2.1. Physical evidence in service marketing
When comes to talk about service marketing, most of services we know are intangible. Even so, customers still try to rely their feelings on physical cues, which may help them to evaluate the products or services before or after they buy them. Customers’ reactions to the environmental cues are much the same as they are to the package cues when customers evaluate and form their internal expectations about goods. (Ward et al. 1992) Those tangible cues, which can be known as physical evidence, is one of the elements of services marketing which contribute to the customers perceived quality of the service. (Wakefield and Blodgett, 1999)
Basically, physical evidence in service marketing includes a series of element. In terms of hotel industry, the physical environment is of what is known as the servicescape, which is the space customers are surrounded when consuming the service. • Exterior facility:
The environment and signage around the hotel, the parking area and even the design of the building itself are the key elements of the exterior servicescape. (Wakefield et al, 1996) • Interior facility:
Ambient conditions, such as the colour, temperature, sound and smell of the hotel is a package of these elements which consciously or subconsciously help customers to experience the service. (Zeithaml 2000) The spatial layout and functionality are also the important factors affects the customers experience when discuss the hotel’s servicescape. (Baker, Parasuraman, Grewal and Voss, 2002) Besides, the paperwork, internet access, uniforms and so on are also the physical evidence within hotel industry. (Brady and Cronin, 2001a) to sum up, the space and the function; the ambient conditions; the sign, symbols and artifacts are the three main evidences affect the customers perceived service quality. (Kim, 2007)
Tangible cues often help customers to evaluate the service before its purchase, and to assess their satisfaction with the service during or after consumption. According to Lau, Akbar and Fie (2005), the tangible factor is one of the most important factors of hotel service quality. Zeithaml and Bitner (2003) stated that tangibles must be strengthened in hospitality services to induce the customer return to a facility.
2.2. Service quality study in hotel industry
To deliver the service to their customers, the providers will first evaluate the customers’ expectations. On the other hand, there is a gap between the customers’ perceived services and their expected services. Parasuraman et al. (1985) state that service quality is a direction of discrepancy between customers’ service perceptions and expectations.
Parasuraman et al. (1988) developed a conceptual model that define a service quality with customers’ viewpoint and suggests five key service dimensions: • Tangible is the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials. • Reliability is the ability to perform the promised service accurately and dependably. • Responsiveness is the willingness to help customers and provide a prompt service. • Assurance is a combination of the competence, courtesy, credibility and security. Empathy is a combination of the access, communication and understanding the customers.
Most service quality studies in the hospitality industry adapted the SERVQUAL scale to measure the service quality. Halil and Kashif (2005) found out that the nature of perceived service quality can be found to two dimensions. (Tangible and Intangibl) What’s more, Wakefield and Blodgett (1999) combine environmental psychology and SERVQUAL model to test the tangible aspects of service delivery. The environmental psychology implies that customers react to tangible physical environment.
Despite a large amount of research in the perceived service quality area before has focused on the SERVQUAL mode, there are still few direct...