A 22-year-old paper about the leisure service industry co-written by a University of Houston-Victoria marketing professor recently won an award from the Journal of Services Marketing.
Written by UHV’s Jeff Blodgett and Kirk Wakefield, the Edwin W. Streetman professor of retail marketing at Baylor University, “The Importance of Servicescapes in Leisure Service Settings” has been downloaded nearly 13,000 times and cited 765 times.
The popularity and impact of the research were among the reasons the journal gave the paper a commendation for outstanding contributions. Just two papers were selected for the honor out of 1,200 articles published as part of the journal’s 30th anniversary celebration. The journal published the paper in 1994.
Blodgett said it was rewarding for him and Wakefield to earn this recognition.
“Sometimes it takes awhile for a paper to get noticed,” Blodgett said. “That whole stream of research on the leisure services industry has taken off. Having the paper around awhile has led to citations and references in newer research.”
In 1991, Blodgett and Wakefield joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi. Their offices were side by side, and they became close friends. Wakefield was a creative thinker who was into sports, while Blodgett was strong at methodology and statistics. It made for a good combination, Blodgett said.
They set out to write a paper that looked at the effect of the environment on people’s satisfaction and engagement with a leisure service, such as a sporting event or cruise. Prior to that, services marketing research largely had focused on measuring service quality associated with the primary service itself with little attention given to the effect of the physical surroundings of the service setting.
“Focusing strictly on the tangible elements of service quality was fine for a bank, but for leisure service activities, people go for the experience, and thus the intangible elements also are important,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett and Wakefield found that the quality of experience plays an important role in determining customer satisfaction and behavior, including whether people would use the service again. This was the first of three papers Blodgett and Wakefield wrote about the subject. The two subsequent papers looked at how long people stay at leisure service activities and their intention to return. The longer they stay, the more they spend and the more often they come back, Blodgett said.
Sports played a key role in the papers because some people primarily attend sporting events to experience a fun day or evening out. The 1994 paper compared two Major League Baseball parks in Ohio, Cleveland Stadium and Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Cleveland Stadium wasn’t thought of as customer friendly while Riverfront was more consumer engaging. Both cities now have new baseball stadiums.
“Even the one that was exemplary eventually did not deliver the kind of experience that people had come to expect,” Blodgett said. “The new ballparks have restaurants, mini theme parks and other activities for fans. We see this time and time again. People’s expectations get greater, so there’s been a money race to build bigger and better to draw in people.”
Blodgett said the papers also looked at facility aesthetics, cleanliness, seating comfort, ambient noise, temperature and signage. Now, those elements are standard practice in leisure services.
“It also is interesting to see how places like Buc-ee’s have capitalized on these elements,” Blodgett said.
The Journal of Services Marketing publishes articles that address a range of services-related issues of interest to marketing scholars and marketing professionals. The chosen articles contain a section that highlights implications for practice. The journal has a rejection rate of 82 percent.
The journal will publish a retrospective to “The Importance of Servicescapes in Leisure Service Settings” later this year. Blodgett and Wakefield have started reflecting on how the paper has influenced the field of leisure services.
Blodgett has taught at UHV since 2011 and served as associate dean of the UHV School of Business Administration for four years. He also has written numerous papers about customer satisfaction and complaining behavior, advertising, online auctions and other topics.
“It’s exciting to see how Dr. Blodgett’s paper has made a difference on how the tourism and sports industry view their experiences, and helped shape leisure activity environments today,” said Farhang Niroomand, dean of the UHV School of Business Administration. “This honor from the Journal of Services Marketing is much deserved.”