Managing the service experience : a study of young people's managed outdoor adventure leisure
The provision of outdoor adventure leisure experiences for young people is a complex service task and it requires the careful management of participants' heterogeneous needs in a physically demanding and dynamic risk environment Research into the quality of this experience and its management is limited. It typically presents an adult perspective of young people's needs, without reference to the young people themselves. Practitioners and researchers alike acknowledge that the few studies conducted with young people to date suffer from the lack of clear theoretical and empirical underpinning, therefore this thesis, which draws on the conceptual basis for SERVQUAL, has a clear theoretical foundation. Also, many extant studies are quantitative and do not elicit richer, qualitative data from these young people and thus there is little deep understanding of their experiences to guide management. The literature on service quality links to that on customer satisfaction: in this thesis, the two are explicitly conjoined as a precursor to the field research here. A key contribution made by this thesis is to demonstrate that the main drivers of participants' satisfaction are based on elements not previously identified with clarity. These elements are their interactions with staff, their interactions with one another in their own peer 'socialscape' and their own performance in developing skilled leisure consumption. The explicit identification of a 'socialscape' is a particular feature of the research findings here. This thesis analyses qualitative perceptions of service quality from participants, employees and management, and evaluates how service quality and customer satisfaction are managed in a specific organisational context in outdoor adventure leisure. Firstly, watersports participants were interviewed before, observed during, and interviewed after their courses, to establish whether they felt their expectations were met and how this might have been achieved. Secondly, staff were interviewed to establish their perceptions of young people's experiences of the service, and the critical aspects of managing these experiences appropriately. The critical aspect of managing these experiences is that instructors must have specific personal qualities, summarised in this thesis as 'intrinsic service values', and be able to work in an empowered culture, where the changing physical service environment requires them to make flexible, autonomous decisions to ensure participants have an appropriate experience. There are additional findings, which conclude that the ADVENTUREQUAL Conceptual Gap Model is a more appropriate reconceptualisation of the SERVQUAL Conceptual Gap Model, to inform this study of young people's outdoor adventure leisure. This thesis thus provides both conceptual development and understanding, and managerial insight in a specific context.