Purpose – Although numerous articles emphasize the importance of the servicescape (the physical facilities of a service company), the effect of the servicescape on quality perception has been inadequately captured by previous empirical research. The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the servicescape on perceived quality in a more comprehensive way. Design/methodology/approach – The article proposes a new model for assessing the effects of the servicescape on quality perception based on SERVQUAL. The model considers the special role of the servicescape (or what is called “tangibles” in SERVQUAL) by taking into account that the servicescape elements act as search qualities, while the other SERVQUAL dimensions represent experience or credence qualities. In doing so, the model captures direct and indirect influences of the servicescape. Additionally, a more comprehensive scale for the servicescape is suggested, which exceeds the mostly tangible aspects of the physical environment covered in the SERVQUAL scale. The model is tested in a population survey in two service industries (retail banking and restaurants). Findings – The results show that the servicescape plays a greater role than was supposed in most previous studies. The servicescape is not only a cue for the expected service quality, but also influences customers' evaluations of other factors determining perceived service quality. Thus, the servicescape has a direct and an indirect effect on perceived service quality, which leads the servicescape to have a high overall effect. The results also show that the servicescape is of greater importance in determining customers' evaluations of the expected service quality in a hedonic service compared to a utilitarian service. Research implications/limitations – Since the results of the study refer to two specific industries, the empirical results should be used with care. Thus, it would be conceivable that the influence of the servicescape might be larger even in utilitarian services if the customer spends an extended period in a facility. It is also worthwhile to consider the price paid for the service and consumer perceptions of quality relative to the price paid in future research. Further shortcomings of the study result from problems in examining the measurement models. Clearly, more effort is needed to develop a comprehensive measurement tool for assessing the service quality as well as the servicescape. Since the present study was primarily aligned with the general question about the meaning of the servicescape, the results obtained do not allow concrete managerial implications for the use of different servicescape elements. There is a need for further research examining the effect of single aspects as well as the entire servicescape. Practical implications – Service providers should give careful consideration to their servicescape. In accordance with findings from environmental psychology, the servicescape may not remain limited to tangible elements, but must also consider ambient components such as odours and background music. Originality/value – This paper provides a better assessment of the meaning of the servicescape from previous approaches. The servicescape is shown to be of greater importance for the perceived service quality than has been assumed.
European Journal of Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 1, 2005
Keywords: Service industries; Customer services quality; SERVQUAL
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