Influence of Service in a Sports Environment: Case Study on Borussia Bortmund

Authors: Philipp Sauer, Brandon D. Spradley, Fred J. Cromartie

Affiliations: United States Sports Academy

Corresponding Author:
Philipp Sauer, Ed.D.
Breddestr.36
58452 Witten
Germany
japhil@t-online.de
+49 151 44510307

Philipp Sauer received his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy.

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of internal and external service factors on customer satisfaction in a sports environment. The study was conducted at Germany’s largest soccer stadium, the Signal Iduna Park of Borussia Dortmund, with a capacity of 80,720 people. The study used two questionnaires: (1) a demographic survey and (2) a customer satisfaction survey on service quality. This questionnaire focused on the five dimensions of facilities, staff, security, access, and reliability.

Several statistical methods were used for analyzing the results. Descriptive statistics were used to compare and illustrate research findings. Spearman Rank-Order Correlation was used to identify correlations between customer satisfaction of service quality and demographic characteristics. In addition, regression analysis was used to investigate the relationships between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. It was used to find the equation that represents the relationship between the variables.

The findings revealed that satisfaction with employee services had the highest impact on the overall customer satisfaction. As a result, the sport managers must create an attractive organizational climate to recruit and retain highly-motivated employees who are positive and courteous every time they speak to a customer. Service managers must understand that employees have a major impact on overall customer satisfaction.

Keywords: service factors, service quality, customer satisfaction, customer relationship, service personnel

INTRODUCTION
Organizations have learned that services contribute largely to the success of product selling. The arrival of the Internet has transferred power from the suppliers to the customers. There are several industries that have experienced heavy changes in the last decade. The financial and travel industries are two prime examples of how rigid structures have changed significantly. Like organizations from traditional industries, sport organizations face the challenge of meeting the rising expectations of spectators. A successful philosophy that focuses on total quality orientation in the transaction of the provider with consumer asks the organizations to clearly define their customers for being able to identify and respond to needs, but also to influence what is perceived service quality by the targeted segment of the market (Papadimitriou & Karteroliotis, 2000).

A great service experience can be a key success factor in sports management. It is important to consider some basic distinctive features of sport services which have direct impact on the customer’s perception of quality (Beech & Chadwick, 2007):

  1. A service is an intangible product. Services are non-physical objects that can be felt cerebrally or physically only by the person who experiences them (Kapoor, Paul, & Halder, 2011).
  2. A service is a non-storable product that will be totally lost, if not consumed, when offered. Services cannot be carried away for future use, nor be displayed or communicated.
  3. A service is a product of variable quality. There are numerous environmental factors, which may influence the quality perception with a large number being beyond an organization’s control.
  4. Services are produced and consumed simultaneously and require the consumer’s participation.

When defining sports service, those four factors need to be included as all factors have a direct impact on the customer’s perception of service quality. The intangible nature of sports requires taking the environment into account. The environment of a sports event may have a great influence on the customer experience and his/her level of satisfaction. In this context, the customer’s attitude also needs to be taken into account. Customers of sporting events are active and not comparable to customers of other industries. They are actively involved in the event, bringing their own energy, efforts, and resources in, to give substance to the service (Beech & Chadwick, 2007). The purpose of the study was to examine internal and external service factors that influence the customer experience when attending a sports event. The study focused on relationships between perceived service quality, customer satisfaction, and demographic characteristics.

METHODOLOGY
A correlational research design was used to examine the factors that have the greatest influence on customer satisfaction and to find out how those factors relate to demographic characteristics. The study was guided by the following research questions: 1) Does employee service satisfaction impact overall customer satisfaction? 2) Does the arrival process impact customer satisfaction? 3) Does security satisfaction impact customer satisfaction? 4) Do promotions impact customer satisfaction? 5) Do weather conditions correlate to the level of satisfaction?

Subjects
Based on the number of visitors, Borussia Dortmund is the biggest professional sports club in Germany. The club’s stadium, the Signal Iduna Park, has a capacity of 80,720 visitors and is the biggest stadium in Germany. The average number of visitors during the 2015/2016 season was 80,554 (Statista, 2016). The study was conducted with a diversified sample of customers to ensure a high level of validity. The total number of participants for the study was (n = 100).

Instrumentation
Two types of questionnaires were used in the study: 1) A customer demographic survey and 2) the Customer Satisfaction Survey of Service Quality (CSSSQ). The customer demographic survey included gender, age, marital status, educational background, profession, club membership, season ticket holder, travel distance to the stadium, frequency of visiting the stadium, and average amount of money spent per visit (Table 1).

Table 1
Table 1 Demographic Survey

Existing information from the SPORTSERV model by Theodorakis & Kambitsis (1998) was reviewed and modified to develop the CSSSQ, a 32-item satisfaction survey. A panel of club officials, who are involved in Borussia Dortmund’s service offerings, assessed the questionnaire accordingly for adequacy and validity. A test-retest pilot study was conducted with a sample of eight customers to determine the reliability of the survey, which was 0.897. The CSSSQ focuses on five dimensions – access, facilities, staff, promotions, and security.

Procedures
Borussia Dortmund provided permission to conduct the study at the club’s facility. Subsequently, contact was made with the club’s operational manager of the stadium kiosks and service points. Participants of the study were chosen randomly to ensure a high level of diversity. Every 10th visitor who entered the stadium was asked to participate in the study. If the customer refused, the next customer was asked. All questionnaires were completed on site during match day.

Data Analysis Methods
Several statistical methods were used to analyze the collected data. Descriptive statistics were used to compare and illustrate research findings. Spearman’s Rank-Order Moment Correlation was used to measure the strength and association between two ranked-variables. To describe and measure the strength and association between two-ranked variables, Spearman’s Rank-Order Moment Correlation is one of the most common and powerful statistics. Regression analysis was used to investigate the relationships between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. It is used to find the equation that represented the relationship between the variables.

RESULTS
One hundred (100) individuals participated in the study. Of these individuals, 57 were male and 43 female. A plurality of the participants (n = 34) were between 20 and 29. Fifty participants were single, 35 married, and 15 divorced. A plurality (n = 36) of the participants had vocational training, with 24 individuals possessing a Bachelor’s degree and nine individuals possessing a Master’s degree. Only 18 participants had not graduated from high school. In terms of their professions, a plurality (n = 32) of the participants was in business; with another 17 in agriculture and 18 were students.

Sixty-four of the participants were not club members. Of the remaining 36 participants who were club members, a plurality (n = 16) had been club members for over 5 years. Sixty-five of the participants were not season ticket holders, with a plurality (n = 16) of the season ticket holders having held a season ticket for between 1 and 4 years. A plurality (n = 32) of the participants lived in Dortmund, with another 25 participants living with 25 kilometers of Dortmund and thus living in the greater Dortmund area. Interestingly, 10 of the participants came to the stadium from more than 250 kilometers away.

In terms of frequency of attendance, a plurality (n = 24) of the participants attended between seven and 10 games a season, with a further 22 attending between 11 and 13 games a season. A plurality (n = 37) of the participants reported spending between 1 and 10 € per visit to the stadium.

Thus, the average sample participant appeared to live in or near Dortmund and be a fairly avid spectator of Borussia Dortmund’s games. Further, the participants tended to be young men who spend small amounts of money at the games and who did not tend to be highly educated. It appears that the study was successful in sampling a representative cross-section of Borussia Dortmund’s fans.

Research Question 1: Does employee service satisfaction impact overall customer satisfaction?

Figure 1
Fig. 1 Boxplot, employee satisfaction ratings sorted by overall customer satisfaction ratings. Note: Outliers identified.

The boxplot appeared to demonstrate the existence of a positive correlation between employee service satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction. Because overall satisfaction was measured in an ordinal fashion, the relationship between employee service satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction was quantified through Spearman correlation, ρ = 0.867, p < 0.001, n = 100. Thus, there was a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with employee services. The effect size of this relationship was measured through Cox and Snell’s R2, which proved to be 0.768. Thus, 76.8% of the variation in overall customer service appears to be explained by variation in employee satisfaction ratings.

Research Question 2: Does the arrival process impact customer satisfaction?

Figure 2
Fig. 2 Boxplot, arrival satisfaction ratings sorted by overall customer satisfaction ratings. Note: Outliers identified.

The boxplot appeared to demonstrate the existence of a positive correlation between arrival satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction. Because overall satisfaction was measured in an ordinal fashion, the relationship between arrival satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction was quantified through Spearman correlation, ρ = 0.522, p < 0.001, n = 100. Thus, there was a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with arrivals. The effect size of this relationship was measured through Cox and Snell’s R2, which proved to be 0.330. Thus, 33% of the variation in overall customer service appears to be explained by variation in arrival satisfaction ratings.

Research Question 3: Does security satisfaction impact customer satisfaction?

Figure 3
Fig. 3 Boxplot, security satisfaction ratings sorted by overall customer satisfaction ratings. Note: Outliers identified.

The boxplot appeared to demonstrate the existence of a positive correlation between security satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction. Because overall satisfaction was measured in an ordinal fashion, the relationship between security satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction was quantified through Spearman correlation, ρ = 0.624, p < 0.001, n = 100. Thus, there was a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with services. The effect size of this relationship was measured through Cox and Snell’s R2, which proved to be 0.410. Thus, 41% of the variation in overall customer service appears to be explained by variation in security satisfaction ratings.

Research Question 4: Do promotions impact customer satisfaction?

Figure 4
Fig. 4 Boxplot, promotions satisfaction sorted by overall customer satisfaction ratings. Note: Outliers identified.

The boxplot did not appear to demonstrate the existence of any kind of correlation between satisfaction with promotions and overall customer satisfaction. Because overall satisfaction was measured in an ordinal fashion, the relationship between satisfaction with promotions and overall customer satisfaction was quantified through Spearman correlation, ρ = 0.100, p = 0.320, n = 100. Thus, there was not a statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with promotions. Because the result was not significant, no effect size was calculated.

Research Question 5: Do weather conditions impact customer satisfaction?

Figure 5
Fig. 5 Boxplot, security satisfaction sorted by overall customer satisfaction ratings. Note: Outliers identified.

The boxplot appeared to demonstrate the existence of a positive correlation between weather satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction. Because overall satisfaction was measured in an ordinal fashion, the relationship between weather satisfaction ratings and overall customer satisfaction was quantified through Spearman correlation, ρ = 0.646, p < 0.001, n = 100. Thus, there was a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with weather. The effect size of this relationship was measured through Cox and Snell’s R2, which proved to be 0.447. Thus, 44.7% of the variation in overall customer service appears to be explained by variation in weather satisfaction ratings.

Factor Analysis of Satisfaction Components
After answering the research questions of the study, a principal components analysis, also known as factor analysis, was conducted on the questionnaire. There were two purposes of the factor analysis. The first purpose was to determine whether the five domains of customer satisfaction presented in the survey could successfully be extracted from the survey data. The second purpose was to identify links across satisfaction components that could offer greater insight into how individual aspects of customer satisfaction might be related.

The following coding scheme was used in the factor analysis:

  • I: Factors related to access/arrival satisfaction
  • II: Factors related to facility/service offerings in the stadium
  • III. Factors related to the service provided by employees
  • IV: Factors related to promotions
  • V: Factors related to security

In confirmatory factor analysis, the goal was to determine whether all the individual survey items associated with the domains specified above were isolated on separate rotated components. The results of the rotated factor analysis model are provided in Table 3 below. It was found that Domain III, satisfaction factors related to satisfaction with employee services, all weighted heavily on their own component. Items in domain V, security satisfaction, also weighted heavily on their own component, with V.4, “Security personnel are professional and well-trained,” also weighting on Domain III—not surprisingly, since the professionalism of security personnel is conceptually related to employee service. Four items in Domain I, factors related to arrival satisfaction, weighted heavily on their own component, but I.5, “Electronic access control facilitates arrival,” weighted alongside an item from the service offerings domain.

Table 2
Table 2 Factor Analysis

Domain IV, factors related to promotions, saw two groupings, those of (a) the Kiss Cam and Dance Cam and (b) fan competitions, fan interviews, and videos of past games. Thus, satisfaction with the cam features appears to be conceptually distinct from the non-cam-related promotions. Items from domain II, serving offerings, broke down separately into satisfaction with (a) food and drink; and (b) cleanliness, sanitation, music choice; and waiting times. Thus, it might be better to subdivide the satisfaction domain of services into nourishment- and facility-related subdomains.

Measures of Internal Reliability
In order to assess the internal reliability of the study, a Cronbach’s Alpha measurement was taken for each of the scales utilized in the study. In doing so, the chosen cutoff value was 0.7. This value has been recommended in the statistical literature (Santos, 1999).

The first scale to be evaluated was the arrivals satisfaction scale, which had five items. The Cronbach’s Alpha of this scale measured 0.792. Thus, the arrivals satisfaction scale was deemed to possess an acceptable level of internal reliability.

The second scale to be evaluated was the service satisfaction scale, which had nine items. The Cronbach’s Alpha of this scale measured 0.778. Thus, the service satisfaction scale was deemed to possess an acceptable level of internal reliability.

The third scale to be evaluated was the employee service satisfaction scale, which had eight items. The Cronbach’s Alpha of this scale measured 0.962. Thus, the employee service satisfaction scale was deemed to possess an acceptable level of internal reliability.

The fourth scale to be evaluated was the promotions satisfaction scale, which had five items. The Cronbach’s Alpha of this scale measured 0.521. Thus, the promotions satisfaction scale was deemed not to possess an acceptable level of internal reliability, which could be considered a limitation of the study.

The fifth scale to be evaluated was the security satisfaction scale, which had five items. The Cronbach’s Alpha of this scale measured 0.841. Thus, the security satisfaction scale was deemed to possess an acceptable level of internal reliability.

CONCLUSION
The main conclusion reached as a result of the statistical analysis was that multiple dimensions of service successfully predicted customer satisfaction. The dimension that was the most important predictor of service satisfaction was that of employee service. However, satisfaction with arrivals, in-stadium services, and security were also important. Thus, several domains of service exerted an impact on the formation of overall customer satisfaction.

The first research question focused on the relationship between the service employee satisfaction and the overall customer satisfaction. The findings illustrate a positive correlation between the service employee satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. This means the service employees, who are in direct contact with the customer, like sales personal and security guards have significant influence on the overall customer satisfaction. The findings confirm the results reported by Verma (2012) who also found that the customer-contact employees have direct bearing on the quality of the service experience. The service managers should not only set standards and communicate rules and norms, but also create a healthy working climate as “the quality of external service delivery is a reflection of the quality of service that people within the organization provide each other” (Cook, 2004, p. 6).

The second research question focused on the relationship between the customers’ arrival process and overall customer satisfaction. The findings revealed a positive correlation between the arrival process and overall customer satisfaction. These findings support Hill & Green’s study (2000), which showed that parking is the most influential determinant of future attendance by the fans of the home team. In addition, the findings also confirm Wakefield and Sloan’s (1995) work which illustrated that limited stadium space and access significantly lowered customer satisfaction. The results of this study indicate that the sport and the service managers must take steps to meet customer needs from the very early stages – ticket sales, arrival, and access to the stadium – to ensure customer satisfaction.

The third and fourth research questions focused on the effect of the security satisfaction and promotion satisfaction on the overall customer satisfaction. There was a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall customer satisfaction and satisfaction with the security services, while there was no significant correlation between the promotion satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. The insignificance of the promotions for German sport customers could be interpreted as a noticeable sporting cultural difference in the US. The promotions consume very little of the total time allotted to a sport event in Germany. Mostly, the halftime – which lasts 15 minutes in a soccer game – is used for promotions. There are usually only few official or sponsored promotions aimed at the customers before and after the game. The focus is mostly on the match itself. Attending a sport event in the US is quite different in this regard. Every little interruption is used for an advertisement or promotion during an NBA game. “An NBA game is 48 minutes of playing time and 198 minutes of downtime (read: commercials, promotions, talking heads)” (Willhoft, 2012, para. 4).

Finally, the fifth research question focused on investigating the importance of the customers’ weather satisfaction with their overall satisfaction of the sport event. The study revealed a positive correlation between the weather satisfaction and the overall customer satisfaction. Though there is no way to control the weather itself, the service managers may use these findings to create ways to make the customers more comfortable under bad weather conditions. The findings support the work of Andersson, Getz, and Mykletun (2012) who pointed out that the bad weather is a significant factor in an event failure and the event organizers should be prepared for extreme weather conditions. The winter season requires the service managers to be prepared for things like slipperiness that are caused by temperature shifting, while the summer season requires the service managers to provide sufficient water to the customers. The temperatures were above 100℉ during Borussia Dortmund’s first game of the 2016/17 season on August 27, 2016. The club provided free water to all the game attendants. However, the water supply ran out before the halftime, which resulted in harsh criticism for Borussia Dortmund’s services. The service managers must constantly monitor the weather conditions to develop effective contingency plans.

DISCUSSION
The study addressed the issues concerning the influence of service at a sport event on the overall customer satisfaction. The findings reveal the service dimension with the highest impact on the overall customer satisfaction is satisfaction with the employee services. As a result, the sport managers must create an attractive organizational climate to recruit and retain highly motivated employees who are positive and courteous every time they speak to a customer. The service managers must be aware that each individual’s efforts are of crucial importance in dealing with the customers.

The findings of the study emphasize the importance of the employees as the basic component of the entire service-profit-chain. This means the service managers must strive to improve the internal service quality. The factors like the workplace design, job design, employee selection and development, employee rewards and recognition, and tools for serving customers are just few of the methods to improve the internal service quality. In addition, the service quality in the dimensions of security, access, and facility were also found to have a significant correlation to the customer satisfaction.

The security awareness of sport customers has changed over the last few years. Since at least the cancellation of an international match between Germany and the Netherlands in 2015 as a result of a terroristic threat, the German soccer fans have made security a new experience. Furthermore, the violent excesses of the hooligans at the last European Championship in France in 2016 have also illustrated the security problems in European soccer in a vivid way. The top priority of the service managers should be to ensure customer satisfaction. Therefore, the service managers in a sports environment must be aware of their responsibility to create a secure feeling for the customers. However, there will always be arguments as to which security measures are adequate and which are inadequate. The service managers must constantly monitor the security situation and the feedback from the customers, in order to quickly respond to the changing circumstances.

The facility aspects like the sanitation were also found to have significant influence on the overall customer satisfaction. Therefore, the service managers need to consider all of the potential influential factors on customer satisfaction of the facility. Besides the factors like long waiting queues, the service managers should regularly monitor customer satisfaction with the food and drink choice, cleanliness, and the music system. The surveys are a simple and efficient way to regularly monitor customer satisfaction.

Arriving at and accessing the stadium were also found to be of significant importance to the customers. Though the service managers cannot influence the traffic jams or the problems with the public transportation, the service managers must take care of all the aspects that are the club’s responsibility. An adequate number of guards should be positioned in the parking lots and the public transportation stations; a sufficient number of signs must be used to avoid confusion among the customers; and the lighting of the walking paths must be adequate. To identify the factors most important to the customers, the service managers should constantly monitor customers and conduct regular surveys.

Since the customer demands for excellent service have been rising, the service managers in a sport environment should continuously look for ways to satisfy customers to influence the customers’ perception of service quality in a positive and sustainable way. There were limitations in the study. The environmental conditions could not be standardized. The surveys were executed under different circumstances such as different weather conditions and at different locations. Though the participants were advised to provide honest answers, the participants’ mood might have been influenced by the current situation and the success of the customers’ favorite teams. The survey was limited to the customers of one German soccer club. Therefore, the findings should only be generalized with caution.

Recommendations
The findings of the study suggest several options for future research. First of all, the future research studies should investigate the sport customers from different geographic areas. They could also investigate other types of sports to validate the application of the findings.

As this study excluded the young customers at or below the age of 16, the future research studies may include customers in this age group. The young customers are an important target group for sport managers as young customers have significant influence on the purchasing decisions of their family and friends.

Another research suggestion is to conduct studies that are similar to this study but involve a bigger sample population size. This will allow researchers to determine whether the findings of the current study will still be valid with a bigger sample population size.

In addition, the growing importance of security and its influence on customers’ perceived service quality could be further investigated. The universal problem of organizing major sport events is more difficult now than it has ever been before. A successful event requires the sport and event managers to identify ways that enhance the customers’ sense of security.

The surveys with a focus on facility services and the arrival process may provide more detailed information to the researchers and the practitioners as to which factors have the most influence on the customers’ perceived service quality in these two dimensions. This study revealed the service dimension with the highest impact on overall customer satisfaction is the satisfaction with the employee services. The future research studies may further investigate employee satisfaction.

The sport and the service managers face the challenge of hiring and retaining motivated and valuable employees. Therefore, it is highly recommended to learn more about the perceptions of the employees. This would help reorganize the human resources department in order to improve the internal service quality.

APPLICATION TO SPORT
This study aimed to support sport managers by identifying the most important services and expectations from a customers’ perspective. As the scope of services seems to be endless, it is crucial for a successful sport manager to learn which services can contribute positively to the overall customer experience. It is essential for sport managers to understand the relationship between service offerings and quality and customers’ expectations and satisfaction to remain competitive.

This research can serve as a reference for sport managers to identify those service offerings that are most crucial from a customer perspective, and also those offerings that are most profitable from a business perspective. The data collection provided new insights on customer expectations and will allow sport managers to ensure competitiveness in the large field of services.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
None

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