This paper seeks to discuss the extent of the assertion that the service experience is the sum total of the functional and emotional outcome dimensions of any kind of service in relation to its application to leisure services. Its implications for the management of leisure services shall be examined.
Assessing service quality and satisfaction has been the focus of several marketing research, with little attention on the effects of the service setting of the physical surroundings. Leisure services are basically concerned with how consumers perceive the service quality and what effects it has on customer repatronage (Wakefield and Blodgett, 1994). Part of improving service quality is focusing on sales promotions, in which leisure retail operators often emphasise on some forms of added value to patrons who are involved in the so-called hedonistic consumption. The variety-seeking tendency of consumers, their loyalty to the service provider, and perceptions of the value of the service provision are factors on how consumers respond to sales promotions in leisure settings (Wakefield and Barnes, 1996). This assertion is in synergy with that of Sandstorm’s view that “the service experience is the sum total of the functional and emotional outcome dimensions of any kind of service.”
II. The Extent to Which Sandstorm’s Assertion Applies to Leisure Services
Indeed, the service experience is the sum total of the functional and emotional outcome dimensions of any kind of service. The truthfulness of this adage is seen in the practical ways in which service providers try to improve their services, including recovering effectively from service failures, which is proved to contribute to customer evaluations of firms. Research shows that there is an impact of customer retention rates, spread of damaging word of mouth, and bottom-line performance on effective compliant handling by service firms (Tax, et al., 1998: 60). This may be exemplified by the Hampton Inn hotel chain which recently reaped $11 million in additional annual revenue along with achieving the highest customer retention rate in the hotel industry. This is viewed as caused by the implementation of means that ensure customer problems are dealt with appropriately.
Hence, there is a close link between effective resolution of customer problems and relationship marketing in terms of providing customer satisfaction, trust, and commitment. This is not to overlook the importance of complaint handling strategies in managing customer relationships in leisure service businesses. Similarly, complaint handling becomes a critical moment of truth in maintaining customer relationships, which leads us to the idea of challenges in managing quality vis-à-vis how customer loyalty as factor of profitability (Tax, et al., 1998).
In leisure services, the same assertion that “the service experience serves as the sum total of the functional and emotional outcome dimensions” is true. The importance of leisure services to clients is heightened since clients seek the most pleasing and excellent leisure service that a leisure business can provide. The service experience, being the sum total of the emotional dimensions of the leisure service, is seen in the effects of quality, satisfaction, and value on consumer’s behavioral intentions. Customers normally seek these traits when availing of a leisure service, which becomes the functional gauge in their repatronage. In fact, it is said that service quality, service value, and customer satisfaction are directly related to behavioral intentions of customers (Cronin, et al., 2000), which implies likelihood for the re-availment of the service. Thus, service relationship is the end-product of a satisfied customer and the leisure service business, which focuses on the so called dimensions of “the moment of truth,” namely (1) temporal duration, (2) emotional content, and (3) the spatial proximity of customer and service provider. These dimensions are said to mould the performance of the service provider and the important links among their performance, affective response of clients/customers, and satisfaction (Price, et al., 1995: 83). It is important to note that with the nature of service encounter being an interpersonal relationship, there are basic roles played by duration, affective/emotional content, and partial proximity (Price, et al., 1995).
The extent of the assertion about service experience being the functional and emotional outcome dimensions of the leisure service is seen in sports as leisure, such as providing floodlights on playing fields. However, the most common issue concerns light spilling into houses, which leads for planning officers and inspectors to refuse planning permission. Despite this, due to the stadium’s pursuit to provide functional and affective dimensions in watching a sport, lanterns and lamps are redesigned to reduce lateral spillage (Houlihan, 2008: 448). This is in order to address the audience’s needs when watching a game, a concern that must not be overlooked.
Moreover, in order for the customer to assess the quality, value, and satisfaction level towards a particular leisure service, there is a need to experience said service first; lest, gauging it in the absence of such experience is impossible. Since leisure services are a personal experience, only when the customer perceives that this experience creates functional and affective/emotional outcomes can he say that the service is indeed efficient and good.
III. Examining the Implications of the Leisure Service Experience in Leisure Services Management
The leisure service experience has implications in leisure services management. Since people can no longer derive leisure from nature but from man-made services, there is a need that their service experience be managed. Not only should there be a focus on management but on planning as well, which must primarily be concerned with people (Torkildsen, 1999: 3). Demands on leisure services are met not just through the provision of facilities and resources, but also in attracting people to use and enjoy them. This can be efficiently undertaken through services, management policy, and management action (Torkildsen, 1999).
One significant point about leisure as experience is that it is almost impossible to define it operationally; thereby the need for some tangible criteria on which to base planning and management. It would thus be beneficial to discuss recreation experience arising from recreation activity when leisure professionals communicate with policymakers and the public (Torkildsen, 1999: 57). This is how leisure services give an implication to management.
Since leisure is personal, recreational establishments must be concerned on activities with individual satisfactions when planning and managing a leisure activity. Likewise, the management must offer a satisfactory choice since leisure is basically concerned with freedom. It must also be taken into account the refreshing character of leisure wherein the management should plan activities that have immediate value, is novel and stimulating. When planning a leisure program/activity, the management must be concerned with the entire well-being of the person since leisure can be found in physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual activities. The character of leisure as creative leads leisure service management to plan programs that concern the indirect benefits of leisure (Torkildsen, 1999). These are some of the implications of leisure services on leisure service management.
It is also important to consider that leisure often arises through play in which case opportunities for participation bearing the spirit of play with the players in control need to be encouraged, of which management will ensure of the same. Since oneness and unity allow for ‘peak’ experiences, the management of leisure activities must involve a full recreation experience that seeks such opportunity (Torkildsen, 1999). Indeed, the leisure service experience directed at ensuring quality, value, and satisfaction has a big implication on the leisure service management.
It must hence be inferred that leisure service encounters must not be put to chance but must instead be planned and managed effectively. This can only be acted upon when there is a full understanding of the characteristics of the service process and the psychology of the consumer process (McMahon-Beattie and Yeoman, 2004: 4). Therefore, when managing leisure, it is important to consider that the core of the service offering is based on an experience. Likewise, the success of the leisure service is determined by the enhancement of the experience and the emotional responses of the costumer. This is so because the service offering is a complex mix of quality dimensions involving functional and emotional outcomes, with the significant role of the customer in the center of the service encounter. The core of the management of service quality is how the leisure service encounter is managed while it provides the potential competitive edge to the industry through process management and customer experience (McMahon-Beattie and Yeoman, 2004:4). It is therefore important to involve service operations management in the process of leisure service provision whose primary objective is the management of the service encounters and the enhancement of the overall experience.
Since competitive advantage is the culminating event in leisure service management, it is thus important for service businesses to focus on how the management of the service may be enhanced, and one dimension of this is improving quality, value, and customer satisfaction.
Along with the aforesaid discussions, one concept to consider is the key relationship between the management of resources and the management of service quality in leisure service. The leisure service experience poses an implication to service management since the service operations are the configuration of resources and processes delivering the service offering (Williams and Buswell, 2003:117). Hence, it is important to employ good capacity management in the leisure service since this would mean ability on the part of the organisation to cope with levels of demand without having to affect levels of customer satisfaction.
Similarly, capacity management clearly reflects the maximisation of customer satisfaction on the leisure service provided alongside optimum usage of resources. Leisure service management must be concerned with several issues and problems arising from the provision of the service, such as overcrowding or long queues during peak times. These problems about overcrowding and long queues can lead to dissatisfaction which can resultantly lead to losing customers through people going elsewhere after a poor experience. Mistakes and/or rushed impersonal service caused by pressures on resources can lead to customer dissatisfaction and a drop in service standards (Williams and Buswell, 2003). Thus, it is important to ensure that standards in providing leisure services are maintained through sound management.
This paper articulated on the extent of the service experience being functional and emotional outcome dimensions of any kind of service, such as the leisure service. Just like in the manner of providing other services, concerns about quality, value, and satisfaction are important when providing leisure services. In order to ensure these concerns, sound capacity management must be employed in which resources are used to their optimum level and proper standards is observed. Achieving competitive advantage is likewise an objective of service businesses, allowing them to pursue quality, value, and satisfaction through sound management. Clearly, leisure services affect service management in this manner.