This study attempts to examine the impact of customer service (retail service quality and product quality) on brand loyalty. It focuses on the particular aspects of customer service: personal interaction, policy, reliability, and problem solving. Data will be collected through an in-person survey and an on-line survey immediately following the purchase or visit to the store or website. Another survey will be administered shortly after the customer obtains the product and has a chance to experience it. By contributing to the overall knowledge of customer service and brand loyalty, this research adds significant, valuable information on marketing to customers in regard to the sports apparel industry. Introduction
The economic recession has affected business throughout the world; professional sports included. The National Football League owners have recently rejected the latest collective bargaining labor agreement thereby locking out the players. In the National Basketball Association, there is an expected player’s lockout at the end of the season. Both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have also gone through similar labor strife. During lockouts, strikes, or other labor disagreements in which games are not played, major revenue is lost. It is lost from ticket sales, game concessions, and advertising sales, thereby decimating each team’s bottom line. Few financial bright spots remain; one of which being income from sales of Licensed Sports Merchandise. Income from the sales of branded merchandise is an important piece of the puzzle now more than ever for both team owners and players. The attitudes and customer satisfaction by fans towards the league, the teams, and their players is a hotly contested issue. It is discussed by the media and strategically angled by both sides of the labor negotiations. Theoretical Framework
The research to study the non-directional hypothesis of the correlation between customer loyalty and brand loyalty will need to explore the following mediating variables affecting customer service: retail service quality and product quality. Retail service quality is generally determined on what is expected by the consumer versus what is perceived. The discrepancy is measured through personal interaction, policy, reliability, and problem solving (Dabholkar, Thorpe, & Rentz, 1996). Product quality can be broken down further into eight attributes. These would be performance, features, conformance, reliability, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and customer-perceived quality (Garvin, 1987). It is also important to know the definition of brand loyalty for this review. John Wiley & Sons’ Dictionary of Economics explains brand loyalty as a consistent faithfulness in the choice of a specific product over comparable products. Companies foster such loyalty through product differentiation and salesperson activities promoting actual or imaginary attributes of the brand including price and quality (Dictionary of Economics, 1995). When looking into brand loyalty, it can broken down into two distinct parts-
psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty. In recent research by Bee and Havitz,
involvement, fan attraction, and psychological commitment are precursors to becoming a loyal
fan. Psychological commitment will in turn affect involvement levels of fans as well as
resistance to change which then leads to behavioral loyalty. In other words, strengthening
psychological commitment has the potential to indirectly increase behavioral loyalty
(Bee & Havitz, 2010).
The model of sports consumption incorporates many formerly studied variables into a comprehensive whole, but it does not do an adequate job in explaining the variance in consumptive behavior. Hopefully, a new model could be proposed that explains more variance in consumption behavior and would become a...