The Antecedents of Word-of-Mouth Behaviour: The Service Quality Perspective

The Antecedents of Word-of-Mouth Behaviour: The Service Quality Perspective

Ho Yin Wong (Deakin University, Australia) and Anthony Perrone (La Trobe University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6232-2.ch010
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Abstract

The aim of this study is to undertake empirical research investigating the nature and magnitude of the determinants of word-of-mouth behaviour from the point of view of service performance and post-purchase perceptions. A quantitative study was undertaken. A theoretical model linking service quality issues and word-of-mouth behaviour was developed and tested using structural equation modelling of 280 surveyed participants at various day spa locations. All major fit indices from structural equation modelling methods show satisfactory results for the measurement and structural models. The results confirm significant relationships between the constructs in the model. While the quality of the product, customer service, and servicescape atmosphere lead to customer satisfaction, it is servicescape atmosphere and customer satisfaction that drive word-of-mouth behaviour. The results of this study provide insights to aid service providers and marketing professionals in the service industry in fully understanding that the enhancement of the delivery of high quality service, an accommodating environment, and instilling feelings of satisfaction with their customers will more likely lead to positive word-of-mouth referrals. One major limitation is that the survey was conducted within one industry in one country. The major value of this chapter is the establishment of the role of service quality on word-of-mouth behaviour. This research provides empirical results of the impacts of service performance and post-purchase perceptions on word-of-mouth behaviour.
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Introduction

Marketers have no control over the state of the economy. When times get tough, some firms choose to reduce their marketing budgets with an aim to protecting the bottom line. Customers know that there are a lot of products and services competing for their attention and businesses. If the customers do not get the level of service they expect, they know that plenty of firms in the market are prepared to offer those services. Service quality is found to have a positive impact on customers’ re-purchase behaviour (Kordupleski, Rust, & Zahorik, 1993; Perrone & Wong, 2013). When managed properly, service quality can be treated as an investment rather than cost that is more likely to attract attention of those cost-cutting executives (Rust, Zahorik, & Keiningham, 1995a). It is further suggested that “if sales are declining, the last thing to do is take the problem out on customers by reducing quality while raising prices” (Quelch & Jocz, 2009, p. 60). Service quality can become a strategic tool that marketers can use to achieve competitive advantage over their competitors in fragile economic conditions. Marketing is not just about finding new customers, but also enhancing relationships with existing customers. Word of mouth (WOM) is an important marketing tool that can be used by marketers to look for existing customers and strengthen relationship with the existing ones.

There have been studies that have shown WOM is often a strong indicator of influencing consumer judgement of the services provided by an organisation. Service quality has become an increasingly indispensable aspect for service providers in managing a successful business operation in today’s competitive service market (Blose, Tankersley, & Flynn, 2005; Schneider, Holcombe, & Whiete, 1997). The delivery of service performance results are exhibited by consumers demanding more from their relationships as well as a degree of rationalism, which are perceived to exist between those relationships (Bove & Johnson, 2001) with service providers as seen through WOM behaviour (Rust & Zahorik, 1993; Rust, Zahorik, & Keiningham, 1995b; V. Zeithaml, 2000). WOM is thereby a powerful mechanism as a form of promotion that is generally accepted in the transmittal of information communicated to others (Buttle, 1998; Dye, 2000). WOM communication plays a specifically essential role for service providers, as intangibility makes the pre-purchase assessment of services unfeasible (V. A. Zeithaml, 1981; V. A. Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1985), in particular those services provided by the day spa industry as indicated in this study. This is more so the case where people, who partake in intimate, relaxing and therapeutic experiences in a day spa setting, initiate communication processes in which they will share parts of their private experiences with various social partners (Dobele, Lindgreen, Beverland, Vanhamme, & van Wijk, 2007). While studies have examined WOM from the receiver perspective (Sweeney, Soutar, & Mazzarol, 2008), from the online experience perspective (Godes & Mayzlin, 2004), and from the customer satisfaction perspective (E. Anderson, 1998; Brown, Barry, Dacin, & Gunst, 2005); research gaps remain in the issues that affect WOM behaviour from the service quality perspective. This study is expected to provide empirical evidence to fill the research gaps. The research question of this proposed study is “what are the antecedents of word of mouth in service marketing?” This chapter will commerce with a literature review on WOM behaviour, followed by the developments of theoretical model, construct, and hypothesis. Research methodology and data analysis will then be discussed. Finally, the chapter will conclude with discussions on managerial implications and future studies.

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