The Impact of Service Quality and Satisfaction on Customers’ Future Intentions, in the Sport Spectators’ Context
This study was aimed to determine the degree to which service quality perceptions and customer satisfaction predict the intentions of repurchase and word-of-mouth communication. Nine hundred and twenty five (N=925) spectators of Greek professional football, participated in the study and completed the SPORTSERV questionnaire, to measure the perceptions of service quality, satisfaction, repurchase intention and word-of-mouth. An alpha reliability analysis of the service quality was conducted, to test the internal consistency of the five dimensions (responsiveness, access, security, reliability and tangibles) as a result they were all in acceptable ranges. Satisfaction was measured by five items. Repurchase intention was measured by two items and word-of-mouth was measured by three items. In order to discover possible relations among service quality, satisfaction and future intentions multiple regression analysis were conducted. The results revealed that service quality and satisfaction predict together a significant proportion of spectators’ repurchase intention (the total percentage of prediction was 51%, R2=.511, p< 0.001) and word-of-mouth communication (the total percentage of prediction was 53.8% R2=.538, p< 0.001). This study supports previous research findings with a focus on the sport spectators’ realm, regarding the general impact of service quality and satisfaction on fans future intentions, however there have been some differences in terms of how the service quality dimensions affect these factors. Moreover, sport managers should use this information as a means to understand the future behavior of sport spectators in order to design marketing strategies so as to retain their customers and attract new ones.
Key words: service quality, satisfaction, repurchases intention, word-of-mouth.
Service quality and satisfaction have dominated the bibliography on services and sport services literature (8). For many years sport management focused on service quality and satisfaction, which constituted the two key factors of sport organizations, in order to predict the customer’s desirable behavior. Service quality is an important topic in the marketing literature, since perceptions for service quality are directly related to customer satisfaction and customer retention (1). The need for delivering qualitative services to sport spectators’ area can be achieved, by focusing on the spectators’ needs and paying attention to the quality and operation of well-organized sport facilities (47). According to researchers it is widely believed (e.g. 30, 42) that satisfaction is a very important factor which affects the repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication and thus influence future behavior (19, 25).
In terms of sports, there is no doubt that football is an individual case in the spectrum of sports. This is because of its global popularity, the large number of dedicated fans who clearly identify with the sport as well as the incredible amount of financial investments provided by private enterprise, sponsors and investors (37). Let’s not disregard the nominal profits this sport accumulates.
As far as Greek football is concerned, we can undoubtedly identify specific particularities within the sport (40). For example it is obvious that the overwhelming enthusiasts tend to become quite obsessive and identify with their teams in a personal level. The fans really take it to heart to such an extent that this can lead to friction violence and chaos in the stadium. It should be pointed out that in recent years it has been forbidden for fans to attend matches away from home in order to prevent these violent kinds of outbreaks in the stadiums (52).
The relationships among service quality satisfaction and future intentions are well established in the services area and there is enough evidence to support these relationships in the sport spectrum and the sport spectators’ area as well. Many scholars investigated these relationships and they found that service quality and satisfaction are directly related to customer’s future intentions (8, 30 and 43). However, there is limited information concerning these relationships in the realm of football especially in the Greek region where there is no data available whatsoever.
This study aims to investigate the relationships among service quality, satisfaction and future intentions in sport spectators’ area and particularly within professional football in the Greek spectrum.
Review of literature
In the modern era the continuously increasing competition in the service sector led managers to re-define their strategy to acquire advantages over their competitors and to focus their attention on service quality (16, 35 and 51). The first theoretical approach for quality of services was based on the “disconfirmation paradigm” (16, 34). According to this theory, the quality of services is resulted from a process of comparison of expected performance with the perception for the real performance as it was initially prescribed by Gronroos (15-16). It is has also been suggested that quality can be considered as a personal perception regarding superiority and perfection of a given product or a service (48).
The measurement of service quality has always been a controversial issue. The first instrument for measuring service quality was developed by Parasuraman et al. (1988) and Gronroos (1984). Parasuraman et al. (1988) proposed the five-dimensional SERVQUAL model, while Gronroos (1984) proposed a three-dimensional model. Many other models were developed in the following years along the range of the marketing industry. However, despite the fact that it has been criticized in terms of its applicability across different industries, the SERVQUAL model is the most popular one in the literature (1). Based on SERVQUAL, Theodorakis and Alexandris (2008) developed the five-dimensional SPORTSERV scale for measuring service quality in the sport spectator context. The five dimensions of SPORTSERV scale are “responsiveness,” “access,” “security,” “reliability,” and “tangibles.”
The conceptualization and measurement of service quality remain controversial topics in the services marketing literature (4). However, the vast majority of scholars agree to the importance and the effects of service quality (4, 9). Zeithaml (1988) mentioned that delivery of quality services is a precondition for success. Kelley and Turley (2001) claim that service quality is vital for the survival and the success of sports, while Cronin and Taylor (1992) considered service quality as a key-strategy for the service providers to be placed more effectively in the market.
Satisfaction has been widely researched and analyzed in great depth in the last four decades (13, 17, 44 and 49). It’s one of the most favored subjects in the services literature in previous decades (11, 20, 32 and 33), as well as in recent times (5, 14, 17, 38 and 43). As for satisfaction, there have been a lot of definitions which show that there are many different perceptions, opinions and arguments among the researchers who deal with the particular subject, regarding the nature and the elements of satisfaction. In the commercial enterprising terminology, satisfaction is reported as a dimension that measures how the products or the services that are offered by a provider satisfy or even exceed the expectations of customers (25).
In the sports context, Oliva et al. (1992) found that sports fans reach some level of satisfaction that is experienced from the follow-up of an athletic act, through the frame “expectation-disconfirmation”. The frame “expectation – disconfirmation”, based on the significance that the satisfaction level is determined by the degree in which the initial customers’ expectations is achieved or is not achieved by the evaluated service. Alexandris et al. (2004) noted that regardless of the disagreements and differences in conceptualizing satisfaction, it is acceptable that satisfaction is a post-choice evaluative judgment and refers to consumer fulfillment. According to Jahanshahi et al. (2011) most definitions for satisfaction share some common elements: a) consumer satisfaction is a cognitive or emotional response, b) this response refers to a particular focus (expectations, product, consumption experience, etc.), c) the response occurs at a particular time (after consumption, after choice, based on accumulated experience, etc.). Customers’ satisfaction is critical in the sports industry, where the sport organizations focus on the needs and wishes of their customers, in order to achieve their objectives (25). Many researchers have concluded that satisfaction affects customers’ repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication. Therefore such elements are vital for the success of the sport organizations (e.g., 12, 25).
The repurchase intention refers to the consumers’ tendency to buy products or services from the same company or the same organization that provide services (8, 48 and 51). Similarly, according to Hellier et al. (2003) the repurchase intention is the process of purchasing a product or a service from the same company based on a previous experience which undoubtedly was satisfying.
Word-of-mouth communication is a process in which consumers that have used a product or a service, communicate their experience through word-of-mouth, to consumers planning to buy the product or the service (25). Positive word-of-mouth is reported to be the informal communication among consumers with regard to the evaluations of products or services, particularly when the evaluations are positive and include recommendations to others to proceed in similar purchases (2). Consequently, in contrast to other external promotional strategies used by a sport organization, positive word-of-mouth that includes recommendations, is more important and has a stronger impact on customer’s attitudes and future behavior (18, 25).
Relations among service quality, satisfaction and future intentions
Customer’s future intentions and their decisions to repurchase a service and to indulge in positive word-of-mouth, depends often on a complete evaluation of service and supplier, based on the experience of multiple transactions of services with the given supplier (5, 10). Many researchers determined various factors that influence these intentions. The environment where the service is provided or the facility and its qualitative features have a significant influence on the repurchase intention, as they affect the total experience and satisfaction (5, 14, 25, 28, 38, 43 and 45). Similar results also have been found in other studies, where the researchers paid a lot of attention to the environment and quality of services in facilities (13, 46 and 49), as well as the responsiveness of the personnel (13, 43). Other researchers found in their studies that the most powerful factor that leads to behavioral intentions is satisfaction (7, 30 and 36). Matsuoka et al. (2003) also asserted that satisfaction predicts the repurchase intention. Yoshida et al. (2010) mentioned that satisfaction can create long term profits for sport organizations, including positive word-of-mouth, parallel markets and enhancing the customers’ loyalty. In the sport spectators’ context, satisfaction has been considered as an important feature of predicting customer’s intentions when it comes to attending future sporting events (8, 46). The researchers in the area of services marketing, propose that the spectator’s perceptions for the core product and the secondary services (as an example in the sport spectators area), can coexist as precedents to customer’s satisfaction and their behavioral intentions (35). Other studies (22, 26, 29 and 39), noted that satisfaction is a basic factor, but is only one of the many variables that can influence the future intentions of customers. Kuo et al. (2009) mentioned that service quality positively influences satisfaction; therefore satisfaction positively influences future intentions. They also stated that service quality has an indirect positive effect on repurchase intention through customer satisfaction or perceived value. However, it must be noted that other researchers found that there is a direct link between service quality and future intentions (3, 51).
Although the relationships among service quality, satisfaction and future intentions, are well established in the services area, there is limited evidence regarding these relationships in the sport services area (30). This study, aims to investigate the relationships among the above mentioned factors in the sport spectators area, especially in the area of Greek professional football.
The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which service quality perceptions and customer satisfaction predict repurchase intentions and word-of-mouth communication. It was hypothesized that service quality and satisfaction would have a strong impact and predict repurchase intentions and word-of-mouth communication.
Nine hundred and twenty five (N=925) football spectators participated in the study. These spectators were attending games of Greek professional football in six different stadiums in Greece. The majority of the spectators were males (80%), single (46.8%), full time employed (52.3%) and aged between 26-35 years old (29.9%). Their educational level was mostly secondary education (40.7%) and university graduates (36.6%). The majority of spectators were of low annual income (39.7% less than 12.000 € per year).
A modified version of the (SPORTSERVE) questionnaire proposed by Theodorakis et al. (2008) was used that was previously validated and determined to be reliable, in measuring service quality, satisfaction, repurchase intention and word-of- mouth communication for Greek sports spectators. Twenty two items measured service quality. More specifically five items were used to measure “Responsiveness” (e.g. “The stadium personnel has always the willingness to help me”); five items were used to measure “Access” (e.g. “Access to the stadium is easy”); four items were used to measure “Security” (e.g. “I feel secure in the stadium during the game”); four items were used to measure “Reliability” (e.g. “The football club keeps their promises”) and four items were used to measure “Tangibles” (e.g. “My seat in stadium is comfortable”). Five items were used to measure satisfaction (e.g. “I am satisfied with my decision to watch the game”). Two items were used to measure repurchase intentions (e.g., “How possible is to continue watching games of your favorite team in this stadium in the future?”) and three items were used to measure word-of-mouth (e.g., “How possible is it to encourage your friends to come and watch football games in this stadium?”). All, answers were given on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Very strongly Disagree) to 7 (Very strongly agree) and referred in previous games.
A stratified sampling procedure ensured that the sample was representative of the population measured. Spectators were randomly selected and completed the questionnaires voluntarily. Questionnaires were distributed inside the stadiums and were completed prior to the start of the games. The research had been conducted from September 2010 until March 2011.
Reliability analyses (Cronbach’s alpha) tested the internal consistency of the service quality dimensions, satisfaction, and repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication in the context of the football spectators. Multiple regression analyses were used to investigate the impact of service quality and satisfaction to the prediction of repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication.
The internal consistency of the five dimensions of service quality (“Tangibles”, “Responsiveness”, “Access”, “Reliability” and “Security”), satisfaction and future intentions (repurchase intention and word of mouth communication) was measured by Cronbach’s alpha reliability and the results are depicted in Table 1.
Cronbach’s alpha reliability for Service Quality, Satisfaction and Future Intentions
|Future Intentions||Repurchase intention||5.68||1.62||2||.873|
|Word of mouth||4.61||1.73||3||.879|
The analysis indicated high reliability for all five service quality components satisfaction and future intentions.
The findings indicated that people weren’t so happy with “tangibles” (M= 4.31), “responsiveness” (M= 4.40) and “access” (M= 4.47). More positive compared to the previous, was the perception regarding “security” (M=4.70) and “reliability” (M=4.67). People also declared being somewhat satisfied (M=5.08). They also stated that they were very likely to continue watching games at the specific stadium (M= 5.68), but not as much likely to be involved in word-of-mouth communication (M= 4.61).
Two separate multiple regression analyses were performed in order to test the degree to which service quality and satisfaction could predict repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication. In both regression analyses the five service quality dimensions and satisfaction were set as the independent variables, whereas the repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication as the dependent ones. Service quality contributed significantly (F = 65,698, p< 0.001) and predicted a significant proportion (26.3%) of the variance of the repurchase intention. However, it is worth noting that only “reliability” (t=7,327, p<0.001), and “access” (t=2.395, p<.05), offered a significant contribution. “Responsiveness”, “security” and “tangibles” were not included within the predictors. Satisfaction also contributed significantly (F= 463,835, p< 0.001) and predicted another 24.7% of the variance of the dependent variable. The total percentage of prediction was 51% (R2= .511, p< 0.001). The results for repurchase intention are presented in Table 2.
Multiple Regression, Model Summary for Repurchase Intention
As far as word-of-mouth communication is concerned, service quality contributed significantly (F=97,826, p< 0.001) and predicted a significant proportion (34.4%) of the variance of the dependent variable. Of the five dimensions of service quality, this time four offered significant contribution (“responsiveness”, (t =2,514, p< 0.05); “security”, (t =3,016, p < 0.05); “reliability”, (t = 6,199, p< 0.001) and “tangibles” (t = 2,787, p< 0.05). “Access” was not included within the predictors. Satisfaction contributed significantly (F=387,699, p< 0.001) and predicted another 19.4%, of the variance of the dependent variable. The total percentage of prediction was 53.8% (R2= .538, p< 0.001). The results for word-of-mouth communication are presented in Table 3.
Multiple Regression Analysis, Model Summary for word-of-mouth
Discussion and Conclusions
The purpose of this paper was to determine the degree to which service quality and customer satisfaction predicts repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication in the sport spectators’ context and especially in professional football. The results supported the research hypothesis, which service quality and satisfaction have an influence and can predict both repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication in professional football. Based on the results, it can be argued that satisfaction is the most influential factor, especially regarding repurchase intentions. These results confirm the findings from other researchers in the services area (8, 33, 36, 43 and 48). However, the results gave an interesting view for the service quality role towards future intentions. In terms of repurchase intentions, only “reliability” and “access” seem to have a significant impact, while the total percentage of prediction was 26.3%. Surprisingly enough, the influence of “security”, “tangibles” and “responsiveness” were not significant which is an issue that needs further investigation. Theodorakis et al. (2008) found similar results, although in his research “responsiveness” had a significantly weak impact statistically, on repurchase intention. On the other hand, service quality has a closer relation with word-of-mouth communication, given that four out of five dimensions (reliability, tangibles, responsiveness and security) had a statistically significant impact and they predicted 34.7% of the word-of-mouth total variance. Studies in the marketing literature reported that service quality perceptions (3, 51) directly connected to repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication. The results of the present study provide support for this report. Trying to interpret these findings, we can argue that the nature of sport services and its features create this form. Service quality components relate closely to word-of-mouth communication, but they have a weak relation in correlation with the repurchase intention, whereas on the other hand satisfaction seems to play a more significant role (8, 43 and 48). Given that we have had serious violence phenomena in Greek football recently, it was a surprise that “security” does not affect spectators’ repurchases intention. That might have happened because security might be considered as a problem only in specific matches, where the result of games is very important, and/or the rival teams are located in the same city. It must be noted that fans of the opposite team are not permitted by the Greek law to follow their favourite team when they play away from home. Also, it was not expected that “responsiveness” would not have a significant impact on the repurchase intention.
In summary, this paper has a theoretical value, as it confirms findings from researches in the services area (12, 30 and 36), and enhances the knowledge regarding the service quality, satisfaction and behavioral intentions cycle in the area of sport spectators, particularly in professional football.
Applications in sport
The practical implications are also important, as the sport organizations are struggling to get a competitive advantage and gain a good position in the market. The results of the present study have practical implications especially for sports managers in sport spectators’ area who aim to encourage their customers to attend more often.
In this effort repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communications are considered as vital factors. This indicates that service quality and satisfaction have a very strong impact on both repurchase intentions and word-of-mouth communication, so managers should bear in mind the contemporary needs of today’s spectators in an effort to please them. In other words, sport managers should develop appropriate marketing strategies and invest in quality of services and satisfaction. From a managerial point of view, since managers lack control of the core product, they should try to improve all the secondary services. In terms of service quality, they should emphasize first on “reliability” and then on “tangibles”, “responsiveness” and “security”. “Access” was considered as an important factor for repurchase intention but not for word-of-mouth communication.
As far as Greece is concerned, the fact is that access is already a big problem in the daily routine in Greek cities, so people mind considering this as an extra problem. However, access issues are not going to improve as long as the stadiums are located in the center of densely populated areas.
On the other hand, spectators’ satisfaction is the most influential factor and is very important particularly for repurchase intention. These findings support the results of previous studies that a satisfied spectator is very much likely to proceed in repurchase actions (e.g. 25, 27 and 43). Managers have to put a lot of their efforts on satisfying their customers, because consumers’ satisfaction is the most crucial factor for future behavior.
In conclusion, the present study in the context of professional soccer provided evidence that,
- the relationship between service quality and spectators’ repurchase intentions is weak and limited to the dimension of reliability and access only
- the relationship between service quality and spectators’ word-of-mouth communication is very strong,
- satisfaction has a strong relationship with both repurchase intention and word-of-mouth communication.
Limitations and future research
The present study collected data from Greece’s professional football. As the cultural diversities might influence the conclusions of each study, it would be useful to have evidence from different countries. Thus, cross-cultural research should be conducted in the future and help practitioners and academics to better understand the similarities and differences in the behavioral patterns of football fans internationally.
Finally, along with service quality and satisfaction, future research should incorporate other factors and dimensions that have been shown to significantly predict the spectator’s behavior, such as those of value, loyalty, motives and brand associations.
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Aggelopoulou 46, TK 54352,
Candidate PhD of Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences in Democritus University of Thrace.
Associate Professor of Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Professor of Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences in Democritus University of Thrace.