Perceptions of the Service Experience: Using Demographic and Psychographic Variables to Identify Customer Segments

T. Christopher Greenwell
Janet S. Fink
Donna L. Pastore

While the game is generally considered the most important factor influencing sport spectators, insights can be gained about how customers, especially different customer segments, view the physical facility and service personnel. The purpose of this study was to investigate how the demographic independent variables age, gender, household income and family size, and the psychographic variable of team identification to affect customer perceptions of three service experience elements: the physical facility, the core product, and service personnel. Results from a sample of 218 minor league hockey spectators revealed that age, gender, household income, and team identification all influenced customer perceptions of one or more elements of the service experience. These findings give minor league hockey marketers a better understanding of how to identify customer segments and which service experience elements need to be better marketed to increase satisfaction of different customer segments. The idea that managers can draw more spectators by delivering quality service is not at all new. One of the first sport managers credited with understanding this concept was Bill Veeck. Planting ivy along the outfield walls at Wrigley Field showed that he understood the importance of stadium aesthetics. Veeck was also ahead of his time in understanding the value of a clean facility. The first team Veeck owned, the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, saw a significant increase in attendance after he gave the stadium a thorough cleaning. In addition, Veeck was one of the first baseball owners to actively recruit and attract female spectators. He attributed much of his success to cleaning up the women’s restrooms (Veeck & Lynn, 1962). Quality service in sport management practice is even more pronounced today. Sport organizations go to great lengths to improve the elements of the sport experience that surround the game. In fact, many organizations are placing a premium on serving customers beyond the presentation of the game. Two good examples of this are the Calgary Flames of the NHL and minor league baseball’s Dayton Dragons. The Calgary Flames have struggled on the ice, finishing near the bottom of the standings, but the organization has been able to maintain much of its customer base by focusing on providing good service. Specifically, the organization’s staff has adopted a more professional approach by listening to customers and putting a premium on treating customers right (Verburg, 1998). This has resulted in an environment where customers appreciate good service, and the organization is not so dependent on the team’s win-loss record to attract customers. The Dayton Dragons, owned by Mandalay Sports Entertainment, have focused on satisfying customers through their new $23 million minor league baseball park. The new park in Dayton comes with two party decks, a state of the art sound system, and a children’s play area. Dayton Dragons president Robert Murphy has stated, “We’re delivering entertainment. We’re just doing it around a baseball game?(Rofe, 1999, p. 42).