Introduction (Academic context to support your investigation)
The importance of physical environment on customers is widely recognised by managers and mentioned in many service industry. It is true that customers will make use of a service enterprise if they perceive that the service provided will be of high quality (Brady & Cronin, 2001). According to Abdullah Rosario (2009), quality of services delivered plays considerably a major role in shaping and manipulating customer satisfaction. With customer satisfaction comes positive customer behaviour. It is highly visible in the service sectors such as restaurants, hotels, retails, hospitals and bank.
One important aspect regarding perception of servicescape includes the study of the physical environment in which the services are delivered. The servicescape model helps management develop a strategy to impress their first-time or regular customers. However, managers often restructure these elements but are often not fully utilising it. It is important for service managers to understand that the quality of the service environment is positively linked with customer satisfaction. On the other hand, it is also negatively linked with customer complaints.
Physical environment in a service business such as ambience, aesthetics, signages etc. plays an important role in creating a positive customer behaviour and experience. Bitner (1992) studied in the area of service marketing specifically in physical environment. According to him, in a service setting, physical environment is the main factor which will be impacting customer’s perception during their first experience and their consumption of the service carries out within the physical environment. The importance of understanding service’s physical environment it the key to manipulate customer’s behaviour and to create a positive image for service business.
Kotler (1996) defined customer satisfaction as “the level of a persons felt state resulting from comparing a product’s perceived performance or outcome to his/her expectations.” Thus, with positive perception of the service matching customer’s expectation, it leads to positive customer behaviour. In turn, it helps increase long-term customer relationship as well. The physical environment can help to achieve a positive first experience. The physical environment includes attributes such as ambiance, space/function, signage, symbols and artefacts of the service in which services are performed and delivered to customers. With these, it aids in the first impression of both the image of the business and eventually influences behaviours in the service setting. The physical environment is the area in which the service is delivered. It allows the business and customers to communicate, and recognises that the intangible service can be made tangible.