Purpose – The purpose of this study is to identify the antecedents and dimensions of relationship quality (RQ) between customers and providers of athletic services. Design/methodology/approach – Data collection involved in‐depth, personal interviews of fitness centre customers and year‐ticket holders of football clubs in order to determine the similarities and differences between the two contexts. RQ is approached from the point of view of the customer since no other study has investigated that part of the dyad. Data were analysed with thematic content analysis. Findings – In fitness clubs, RQ is perceived as a relationship that involves trust, customer satisfaction and commitment; social bonds with employees; effective cooperation and communication, and adaptation of services to suit customers’ needs. In contrast, the relationship of football club year‐ticket holders is simpler and is perceived as trusting; satisfying for customers and one where customers feel committed to the team. The antecedents of RQ identified do not differ between the two types of relationship studied and include the quality of the servicescape; the power of entertainment; the quality of personnel; customer experience and knowledge; customer relationship orientation; relationship duration, and circumstantial or personal factors such as free time shortage, family obligations or bad weather conditions. Based on these findings a conceptual framework is developed for analysing RQ and its antecedents in athletic services. Research limitations/implications – The study extends findings regarding RQ in athletic services. However, it is qualitative in nature. Future research should quantify the constructs identified and test them in quantitative studies. Practical implications – The implications of the study are wide and include appropriate methods of selecting and training staff; the effective management of service portfolios; customer training; providing an entertaining experience for customers, and designing a good quality servicescape. Originality/value – The conceptual framework developed can serve as a guide for sport managers in enhancing the value of relationships with customers.
Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 10, 2013
Keywords: Relationships; Relationship quality; Sports; Fitness centres; Football teams; Athletic services; Greece
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