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«Service Quality and Satisfaction Within  Campus Recreation: The Moderating Role  of Identification ...»

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Recreational Sports Journal, 2010, 34, 9-23

© 2010 Human Kinetics, Inc.

Service Quality and Satisfaction Within 

Campus Recreation: The Moderating Role 

of Identification

David J. Shonk, Julie Wallace Carr, and Peter E. De Michele

The current study integrated the services marketing and social identity literature to

examine the moderating effect of Identification on the relationship between service

quality factors (i.e., Program Quality, Interaction Quality, Outcome Quality, Physical Environment Quality) and Satisfaction. The study was administered using a modified version of Ko and Pastore’s (2007) Scale of Service Quality in Recreational Sports (SSQRS) and Wann and Branscombe’s (1990) team identification questionnaire. Data were collected from more than 4,000 campus faculty and undergraduate student recreational users attending a university within the Middle Atlantic region of the United States. Results of the regression analysis demonstrated that Identification had a significant interactive effect when added to Outcome Quality, F(1, 3663) = 105.869, p.001, such that higher Identification is related to higher Satisfaction. Identification also had a significant interactive effect with Program Quality, F(1, 3850) = 25.281, p.001, such that higher Identification is related to lower Satisfaction. There was no significant interactive effect between Identification and Interaction Quality, F(1, 3692) = 1.464, p =.226; and Physical Environment Quality, F(1, 3721) = 1.977, p =.160. The findings have important implications for campus recreation professionals.

Keywords: service quality, satisfaction, campus recreation, social identity theory Campus recreation centers have become destination points on college campuses (Taylor, Canning, Brailsford, & Rokosz, 2003) and serve as indispensable components of student services (Osman, Cole, & Vessell, 2006). Campus recreation programs offer a varied and broad number of services such as intramurals, special events, tournaments, sports clubs, family activities, open and informal recreation, instructional classes, fitness assessment, outdoor recreation, and personal enhancement programs (Stier, Schneider, Kampf, Haines, & Wilding, 2005;

Weese, 1997). For many students, the impact of a quality campus recreation program extends well beyond their years for which they are enrolled in college (Broughton & Griffin, 1994). Participation in campus recreation programs has Shonk and Wallace Carr are with the School of Hospitality, Sport & Recreation Management, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA. De Michele is with the Office of Institutional Research, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

  9 10    Shonk, Wallace Carr, and De Michele been linked to assisting in student recruitment (Latawsky, Schneider, Pederson, & Palmer, 2003; Zizzi, Ayers, Watson II, & Keeler, 2004), enhancing the quality of student life (Ellis, Compton, Tyson, & Bohlig, 2002), increasing retention and GPA (Belch, Gebel, & Maas, 2001; Noeldner, 2001), reducing stress (Kanters, 2000; Kimball & Freysinger, 2003), promoting wellness (Ellis et al., 2002), student development (Todaro, 1993), persistence (Astin, 1993), and satisfaction with the academic experience (Forrester, 2006).

Campus recreation professionals face the pressures of serving a complex group of students, parents, patrons, and donors who are expecting more long-term results for their money (Cooper & Faircloth, 2006). A shift in customer expectations for the type and quality of recreational facilities has taken place since the mid-1980s (Zizzi et al., 2004). Larger and more elaborate facilities are being built to accommodate customers who want more and varied activity offerings (Taylor et al., 2003). Recent estimates by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA, 2008) suggest that member institutions plan to spend more than $3 billion on new construction of campus recreational facilities. In consideration of the pivotal role of recreation on college campuses, campus recreation professionals are continually seeking to meet the needs and expectations of their customers (Riemer & Chelladurai, 1998) by enhancing and improving the quality of their services (Osman et al., 2006). Service quality is important in campus recreation because improved service results in higher use or member satisfaction and increased intention to return to the facility (Osman et al., 2006).

For many users, the campus recreation facility is not only a place to recreate but also serves as a place of community to “meet friends, hang out, and see and be seen” (Dalgarn, 2001). In this respect, establishing a sense of belonging in a community is a critical component of retention (Wade, 1991). Although there is a lack of empirical evidence related to social identity and campus recreation, anecdotal evidence suggests that many students feel a connection with their on-campus program. The recreational literature suggests that certain places have meaning whereby individuals become attached and these places take on an identity of their own (Fishwick & Vining, 1992; Hammitt, Backlund, & Bixler, 2006). Some individuals develop “a sense of belonging, identity, dependence, and even possessiveness toward places” such that these places become “their place” or “the only place” for recreational pursuits (Korpela, Hartig, Kaiser, & Fuhrer, 2001).

The marketing literature suggests that once a customer identifies with a company, he or she will become a champion of the company (Bhattacharya & Sen,

2003) and purchasing their products becomes an act of self-expression (Ahearne, Bhattacharya, & Gruen, 2005). In a similar manner, the sport literature highlights how fans become so attached that their identity is formed in relation to the team, sport or both (Cialdini et al., 1976; Dalakas, Madrigal, & Anderson, 2004; DietzUhler & Murrell, 1999; Wann & Branscombe, 1990).

While scholars have examined social identity as it relates to team identification (Fink, Trail, & Anderson, 2002), the role of social identification, and its relationship to service quality and satisfaction within campus recreation has not been studied. Most studies suggest that service quality is antecedent to satisfaction and behavioral intention (Fornell, 1992). Integrating service quality and social identity theory, the current study seeks to investigate whether identification moderates the relationship between service quality and satisfaction.

Service Quality    11 Theoretical Framework Service Quality Service quality has been defined as the “difference between what is expected from each of the service dimensions and what a consumer perceives he or she receives from them” (MacKay & Crompton, 1988). Most studies on service quality conceptualize the linear relationship of the variables and not the moderating effects of variables. Service quality has been linked to customer satisfaction (Grönroos, 1990; Shonk & Chelladurai, 2008), customer loyalty (Kandampully, 1998;

Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990), improved profitability (Grönroos, 1990), value (Laroche, Ueltschy, Shuzo, & Cleveland, 2004) and repurchase intention (Fornell, 1992).

While the literature reveals that no generic measure of service quality for all industries has emerged (Blose & Tankersley, 2004), there is broad consensus that service quality is a multilevel construct (Brady & Cronin, 2001; Chelladurai & Chang, 2000). In regards to the multiple levels, scholars have conceptualized various dimensions of service quality. For example, Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry’s (1988) SERVQUAL model consisted of five dimensions of tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Grönroos (1984) conceptualized a two dimensional model of technical and functional quality which considers what and how the consumer actually receives the service. Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1991) proposed a two dimensional approach of process quality and output quality and a three component approach of physical quality, interactive quality, and corporate quality. Dabholkar, Thorpe, and Rentz (1996) postulated a three-dimensional conceptualization of service quality consisting of physical aspects, reliability, and personal interactions. Brady and Cronin’s (2001) three-dimensional model consisted of interaction quality, physical environment quality, and outcome quality.

A number of service quality studies within the higher education literature have taken recreational facilities into account (Gatfield, 2000; Joseph & Joseph, 1997; Joseph, Yakhou, & Stone, 2005). Gatfield (2000) developed a scale which identified various quality variables related to student perceptions with the university experience. Included within the scale were sport and recreation facilities.

Joseph and Joseph (1997) found that students consider quality universities as being those that have excellent recreation facilities. Findings by Joseph et al.

(2005) suggested that females attach higher perceived importance to recreational facilities than males.

Within the sport and leisure literature, Mackay and Crompton (1988) proposed a conceptual model adopted from Parasuraman et al. (1988) which suggests that recreation service quality consists of the five dimensions of reliability, responsiveness, empathy, assurance, and tangibles. Howat, Absher, Crilley, and Milne (1996) suggested a 15 dimensional model of service quality in recreation which took into account core service factors such as information, operation time, activity ranges, organization, facility comfort, equipment, and value for money; secondary service factors such as food/drink and child supervision; and staff quality factors such as responsiveness, staff knowledge, and officials. Osman, Cole, and Vessel (2006) examined the impacts that the ambiance of the campus recreation facility, operations quality, and staff competency had on user satisfaction and behavioral intentions.

12    Shonk, Wallace Carr, and De Michele Ko and Pastore (2007) conceptualized a model of service quality comprised of four dimensions: a) program quality, b) interaction quality, c) outcome quality, and d) environment quality. Program Quality refers to the range of programs, operating time (i.e., whether classes start and finish on time), and the ease of getting information about programs. Interaction Quality is defined by employee-client and interclient interactions. Outcome Quality refers to the physical changes experienced by the consumer along with positive social experiences and a post consumption evaluation of whether the service was good or bad. Finally, Ko and Pastore’s Physical Environment Quality consisted of the ambience and design of the building along with the equipment.

Satisfaction Much of the attention given to service quality is motivated by the premise that it will increase customer satisfaction and ultimately lead to better financial performance (Babakas, Bienstock, & Van Scotter, 2004). Distinguishing between service quality and satisfaction is important because managers need to know whether the objective is to provide the maximum level of perceived service quality or to have satisfied customers (Spreng & Mackoy, 1996). Satisfaction is perceived as the final result of all activities carried out during the process of purchase and consumption (Millán & Esteban, 2004). Satisfaction refers to the fulfillment response of the customer (Oliver, 1997). Satisfaction results in the disconfirmation of prior expectation, thus the customer is more likely to be satisfied if the service provider meets or exceed their expectations (Rust, Zahorik, & Keiningham, 1995).

Satisfaction mediates the relationship between service quality and behavioral intentions (Cronin, Brady, & Hult, 2000; Howat, Murray, & Crilley, 1999). Satisfaction also influences a customer’s willingness to refer other customers (Rust et al., 1995). Within the recreation literature, Osman et al. (2006) found that satisfaction had a significant influence on member intentions to recommend a recreation center to their friends.

Social Identity Theory According to social identity theory, individuals have a tendency to classify themselves into social categories such as religious affiliation, gender, age, and organizational membership (Tajfel & Turner, 1985). Ashforth and Mael (1989) suggest that social classification serves to provide the individual a means for defining others as well as helping the individual to locate or define him or herself in terms of the social environment. For the individual, membership in the social group holds some form of emotional and value significance (Tajfel, 1972) and is based on intergroup social comparisons and the underlying need for self-esteem (Turner, 1975). These social comparisons or what Sherif (1966) refers to as ‘intergroup behavior” occur “whenever individuals belonging to one group interact, collectively or individually, with another group or its members in terms of their group identification” (p. 12). When the identity of an individual is threatened, social Service Quality    13 identity theory maintains that individuals produce strong reactions in response to the threat on their identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1979).

A number of studies have focused on organizational identification, which is defined as the connection between an individual and an organization (Ahearne et al., 2005). Studies on organizational identification suggest that employees will stay with an organization and will make decisions in the best interest of the organization’s strategic interest (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Van Dick, 2001). Other studies have focused on social identity and marketing theory. Homburg, Wieseke, and Hoyer’s (2009) reveal the positive role of social identification in developing strong customer relationships which lead to financial outcomes. Bhattacharya and Sen (2003) suggest that certain companies represent and offer attractive and meaningful social identities to consumers that help them satisfy important self-definitional needs.

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