Examination of the Causal Effects between the Dimensions of Service Quality and Spectator Satisfaction in Minor League Baseball

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Consumer satisfaction and perceived service quality (PSQ) have been considered the primary intervening constructs in the area of service marketing because ultimately they lead to the development of consumer loyalty or 're-patronisation' of a product or service. An understanding of consumer perception of service attributes and its influence on PSQ and satisfaction are therefore crucial to the success of service organisations. This study uses Minor League Baseball (Mil-B) to explore which characteristics of a particular service attribute will best define its quality and its impact on spectator behaviour by understanding the causal relationship between PSQ and spectator satisfaction.

The paper has two goals: to examine the effects of service quality dimensions on PSQ and to investigate the mediated relationship between service quality dimensions and spectator satisfaction.

Questionnaires were administered over a six-week period at South Atlantic League games during the 2005 season, and the resulting 1,787 valid questionnaires were for data analysis.

The findings indicate that in MiLB, 'functional attribute' is the most important service quality dimension that influences PSQ, followed by 'environmental attribute' and 'technical attribute'. The PSQ is determined by spectator evaluation of service dimensions, some of which are technical, some of which are functional and some of which are environmental in nature. In addition, PSQ and satisfaction are distinct latent constructs, and PSQ is likely to be an antecedent of spectator satisfaction in MiLB. The proposed relationship supports that PSQ affects spectator satisfaction.

For sports marketers, five recommendations can be made as a result of this study. First, sports marketers must understand all aspects of the spectator experience of an event, from parking to concessions to the event itself. All of these play a part in a consumer's decision to return to a venue. Second, sports marketers should keep utilising the quality of home team, rival team or players during the season in order to attract and retain spectators, even though the quality of team performances cannot be controlled, because sports spectators are often affected by the core product. Third, they should pay more attention to selecting, training and matching their employees for service delivery. Fourth, sports marketers have control and input in the environmental area of service quality. Making sure the environment is conducive to a positive experience is important. Finally, sports marketers should consider PSQ as a means of improving satisfaction, and should make efforts to develop strategies that facilitate and strengthen positive satisfaction assessments.

Introduction

Many scholars and service marketers have explored consumers' cognitive and affective responses to the perception of service attributes in order to benefit by providing what consumers need in an effective and efficient manner. Consumer satisfaction (e.g. Cadotte et al, 1987; Churchill & Surprenant, 1982; Fornell, 1992; Oliver, 1997) and PSQ (e.g. Parasuraman et al, 1985, 1988; Rust & Oliver, 1994; Zithaml et al, 1996) have been considered the primary intervening constructs in the area of service marketing because ultimately they lead to the development of consumer loyalty or re-patronisation of a product or service. Thus an understanding of consumer perception of service attributes and its influence on PSQ and satisfaction are crucial to the success of service organisations (Grbnroos, 1982; Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1982; Rust & Oliver, 1994; Theodorakis et al, 2001).

Spectator satisfaction with a sports event experience is critical to team support, attendance and revenue for organisations in the multi-billion dollar sports industry. Sports organisations must continuously assess how better to meet or exceed consumer expectations and perceptions of the experience if they are to maintain and grow the number of spectators and loyal fans attending their events (Kennett et al, 2001). …