Attracting new customers and maintaining them is most likely the main objective of every organization; however in practice it is not as easy as it sounds. Though studies revealed that the physical environment, also identified as ‘atmospherics’ (Ryu & Han, 2011), has an immense impact on maintaining customers, therefore it is quite interesting to take a closer look into that arena.
Since the rise of social media and digital technologies businesses tend to put more focus on those aspects which could lead to a lack of focus on the physical environment. Nevertheless digital technologies definitely have made our everyday lives easier such as the ability of booking holidays online, shopping online, and much more, however it is only a part of creating an incredible customer experience. Nowadays customers still appreciate affection and the personal touch cruise companies could implement in their business (Keightley, 2016). Moreover Chen et al. (2013) confirms that personal interaction a vital and tremendously important factor is in regarding to customer loyalty.
Customers spend a relatively long time on a cruise ship during their holiday; therefore it is quite easy to assume that the physical environment plays a big role in customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. The physical environment and physiological images are a significant factor for customers to choose which brand or which sector they want to go for according to Hye-Koung & Park (2015).
Figure 1: the conceptual model (Chen et al., 2013)
According to the conceptual model of Chen et al. (2013) the physical environment and personal interaction have a great influence on customer loyalty and satisfaction. The physical environment refers to equipment, atmosphere, décor and design, and personal interaction quality refers to employees knowledge and employees problem-solving skills. Another model from Ryu &Han (2011) confirms that all the aspects which are connected to physical environment could eventually lead to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty if all those aspects are fulfilled in the customer’s point of view.
Figure 2: the proposed model (Ryu & Han, 2011)
Not a lot of specific research has been done yet in how the physical environment impacts the cruise industry and their customers, yet research has verified that certain specific factors can make a tremendous effect in the customer satisfaction and loyalty in any industry. The cruise industry should carefully look into these factors as the physical environment is the best way for a customer to look for an experience and feel excited (Chapman, 2016).
Chapman, M. (2016). Retailers must reinvent to survive. Retrieved from http://raconteur.net/business/retailers-must-reinvent-to-survive
Ryu, K., Han, H. (2011). New or repeat customers: How does physical environment influence their restaurant experience? International Journal of Hospitality Management, 30(3), 599-611.
Hye-Koung, M., & Park, J. (2015). A study on the effect of the physical environment in an airplane on customer loyalty. Journal of Airlines & Airport Management, 5(2), 81-100.
Keightley, N. (2016). The personal multi touch experience. Retrieved from http://raconteur.net/business/the-personal-multi-touch-experience
Chen, C. M., Chen, S. H., & Lee, H. T. (2013). Interrelationships between physical environment quality, personal interaction quality, satisfaction and behavioural intentions in relation to customer loyalty: The case of Kinmen’s bed and breakfast industry. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 18(3), 262-287.