Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business

School

School of Marketing, Tourism & Leisure

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Advisor

Kate Mizerski

Abstract

Marketing, retailing, organizational behavior and consumer behavior textbooks often mention the effects of servicescape atmospherics, physical design and decor elements on facility users. Service managers also recognize it as being an important aspect of their businesses. Yet, in marketing, there is surprisingly little research that is based on theoretical models which predict customer reactions to the different elements in the servicescape. Even less has been done to explore the effects of servicescape elements on customer satisfaction and behavioral intentions. This thesis focuses on selected aspects of Bitner's (1992) servicescape framework and explores the effects of layout. accessibility, aesthetics, electronic equipment, seating comfort, and cleanliness on customer perceptions of service quality. Perceived service quality is hypothesized to lead to customer satisfaction, and approach avoidance behaviors such as desire to remain longer in the servicescape, and intentions to repatronize the facility. In team based sports, fans will often frequent a venue due to their loyalty to the team; even if they do not like the facility. Therefore, having a choice of different venues is important, and is the main distinguishing feature of this thesis when compared to previous studies in this area (e.g. Baker & Cameron, 1996; Bitner, 1992; Moore, Pickett, & Grove, 1999; Wakefield & Blodgett, 1996), which used samples from leisure sports venues which hosted team-based sport. The use of these fan based samples may have resulted in respondent bias towards facility elements; as they do not visit the facility because of the “superiority" of the venue, but because their favorite team is playing there. The availability of more than one facility offering similar spectating experiences is important as it enables customers/spectators to choose between competing facilities based on the environmental variables under study. Wortman (1975) suggested that perceived choice (the perception that there is choice) can lead to positive psychological and behavioral outcomes. Therefore, having a choice of venues may give spectators more control, and result in happier spectators. Due to this need to ensure that leisure-sport facility users had a choice of venue, the data for this study was collected at horse, dog, and motor sport racing facilities. These venues were chosen because of their more "mobile" spectator base when compared to team-based sports like Australian Rules football or cricket. The Structural Equation Model of this study is based on the disconfirmation of expectations paradigm that was initially proposed by Oliver ( 1980) and later adapted for use in consumer quality perception and satisfaction theory by researchers such as Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry (1985), Cronin & Taylor ( 1992), Saurina & Coenders (2002), and Price, Arnauld, & Tierney (1995). Disconfirmation of expectations theory posits that customers experience quality and satisfaction when the service provider meets or exceeds their expectations in a service scenario. Likewise, they experience disappointment when the service provider fails to meet their levels of expected service. The results suggested that Layout Accessibility, Facility Aesthetics, and Cleanliness each had significant influence on customer's service quality perceptions. Service quality was found to have a significant effect on Satisfaction, and customer satisfaction levels had a significant effect on the customer's desire to remain in the service facility, and on their repatronage intentions. The proposed model was supported, and this in turn lent further empirical evidence in support of Bitner's (1992) Servicescape Model. An interesting finding was that the loading patterns for the structural equation model were slightly different from a similar study undertaken by Wakefield & Blodgett (1996) on facilities which offered team-based sport. The importance of seating comfort and electronic scoreboards were found to be different. with these elements being of less importance to customer service quality perception than in team-based sport spectating situations. Although not part of the hypothesis, service quality was found to be an antecedent for customer satisfaction. This provides support in favor of Parasuraman et al. (1985), who has a longstanding debate with Cronin & Taylor (1992) about the directionality of the relationship between the two constructs; where Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry ( l994a) suggested that perceived service quality came before customer satisfaction, and Cronin & Taylor ( 1992) disagreed by positing that customer satisfaction preceded customer perceptions of service quality. The findings of this thesis suggested that perception of quality is an antecedent to satisfaction, which favors the stance of Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry(:994b). The results of this study suggest that the servicescape plays a significant role in determining customer satisfaction. Increased satisfaction, in turn, leads to a higher probability of the customer wishing to remain for longer periods in the service facility and/or return in future. For leisure-sport facility managers, this is important information as increased repatronage and length of stay has direct financial implications for their businesses (customers tend to spend more when they stay longer, and future intentions to revisit could mean more business). There are also implications for leisure-sport facility designers. The findings of this study suggests that spectators in non-team-based leisure-sport facilities place less importance on seating comfort and electronic displays, and more importance on spatial layout elements within the serviccscape. Therefore, the designers or renovators of horse, dog, and motor sport racing facilities should perhaps place more emphasis on the flow, furnishings, and layout in these types of venues.

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