Polyakova, Olga (2018) Measuring Perceptions of Frequent Users Towards Service Quality in the Fitness Industry: Public Sports Centres in Northern England. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis explores the perceptions of frequent users towards service quality in public sports centres in Northern England. In light of the increasing competition for members between highly specialised fitness facilities and multipurpose facilities with a broad range of services, the main focus of the thesis is placed on the users of fitness services in the sports centres, i.e. users of fitness suites and fitness classes. In order to address the gap in the previous literature in terms of measuring service quality in these two separate fitness contexts, the adapted model by Ko and Pastore (2005) was applied within the quantitative mono-method research design of this study. To ensure that the instrument is relevant and appropriate for use in the business operating environment, a pilot study and a series of consultation with practitioners took place, as a part of the model’s development.

To measure and compare quality perceptions between two groups of frequent users, data was collected via an online survey from a random sample of customers in fourteen public sports centres managed by Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) Trust, based in the North of England. The purpose of the survey was to capture customers' evaluations of service quality, by inviting them to score the importance and performance of service quality attributes. The survey received a total of 680 responses, out of which 522 respondents self-reported being frequent users of fitness suites, fitness classes, or both. The data was analysed with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS); this included importance-performance analysis, quantitative comparison of scores and explanation of satisfaction scores for each of the two groups of users.

The findings of the study revealed the exceptional importance of the physical environment quality for both contexts of fitness suites and fitness classes. The empirical data showed that personal achievement was equally important for the users of both fitness suites and fitness classes and this attribute was, relatively speaking, underperforming in both settings. The greatest differences in quality perceptions between the two groups were found in the areas of sociability and inter-client interaction. Sociability was not seen as a desirable outcome by users of fitness suites, yet this may differ depending on the type of facility and customers' motivations. The study found evidence that individuals who participated frequently in both fitness settings tend to give a higher score on performance of certain service attributes. Finally, the study established that evaluations of perceived service quality by the two user groups contribute to their overall satisfaction differently and, therefore, they need to be considered as users of two distinct fitness settings. Overall, this thesis extends existing research by providing classification of areas related to perceived service quality in the fitness services and utilises an industry-specific model for measuring service quality perceptions of customers in the fitness industry.

Olga Polyakova FINAL THESIS.PDF - Accepted Version
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