Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Application of the Six Sigma Process to Service Quality Improvement in Fitness Clubs: A Managerial Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Application of the Six Sigma Process to Service Quality Improvement in Fitness Clubs: A Managerial Perspective

Article excerpt

Since "Fitness Clubs" are in a service-oriented industry, methods for maintaining high quality and customer satisfaction have become a significant issue. In this study we have applied the Six Sigma Process, implementing its five recommended steps in order, with aim of reducing the incidence of service failures at Fitness Clubs in Taiwan. The first step of the Six Sigma Process is to define, and the defined result is to minimize the occurrences of service failures. Secondly, the number of occurrences is used to determine a measurement index and find out the measurement criterion. Then, Pyzdek's (2001) theory is taken as the tool in the third step to analyze the cause of service failure. Applying the causes clarified by the cause and effect diagram, the forth step aims to determine the responsibilities of each department and organize the quality improvement teams based on Quality Function Deployment. Finally, the measurement criterion elicited in the second step is employed to verify whether the strategies for improvement obtained in the fourth step are feasible. If meeting the standard, then the criterion can be used for further control. The five-step Six Sigma Methodology can effectively minimize service failures while improving customer satisfaction and service quality, as well as ensuring sustainable management for enterprises.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Since the industrial structure has changed, the output value and employed population in service industries have become key indicators of the national economy. According to a survey from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics, the output value of the service sector has contributed over 50% of Taiwan's GNP since 1988. The services sector has grown dynamically in recent years. In the 3rd quarter of 2007, the service sector made up 69.07% of the economy and therefore became a major industry in Taiwan. All services share four unique characteristics - intangibility, perishability, inseparability, and heterogeneity (Parasuraman, Zeithaml andBerry, 1985). Inseparability is used to describe a key quality of services as distinct from goods. The characteristic of service renders it impossible to divorce the supply or production of the service from its consumption. When a service is provided, a service failure might occur and cause complaints and discontent. However, attempting to provide a service without failure or mistakes is definitely a difficult task. Service failure is inevitable, and improper service recovery solutions might further upset customers. Thus, timely solutions and good recoveries to the sendee failures are needed since that can increase customer satisfaction and turn frustrated customers into loyal customers.

Due to increasing consumer awareness, customers tend to make varied requests and they expect more services from enterprises. Service industries have become more competitive. In pursuit of a sustainable operation, it's necessary for enterprises to know how to attract new customers while keeping existing ones. Luo (2001) pointed out that acquiring new customers costs 3-10 times more than holding onto existing customers. If an enterprise is unable to keep existing customers, it will have to pay more to find new ones. Reichheld and Sasser (1990) also observed that, as little as a 5% reduction in customer churn can boost enterprises' net profits by as much as 25% to 85% (depending on the types of industry). Hence, it's extremely important for enterprises to maintain client loyalty, both on a cost basis and profit basis.

Since 2001, the Taiwanese have started to take two days off per week. People have more free time and attach more importance to sports and activities, which has led to the emergence of professional fitness clubs and higher market demands. Because the fitness club industry is a sendee-oriented industry, maintaining high quality and customer satisfaction has become a significant issue. …

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