Assessing Service Quality and Benefits Sought Among Zoological Park Visitors
Keywords:zoos, service quality, benefits sought
AbstractAs competition for discretionary expenditures increases and visitor expectations rise, service quality is likely to be a key to zoos remaining viable. For most zoo visitors, the key determinant of quality service is likely to be the tangible elements of the zoo, Thus, managers’ success in enhancing visitors’ quality of experience is likely to be dependent upon their ability to manipulate and enhance the quality of a zoo’s tangible elements. With this in mind, the study’s four objectives were to identify: (1) the level of visitor expectations associated with service quality domains; (2) the relative importance of service quality domains; (3) perceptions of performance of service quality domains; and (4) the benefits sought by visitors. Managerial implications were derived from the discrepancy scores between performance and expectations.Service quality is defined by expectancy-disconfirmation theory, which states that a visitor’s expectancy level provides a baseline from which confirmatory or disconfirmatory judgments are made about level of performance. The expectations data were collected from adult respondents before they entered the zoo. Data to measure the other constructs were collected from a questionnaire which respondents mailed back after their visit. The sample was comprised of 606 visitors, of whom 373 (62%) returned the mail-back questionnaire. Seven service quality domains were measured by 28 items. They were: wildlife, wildlife information, overall cleanliness and accessibility, general information, staffing, comfort amenities, and education. Six benefits sought domains were measured by 27 items. They were: family togetherness, wildlife enjoyment, wildlife appreciation and learning, companionship, escape, and introspection.The most important service quality domains and those for which visitors had the highest expectations were wildlife and wildlife information. The results indicated that the zoo performed well on these key domains. The education domain was rated lowest in performance and in importance, and next to lowest in expectations. This creates a challenge for the zoo, since education is a central element in its mission statement.The most important benefits sought were family togetherness and wildlife enjoyment. Substantially less important were wildlife appreciation and companionship, while escape and introspection were relatively unimportant. The emphasis on family was reflected in the profile of visitor groups, 80% of which contained children.These types of studies enable organizations to benchmark their performance against visitors’ expectations and what is important to them. The benchmarking could be extended by replicating the study periodically to monitor progress over time, and by implementing it at other zoos to identify Fort Worth Zoo’s strengths and weaknesses compared to its peer organizations.
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