Relational Benefits in Recreation Services: Examining Differences Between Operating Sectors
Keywords:Relational benefits, service quality, confidence, social benefits, special treatment.
AbstractThe benefits to the firm of forming relationships with and retaining customers have been well documented in the marketing literature and leisure literature. However, in order for relationships between service providers and customers to continue, they must be perceived by both parties as beneficial. Despite this acknowledgment of the necessity for mutual benefits, most literature has focused on benefits to the service provider, whereas less attention has been focused on the benefits that accrue to customers who remain loyal to a service provider. Gwinner, Gremler, and Bitner (1998) demonstrated that relationship customers perceive three types of benefits above and beyond the core service performance: confidence benefits (e.g., trust, consistency of service, etc.); social benefits (name recognition, friendship, etc.); and special treatment benefits (priority or augmented service or price discounts). Further, they found that customers received the three types of benefits and rated their importance in the same order as listed above. This ordering for importance and performance was consistent regardless of the type of service examined. The current research employed the quantitative portion of Gwinner et al.’s instrumentation to investigate the importance and receipt of relational benefits in the expanding industry of recreation service delivery. We also examined how these benefits vary in importance and receipt between the three sectors that deliver recreation services: the private sector, the not-forprofit sector, and the public sector. Fitness class participants (N = 255) from private for-profit, not-for-profit and public sector facilities responded to the questionnaire. Factor analyses revealed the same three benefit components as were found by Gwinner et al. As well, in all sectors, the benefits were deemed important and were received in the same order as described in the original study: confidence, social, and special treatment. However, ANOVA revealed several differences (p < .05) in the importance and receipt of the three types of benefits between sectors. For example, social and special treatment benefits were perceived as being more important by private sector participants in comparison to public sector participants. Negative service gaps were apparent with respect to the delivery of confidence benefits in all three sectors. That is, importance scores were significantly higher than were performance scores. Likewise, not-for-profit sector participants perceived a negative service gap with respect to special treatment benefits and public sector participants perceived a negative service gap with respect to social benefits. Implications for managers of recreation services hoping to cultivate profitable customer relationships as well as for academics wishing to better understand customer-provider relationships are outlined and discussed.
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