Customer expectations and satisfaction with fitness facilities in the North–West Province
Beytell, Carinda Christien
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One of the major challenges facing service businesses today is the rapidly changing and highly competitive nature of service industries. As a result, customer expectations are also rising quickly. Increased competition in this regard has resulted in fitness facilities in particular aiming to improve their services in order for these businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors. By improving their services, fitness facilities can better satisfy the needs of their members. Therefore, fitness facilities need to identify those service elements which are important to their members in order to satisfy members' service needs by improving the quality of services delivered. The primary objective of the study is to determine whether customers of fitness facilities in the North West Province are satisfied with the services that are provided by these facilities. The research study on fitness facilities was based on descriptive research in order to allow for the identification of service elements that are important to members of fitness facilities. During the course of the study, secondary data was used for the literature review in order to investigate the research problem through the use of publications such as books and reliable academic and research articles. A quantitative research design was used in the form of self–administered questionnaires with a view to determine the level of customer satisfaction as well as the desires, perceptions and expectations of members regarding fitness facilities. Pre–testing of the questionnaire was also performed during this study to ensure that the collection and analysis of data would proceed as smoothly as possible. Self–administered questionnaires were distributed to members of fitness facilities from the 17th of May to the 26th of May 2010 by three fieldworkers in the cities of Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp in the North West Province. A convenience sampling method was used, which implied that respondents who were readily available and willing to complete the questionnaire at selected fitness facilities were selected for participation in the study. Furthermore, an exploratory factor analysis was used to identify those service elements which are important to members of fitness facilities. Ten factors were identified, namely personnel professionalism, equipment condition, membership possibilities, fitness programmes, convenience issues, medical assistance, cleanliness, information availability, membership preferences and the opportunity to exercise in another town. The results indicated that differences exist in terms of respondents' gender, levels of education as well as differences between various age groups and the ten identified importance factors. Results also showed that customer satisfaction can influence customer behaviour, as satisfied customers would recommend the fitness facility to others and want to have a long–term relationship with the fitness facility. It is recommended that fitness facilities need to focus on those service elements that members view as important when planning and maintaining their service offerings. Furthermore, fitness facilities need to realise that all their members do not view the importance of service elements in the same way, and therefore they should deliver services specifically tailored to various age groups, levels of education and gender. Recommendations for future research include that a similar study can be conducted for individual fitness facilities, because fitness facilities are unique and have different capabilities to deliver services. When conducting a study for each individual fitness facility, a relevant comparison can be made between the services that the specific fitness facility offers and what the members of that fitness facility really want or view as important. Specific strategies can then be recommended to the individual fitness facility with a view to improve their service offering and concomitantly increase their member satisfaction.