Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Customers as Partial Employees: The Influences of Satisfaction and Commitment on Customer Citizenship Behavior in Fitness Centers

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Customers as Partial Employees: The Influences of Satisfaction and Commitment on Customer Citizenship Behavior in Fitness Centers

Article excerpt

Introduction

With the proliferation of fitness centers in many countries over the last decade, increasing competition can be observed in fitness service industry (Chiu, Cho, & Won, 2014). Fitness service industry is distinctively different from other service industries. According to Bitner (1995), customers of fitness centers have a higher frequency of contacting with employees who deliver service as compared to other service industries because customers vigorously participate in various exercise activities during the service process. For example, customers are usually and highly interact with the frontline employees such as physical trainers or instructors. Therefore, customers in fitness centers may play a critical role in service delivery and even contribute to service quality.

The concept of the customers as contributors in service context has merely drawn sporadic attention before the 21st century (Bettencourt, 1997; Lengnick-Hall, 1996). However, recent researchers have conceptualized customers as "partial employees" and human resources of the organization and identified the customer behaviors that contribute to service quality. Groth (2005) initially proposed the concept of customer citizenship behavior (CCB) and defined CCB as "voluntary and discretionary behaviors that are not required for the successful production and/or delivery of the service but that, in the aggregate, help the service organization overall" (p. 11). These actions constitute extra-role behavior, consisting of positive, voluntary, helpful, and constructive behaviors toward other customers and the firm (Bove, Pervan, Beatty, & Shiu, 2009). Consequently, it may lead to a more friendly service environment and better service quality because a customer exhibiting citizenship behavior may encourage other clients to display citizenship behaviors, starting a chain of voluntary actions.

Although the critical role of customer behavior has been dressed in the service context, there have only a few attempts to clearly identify the role of CCB in the context of fitness services. Furthermore, it is also essential to understand how to encourage customers to exhibit citizenship behaviors. Accordingly, the purposes of this study were to explore CCB in fitness centers and examine the extent to which customer's satisfaction and commitment shape CCB.

Customer Citizenship Behavior

CCB is an extending concept of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) beyond the limited focus of employees. It proposes that customers may engage in a variety of citizenship behaviors, like organizational employees, directed toward a particular organization (Groth, 2005). It has been argued that the process of service delivery is the locus of where customers are often physically present with service providers (Bowen, 1986). Therefore, customers can be regarded as part of the human resource, and contribute to the overall success of the service organization (Bettencourt, 1997; Groth, 2005). Therefore, the concept of organizational citizenship behavior can be also applied to the customer domain. In the literature of human resource management, OCB is defined as employee's behavior that is discretionary, not explicitly or directly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate facilitates the efficient performing of the organization (Organ, 1998). In a similar vein, CCB refers to the voluntary, discretionary and constructive behaviors that are not obligatory for the successful delivery of the service but that contribute to the service organization overall (Groth, 2005). It is the voluntary (extra-role) behaviors that go beyond the expectations of customers during the process of service delivery.

CCB has been investigated in the service marketing literature under various names, including customer discretionary behavior (Ford, 1995), customer extra-role behaviors (Ahearne, Bhattacharya, & Gruen, 2005; Tat Keh & Wei Teo, 2001), customer voluntary performance (Bettencourt, 1997; Rosenbaum & Massiah, 2007), and organization citizenship behavior of clients (Lengnick-Hall, Claycomb, & Inks, 2000). …

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