Academic journal article Management Dynamics

A Proposed Instrument to Measure the Customer Satisfaction of Visitors to a Theme Park

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

A Proposed Instrument to Measure the Customer Satisfaction of Visitors to a Theme Park

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

No business firm can survive over the long term without satisfying its customers' needs and theme parks are no exception. Based on the empirical results generated from two samples of visitors to two theme parks in South Africa it is proposed that customer satisfaction at a theme park can be measured with a 34-item instrument measuring satisfaction with nine underlying dimensions. This conclusion is based on considerable evidence of validity and reliability.

INTRODUCTION

According to the National Amusement Park Historical Association, the roots of the amusement park industry go back to medieval Europe when pleasure gardens began to spring up on the outskirts of major European cities. These gardens were a forerunner of today's amusement parks, featuring live entertainment, fireworks, dancing, games, and even primitive amusement rides (www.napha.org). Today amusement parks or theme parks, as they became known, represent a multi-million-rand industry. Much of the success of the industry can be attributed to the concept introduced by Walt Disney when Disneyland opened in 1955.

Many attempts have been made to replicate the success of Disneyland elsewhere. Some have been more successful than others. The most celebrated example of a failure has been Euro Disney located just outside Paris, in France. The park was under-performing almost from the start in terms of attendance figures, and was, as a result under constant financial pressure.

An analysis of the customer complaints lodged at the time revealed the following (Hartley, 1995):

* Poor protection for guests from the weather when queuing

* Not enough restaurants

* Rides too expensive

* Hotel rooms too expensive

* Inadequate recognition of cultural influences e.g. no wine at lunch allowed

* Staff who could not speak German and Spanish

* Aloof staff with no customer orientation

In short, the management of Euro Disney appears to be a case study in poor customer satisfaction. The question that arises is: What are the expectations of visitors to a theme park?

This study attempts to ascertain what customer expectations are when visiting a theme park, and it reports on an exploratory study to develop an instrument to measure customer satisfaction after a visit to atheme park.

CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

"Customer satisfaction" is the feeling a customer has that a product has met or exceeded his/her expectations, and can be explained in terms of the so-called Disconfirmation Paradigm (Smith and Houston, 1983). The disconfirmation paradigm proposes that meeting or exceeding customer expectations lead to customer satisfaction (known as positive disconfirmation), but dissatisfaction results if performance (such as product performance or employee performance) falls short of those expectations (negative disconfirmation). Customer satisfaction is thus a customer response (a judgement) to a product or service in terms of the extent to which consumption meets his/her expectations (Lamb, Hair McDaniel, Boshoff andTerblanche, 2000: 5).

Business firms that fail to ensure customer satisfaction face dire consequences. These include (over the short term) complaints, negative word-of-mouth, switching, loss of sales, loss of market share and eventual bankruptcy (Oliver, 1997:376-380).

How to measure customer satisfaction is, however, not always easy, as customers do not base their expectations and thus their evaluations on generic dimensions. For example, when buying a motor vehicle, dimensions such as reliability, fuel consumption, safety and dealership service may be important dimensions, and for some, price. When buying toothpaste, flavour and price maybe the only dimensions of importance. Thus, determining what drives expectations in a certain industry, sector or product category is an important step in developing a scale or instrument to measure customer satisfaction. …

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