The Status of service delivery in Commercial Health and fitness Clubs in Uganda
Soita, Wanzalla Paschal
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Many service providers have emerged on the Ugandan market offering health and fitness services. This necessitated a study to establish the service delivery status in the sector. Secondly, in absence of national practitioners standards, some benchmarks are proposed, from which assessment of service quality in Uganda could be based. Using the modified 20 item SERVQUAL questionnaire, data was collected from a purposively selected sample of 486 customers; an additional 116 service consumers were interviewed while a separate questionnaire elicited data from 62 prop iders; in total 644 respondents participated, covering 58 purposively selected health-and-fitness centres countrywide. The study targeted clients to gymnasia, aerobics clubs, aqua-based activities and specific sports (squash, tennis and martial arts) where vulnerability is high. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used in data analysis. The measures of service quality v ere captured along the five dimensions: tangibles, responsiveness, empathy, reliability and assurance. The overall gap score mean of -1.731 implied that ser\ ice quality was below customers' expectations; the dimension with the smallest gap score was Assurance (-1.65), the largest was the Tangibles (-1.87). Reliability (-1.71), Empathy (-1.69) and Responsiveness (-1.66) equally scored below expectation. The independent samples t-test revealed that there are statistically significant differences between customers' expectations and perceptions means (all exhibited high t-values and p= 0.000). This suggests that customers clearly distinguished between service dimensions. The ANOVA at p < 0.05 indicated that there are statistically significant differences in service desires according to demographic characteristics - gender, education, and motivation. Major findings were that: the most influential predictor for customer satisfaction is Reliability ((3=0.799, p=0.000). Whereas Reliability (R=0.725, p=0.000), Assurance ((3=0.603, p= 0.001) and Tangibility (R=0.332, p=0.004) were found to be very effectual in behavioural intentions. Secondly, there are policy challenges that exist and may not allow the future success of the industry if not addressed; such as lack of a jingle authority for standardization, certification of the fitness professionals and regulations to save it from abuse. Customer perceptions are best addressed only if technical/highly skilled and relational competencies of providers are factored in at service points. The conclusion is that the current model in most clubs falls short of international operational standards. The study therefore recommends that the MOSS and MOH must promptly ;.J in a joint effort with federations, academia, and the leading international certifying organizations to directly oversee and/or set standards of practice so as to meet required quality levels and requirements of the fitness industry for grow, i and development.