composite image of high quality, whereas many negative interactions will have a positive effect. On the other hand, a combination of positive and negative interactions will leave the customer feeling unhappy of the hotels quality, doubtful of its consistency in service delivery, and vulnerable to the appeals of competitors.
A large corporate customer of an institutional food provider that provides food service in all of its company dining rooms and cafeterias could have a series of positive encounters with the account manager or the sales person who handles the account. These experiences could be followed by positive encounters with the operation staff that actually set up food service facilities. However, even with these positive encounters, later negative experiences with the staff who serve the food or the accounting department that administers the account and billing procedures can result in a mixture of quality impressions. This variation in experience could result in the corporate customer wondering about the quality of the hotel and unsure of what to expect in the future. Each encounter with different people and department representing the food service provider adds to or detracts from the potential of continuing relationship.