Impact of physical evidence


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Impact of physical evidence

  1. 1. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION Journal of Economics & Finance (JEF) SEPTEMBER 2013 VOL.1, No.7 Impact of Physical Evidence on Perception of Service Quality in the Banking Industry: A case of Transnational Bank, Nakuru Esther Nyambugi Thuku Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology, Kenya Accepted 26 September 2013 Abstract This research project sought to analyse the impact of physical evidence on the service quality perceptions in Transnational Bank. Physical evidence was explored in two dimensions both interior and exterior environment in a facility. Service quality on the other hand was explored in terms of: reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. The study was conducted at Transnational bank, Nakuru by collecting views from its customers. Out of the customer polulation of 2073 a sample of 95 was selected using simple random sampling technique, and questionnaire administered seeking their perception on physical evidence and service quality. Data was then analysed using mean, mode frequencies percentages and spearman correlation. The study established that there was a significant relationship between ambient conditions in the banking hall and customers perceptions on service quality offered by the bank. The relationship between special layout and customers perceptions on service quality was significant and the relationship between customers rating on the signage, symbols and artifacts and their perceptions on service quality was also significant. Therefore physical evidence influence customer’s perceptions on service quality. However further studies should be done to establish the factors considered by customers in the choice of banks for provision of banking services and also to determine the factors to consider when designing the layout of banking facilities considerate for optimum customer satisfaction. Key Words: Physical Evidence, Perception of Service Quality, Banking Industry, Transnational Bank, Nakuru 1. Introduction In the banking sector, it is of the essence to understand the added pressure on the service providers to satisfy the needs of the customers. These days, there is a tendency of consumers to be more demanding and tough in relation to the service or product that they would like to purchase. Partly because of that, but also because of the continually increasing competition, companies are trying to differentiate themselves amongst others by putting forward something innovative and inventive. In this context and according to some researchers, physical evidence can be seen as an effective tool for being competitive, under such circumstances. Kotler (2007), for example, had no doubts that rather than the product on its own, the place can actually be even more significant and influential. The term servicescape, indeed, and its importance was popularized by Bitner (1992), whose contribution and 240
  2. 2. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION conclusion made servicescape an ever-increasing subject of interest for many other researchers and practitioners. He continued to argue that servicescape is very helpful for positioning, segmenting and overall differentiating a particular company from its core competitors. Servicescope affects customers' perceptions of the service experience. The main elements of service scope according to Bitner (1992) are; Ambient Condition which refers to the condition surrounding employees and customers that can be sensed through a human's five senses (i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin).Spatial Layout and Functionality Spatial Layout - the seamless layout of furnishing which is used to achieve maximum productivity in the most efficient and effective manners. Signs, Symbols, Artifacts and Branding are the icons or signals that amplify the message from the buyer to the intended customers. Other additional elements include Virtual Servicescape where the employees or the customers are not in the same physical area, but they are interacting via an electronic media - the Internet. Sex of service provider - a certain sex of the service provider of a certain type of industry will be dominated by a certain sex. The banking industry in Kenya has been facing some turbulent times. Central Bank has constantly been raising its borrowing rates to commercial banks forcing them to in turn increase their interest rates. The weakening of the Kenya shilling against other currencies forces commercial banks to increase their exchange rates. Also, stiff competition between commercial banks makes them engage in price wars in regard to interest rates. The banking industry has to cope with such pressures and the increased insistence on greater service quality in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Reaching service quality without distinguishing the important dimensions of quality becoming is impossible. Services cape is very helpful for positioning, segmenting and overall differentiating a particular company from its core competitors. Therefore the gap between management’s perception of customers’ expectations and development of customer driven service designs and standards has to be filled. Customers have certain expectations about what to expect when they walk into the banking hall and this translates to what they perceive as quality service. Therefore the study sought to identify whether customers perception on physical evidence translates to perception on quality service. The main objective was to determine the impact of physical evidence on customer’s perception on service quality in the banking industry. 1. To determine the influence of spartial layout on customer perception on service quality at Transnational Bank, Nakuru. 2. To establish the influence of ambient conditions in the banking hall on customers perceptions on service quality at Transnational Bank, Nakuru. 3. To assess the influence of signage and artifacts on customers perceptions on service quality. H01: Spartial layout in the bank does not influence customers, perception on service quality at Transnational Bank. H02: Ambient conditions in the banking hall do not influence customers’ perceptions on service quality at Transnational Bank. H03: Signage and artifacts in the bank do not influence customers’ perceptions on service quality at Transnational Bank. Transnational bank has 16 branches and one of the branches is in Nakuru town. The research was carried out in Nakuru branch. The targeted respondents were customers in the branch with samples taken from each category of the customers that is corporate, retail and even students. 2. Literature review According to Ziethaml (2006) physical evidence means tangible cues included in Quality service. They include 241
  3. 3. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION all aspects of the banks physical facility (servicesape) and all other forms of tangible communication. Service quality consists of tangible and intangible aspects visualized on a tangible spectrum. Services are usually intangible and the tangible aspects are used to evaluate the services. Tangibles are the appearance of physical facilities, equipment personnel and communication materials. He continues to define Servicescape as an organizations physical facility. The authors say elements that affect the customers include facility exterior and facility interior. It also includes where the service is actually provided. Services are deeds, processes and performances. Services and the service sector of the economy have been defined in subtle different ways. Services include all those economic activities whose output is not a physical product or construction. He defines service quality as a focused evaluation that reflects the customer’s perception of reliability responsiveness assurance, Empathy and tangibles. Hutton and Richardson (1995) found that the physical environment in a service provider setting has a significant effect on customer satisfaction, perceived service quality, intention to repatronise and willingness to recommend. Physical evidence is important in the delivery of a service as this can close the gap between what the customer expects and the delivery of the service Wilson, Zeithaml, Bitner and Gremler, (2008). The role of physical evidence in services can be seen in the following; when closing the gap between the customers’ expectations and perceptions the consistent physical evidence must be compatible with the organisations goals. According to Zeithaml,(2006),physical evidence is the tangible cues to evaluate the service before its purchase and to assess their satisfaction with the service during and after making use of the service. In fact the servicescape is frequently one of the most important elements used in positioning a service organization. There are worthwhile lessons to be learned from the way in which users divert and subvert the planned design of physical support. Servicescape acts on users in order to achieve marketing goals Aubert-Gamet, (1997). The servicescape influences the consumer’s behavior. He states clearly that the consumer is a co-builder of the servicescape. The servicescape and other elements of physical evidence essentially‘’wrap’’ the service and convey to customers the external image of what is‘’inside’’the bank and is used for positioning the service. It is a visual metaphor for the intangible service Zeithaml, (2006). The physical surroundings offer the bank the opportunity to convey an image in a way not unlike the way an individual chooses to dress for success. The servicescape is not only a cue for the expected service quality, but also influences customers’ evaluation of other factors determining perceived service quality Reimer and Kuehn, (2005). The servicescape can also serve as a facilitator in aiding t h e p e r f o r m a n c e s of persons in a particular environmental setting like a bank. The design can enhance or inhibit the efficient flow of activities in the service setting, making it harder or easier for the customers and employees to accomplish their goals. A well-designed functional facility can make the service a pleasure to experience from the customers and employee’s point of view Zeithaml, (2006). The design of the physical facility can differentiate a bank from its competitors and signal the market segment that the service is intended for. He indicates that given the power as a differentiator, changes in the physical environment can be used to reposition a bank and then to attract a new market segment. Servicescape usage is regarded as very complex. In different circumstances it affects different people as people experience circumstances in the way they are feeling that day and depending on their different needs Lawson,et al. (2002). Zeithaml, et al (2006) argues that in banks the main interaction is interpersonal and therefore the service becomes interpersonal and makes servicescape even more important to set the milieu for positive interaction. The Servicescape is defined as the environment in which service in an organization is assembled and in which the seller and customer interact, combined with tangible commodities that facilitate performance or 242
  4. 4. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION communication of the service. Bitner (1992) says that service setting plays a major role in the shaping of expectations, differentiating service firms, facilitating customer and employee customer goals, and influencing the nature of customer experiences. Customers seek evidence of the eventual ‘quality’ of the intangible service from observing the tangible elements – that is, the servicescape (Berry and Parasuraman,1991). It is important for service organizations, including banks to manipulate the servicescape effectively to enhance customer satisfaction and increase repeat business (Namasivayam and Lin, 2008). (Bitner 1990; Harrell, Hutt, and Anderson, 1980) suggests that the physical setting can influence the customer's ultimate satisfaction with the service. Also research in organizational behavior suggests that the physical setting can influence employee satisfaction, productivity, and motivation (Becker, 1981; Davis, 1984; Steele, 1986; Sundstrom and Altman 1989; Sundstrom and Sundstrom, 1986). 2.1 Ambient Conditions Ambient conditions have been found to influence perceptions of and human responses to the environment by several authors (Baker, 1987; Baker, Berry and Parasuraman, 1988; Becker 1981; Darley and Gilbert, 1985; Russell and Snodgrass, 1987; Sundstrom & Sundstrom 1986; Wineman, 1982).Ambient conditions include background characteristics of the environment such as temperature, lighting, noise, music, and scent. As a general rule, ambient conditions affect the five senses. However, sometimes such dimensions may be totally imperceptible (gases, chemicals, infrasound), yet may have profound effects (Russell and Snodgrass 1987), particularly on employees who spend long hours in the environment. A very limited number of empirical studies in consumer research confirm that ambient factors may influence customer responses. For example, in studies of restaurants and supermarkets, it has been illustrated that music tempo can affect pace of shopping, length of stay, and amount of money spent (Milliman,1982, 1986). In another study, familiarity of music played perceptions of how long they spent shopping; when the music was unfamiliar to subjects, they believed they had spent more time shopping (Yalch and Spangenberg, 1988). Hundreds of studies of the workplace spanning in a department store setting was found to affect shopper’s. Other researchers have found out that lighting, temperature, noise, music, and color can all influence employee performance and job satisfaction (Sundstrom and Sundstrom, 1986). It is often recognised that when a customer visits a bank, he would like an enviroment ,which would make him feel comfortable, safe and relaxed during the duration of his stay. Temperature can be a factor, which can be unpleasant if not controlled adequately in a banking hall. Extreme hot or cold can produce negative emotional states in customers. Thus it is an important part of the ambience. The type of lighting in an environment directly influences an individual’s perception of the definition and quality of the space, influencing his or her awareness of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the space (Kurtich and Eakin, 1993). 2.2 Spatial layout and functionality Because service encounter environments are purposeful environments, spatial layout and functionality of the physical surroundings are particularly important. Spatial layout refers to the ways in which machinery, equipment, and furnishings are arranged, the size and shape of those items, and the spatial relationships among them. Functionality refers to the ability of the same items to facilitate performance and the accomplishment of goals. Much of the empirical research in organizational behavior and psychology has illustrated effects of the spatial layout and functionality dimension, always from the employee's point of view (Davis 1984; Sundstrom and Sundstrom 1986; Wineman, 1982, 1986). Previous research has also indicated that a sense of belonging influences the spatial layout of customers within the environment and identification with a service provider (Tombs and McColl-Kennedy, 2003). Logic suggests that spatial layout and functionality of the environment are 243
  5. 5. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION highly salient to customers in self-service environments where they must perform on their own and cannot rely on employees to assist them. Similarly, if the tasks to be performed are very complex, efficiency of layout and functionality will be more important than when the tasks are mundane or simple. When either the employees or customers are under time pressure, they will also be highly conscious of the relative ease with which they can perform their tasks in the environment. The furnishing in a servicescape links the space with its occupants and conveys the personality of the servicescape through form, line, color, texture, and scale. The furniture placement may convey a sense of enclosure, define spatial movement, function as walls, and communicate visible or invisible boundaries. Recognizable changes in ceiling heights affect spatial perception more than a similar change in room width or length. High ceilings convey feelings of spaciousness, whereas low ceilings are associated with coziness and intimacy (Ching, 1996). All of these elements help individuals form a mental picture prior to affective response and judgments toward a specific servicescape. The amount of space between rows of seats is also an important dimension, in that it affects the ease with which customers may exit their seats to use ancillary service areas (that is restrooms, concession areas. Furthermore, when rows are too narrow other customers are frequently forced to stand or shift in their seats to let other customers pass by. 2.3 Signs, symbols, and artifacts Many items in the physical environment serve as explicit or implicit signals that communicate about the place to its users (Becker, 1977, 1981; Davis, 1984; Wener, 1985; Wineman, 1982). Signs displayed on the exterior and interior of a structure are examples of explicit communicators. They can be used as labels (for example name of company, name of department), for directional purposes (for instance entrances, exits), and to communicate rules of behavior (e.g., no smoking, children must be accompanied by an adult). Signage can play an important part in communicating firm image. Signs have even been found to reduce perceived crowding and stress in a jail lobby setting (Wener and Kaminoff, 1982). Other environmental objects may communicate less directly than signs, giving implicit cues to users about the meaning of the place and norms and expectations for behavior in the place. Quality of materials used in construction, artwork, presence of certificates and photographs on walls, floor coverings, and personal objects displayed in the environment can all communicate symbolic meaning and create an overall aesthetic impression. Restaurant managers, for example, know that white table cloths and subdued lighting symbolically convey full service and relatively high prices, whereas counter service, plastic furnishings, and bright lighting symbolize the opposite. In office environments, certain cues such as desk size and placement symbolize status and may be used to reinforce professional image (Davis, 1984; McCaskey, 1979; Peters, 1978; Pfeiffer, 1981; Sundstrom & Sundstrom, 1986). Studies of faculty office design indicate that desk placement; presence of diplomas on the wall, and tidiness of the office can influence students' beliefs about the person occupying the office (Campbell, 1979; Morrow and McElroy, 1981). In another study of faculty offices, certain environmental cues were found to be symbolically associated with personality traits of the faculty member believed to occupy the office (Ward, Bitner, and Gossett, 1989). Such symbolic and aesthetic communication is extremely complex—it maybe intentionally conveyed or it may be accidental, it may be subject to multiple interpretations, and it may have intended and unintended consequences (Becker,1977; Davis, 1984). 2.4 Service Quality Without any doubt, service quality is very important component in any business related activity. This is especially so, to market era customer’s evaluation of service quality and the resulting level of satisfaction are 244
  6. 6. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION perceived to affect bottom line measures of business success. Customer expectations are beliefs about a service that serve as standards against which service performance is judged Zeithaml(1993); which customer thinks a service provider should offer, rather than on what might be on offer (Parasuram etal.,1988).To some, service quality can also be defined as the difference between customer’s expectations for the service encounter and the perceptions of the service received. According to the service quality theory (Oliver,1980),it is predicted that customers will judge that quality as` low` if performance does not meet their expectations and quality as `high` when performance exceeds expectations. Closing this gap might require toning down the expectations or heightening the perception of what has actually been received by the customer (Parasuramanetal.,1985).Perceived quality of a given service is the result of an evaluation process since consumers often make comparison between the services they expect with perceptions of the services that they receive. He concluded that the quality of service is dependent on two variables: Expected service and Perceived service. Quality spells superiority or excellence Zeithaml,(1988) , or, as the consumer’s overall impression of the relative inferiority/superiority of the organization and its services. Consumer behavioural intentions are also influenced by the standards of service quality (Bitner,1990; Cronin and Taylor, (1992,1994). Customer satisfaction and service quality are inter-related. The higher the service quality, the higher is the customer satisfaction. Many agree that in the banking sector there are not recognized standard scales to measure the perceived quality of a banks service. Customer satisfaction and service quality are interrelated. The higher the service quality the higher the customer satisfaction. 3. Research gaps There is lack of a standardized scale of examining the physical evidence in service organizations especially in the banking sector, and its impact in influencing customers perception on the expected service quality. Therefore more research needs to be done on the minimum acceptable standards of the physical evidence that needs to be available in banks. This would provide a measure from which one can assess whether a banks physical evidence meets the minimum standards sufficient to influence customers perception on service quality. 4. Methodology This research was descriptive in nature adopting a survey research design. The study particularly was conducted by means of a survey that made use of semi structured questionnaire which were completed by corporate, retail customers and even that bank with TNB. The study population comprised of all customers of Transnational Bank, Nakuru Branch. They were sourced randomly from TNB’s Customer database. Random sampling technique was used to select the sample size of 95 out of the population. A survey questionnaire was used as the data gathering instruments. It was a semi-structured questionnaire developed as a measurement instrument to capture views of Customers on the impact of Physical evidence on service quality. Customer opinions were measured on a 5 point Likert scale with highly disagree and highly agree at the opposite end. The researcher made some effort to ensure that the questionnaire was constructed using simple language to the benefit of respondents. Effort were also made to ensure that the questionnaire is clear without any ambiguity. In order to ensure that the questionnaire was consistent, an initial draft was tested to selected respondents within TNB in order to establish the level and content of the questions. Consultations were closely done with research supervisors from JKUAT to enhance on the validity of the research. The first part of analysis involved ensuring that all responses received w e r e in good content quality and those who did not were carefully adjusted. Descriptive statistics, and inferential statistics were then used to 245
  7. 7. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION analyse the data. Descriptive statistics used included: mean, mode, frequencies and percentages. Inferential statistics used on the other hand were spearman correlation analysis. 5. Findings and discussions 5.1Influence of Ambient Conditions on Customers Perceptions on Service Quality While judging the ambience of the banking environment, majority of the customers surveyed rated the bank highly on beauty in the design, air conditioning. The Noise in the banking hall was also rated as minimal by majority of the customers. Similarly, colors used to brand the bank were also identified as pleasant and welcoming by majority of the customers. The music was however not rated highly as smooth and relaxing. Ranking the determinants of ambient conditions in the banking hall, noise control was ranked best at a mean = 4.24, followed by the choice of colors, mean = 4.13, beauty in the design of the bank and the banking hall, mean = 4.02, air conditioning at a mean = 3.75, and the music in the banking hall was ranked least at a mean = 3.34. This generally implied that ambience in the air condition was good. Upon testing the hypothesis that ambient conditions in the banking hall do not influence customers’ perceptions on service quality at Transnational Bank, results of the correlation tests indicated that there was a strong positive correlation between customers rating on ambient environment in the banking hall and customers perception on service quality rs = 0.668, P = 0.027. 5.2Influence of Spartial Layout on Customer Perception on Service Quality Customers rating on the spartial layout in the bank was that; generally the layout was good. The service points easily accessible by customers according, customers were provided with ample space for parking cars which makes it convenient for customers to conduct their businesses. The bank also provides adequate and comfortable space for waiting for persons accompanying customers although this was rated poorly by majority of customers surveyed. The queuing system was well organized to allow for quick service and finally the layout of the security features such as security personnel fire equipments and surveillance cameras was rated moderately high by customers these features give reassurance to customers on the security in the banking hall. Hypothesis testing was also done on whether spartial layout in the bank does not influence customers, perception on service quality at Transnational Banks. This was tested using spearman correlation where the test results indicated that there was a strong positive correlation between customers rating on banks spartial layout and customers perception on service quality rs = 0.659, P = 0.041. This implies that the layout of the banking facility influenced customers on their perception on the quality of services offered. 5.3 Influence of Signage, Symbols and Artifacts on Customers Perceptions on Service Quality The third objective was on the influence of signage, symbols and artifacts on customers’ perceptions on service quality. According to majority of customers the signage to the bank such as bill boards and signboards were clear and easily attracted customers. The décor was identified as quality though not by many customers. The display of recognition awards and symbols of quality accreditations on the banking halls were rated moderately high and that they created a quality of service perspective. He many was also rated high on the clarity of indicated markings and directions to direct customers on where to access services in the bank. The uniformity in hall branding and the staff uniforms also reflected an organized service delivery. A comparative ranking of the signage, artifacts and the symbols in the bank implied that, the signage to the bank was the highest ranked at a mean of M=4.06 followed by the signboards in the bank M=4.00, décor in the bank M = 3.77, and display of recognition awards M = 3.66. The least ranked element of signage was uniformity between wall branding and staff uniforms M= 3.41. Spearman correlation tests indicated that there was a strong positive correlation between customers rating on the signage, symbols and artifacts and customers perception on service quality rs = 0.510, P = 0.041, implying that these influenced customers perceptions on service quality. 246
  8. 8. WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION 6. Conclusions and recommendations The study therefore concluded that, the ambience in the banking environment highly influenced customers’ perceptions on the quality of service delivered the organization. Key elements of ambience included the air conditions, ventilation, oduor, air circulations, the colors used in paining walls, noise in the banking hall, and beauty in general. These elements around the service area which play with the customers psychology and influence their thinking on what to expect in terms of quality of service. The layout and utilization of space in the bank also influence customers perceptions on the expected quality of service. Some of the key elements of spartial layout include the layout of buildings with provision of car packing space. Layout of the service points in the banking hall with considerations for all customers needs including provision of facilities for special needs customers, and the queuing systems for different service points. This tells a lot on the organization in service delivery and due consideration of customer needs. The signs, symbols and artifacts displayed also tell a lot about the quality of service offered. For instance display of awards and award certificates, licenses, permits, membership certificates and customers service charter tell the customer more about the ability of the banks history in quality service delivery and their ability as recognized by others. The signage which include bill boards also tell the customer on what to expect in the banks. Banks should ensure they create adequate space for serving the customers, well designed with ambience considerations, controlled noise and pleasant color combination. The space size should conform to the customer base to enable provision of clean air and enhance comfort as customers cue for service. This could boost their perception on the quality of service offered. The layout of space in the banking hall and outside should also take into account the needs of all customers such as walk in, drive in and persons with special needs. This gives the customer assurance of the bank’s ability to provide quality services and care for customer needs. Banks should consider to display as much of recognition awards, membership certificates, quality certification certificates and licenses as they assure the customer on the confidence others have on the banks products and services. It also enables the customer to understand the legal conformations and compliance which restores customer confidence on the expected quality of service. References 1. Aubert-Gamet,V.(1997).Twisting servicescape: diversion of the physical environment in a re-appropriation process. International journal of service Industry management.8 (1):26 2. Baker, J. (1987), “The Role of the Environment in Marketing Services: The Consumer Perspective," In The Services Challenge: Integrating for Competitive Advantage, JohnA. Czepiel, Carole A. Congram, and James Shanahan, eds.Chicago: American Marketing Association, pp 79-84. 3. Becker, F. (1981).Workspace. New York: Praeger Publishers. 4. Becker, F. (1977), Housing Messages, New York: Praeger Publishers. 5. Berry, L. and Parasuraman, A. (1911).Marketing services: Competing through quality. New York: Free press. 6. Berry,L., Parasuraman,A. and Zeithaml,V. (1988).The service Quality Puzzle. Business Horizons. 7. Bitner,M. (1992).Servicescapes: The impact of physical surroundings on customers and employees. Journal of marketing.56 (2):57-72 8. Campbell, D. (1979), “Interior Office Design and Visitor Response”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 64, 648-746 9. Ching, F. (1996). Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. New York: Van Nostrand Publishers. 247
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