Testing a mediation model of customer service and satisfaction in outdoor recreation

Alan R. Graefe, Robert C. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This paper examines a model of customer service and satisfaction in the outdoor recreation experience. More specifically, it focuses on the question of whether domain-level satisfaction mediates the relationships between specific customer service attributes and the overall evaluation of an experience. Data were collected through a nationwide assessment of customer service at US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) lakes. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at 10 COE lakes located throughout the United States (n=2933 completed interviews). The survey instrument measured three levels of visitor satisfaction (19 individual attributes, four domains, and overall satisfaction). Study results supported the hypothesized model by confirming the relationships between individual customer service attributes, satisfaction within customer service dimensions (or domains) and overall satisfaction. The influence of some items, however, overlapped across multiple dimensions. The relevant items accounted for between 29% and 41% of the variance associated with satisfaction within the customer service domains. In turn, satisfaction within the domains explained 15% of the variance in overall satisfaction. Management implications Visitor satisfaction is one of the fundamental concepts in outdoor recreation. This research investigated the relationship between subjective evaluations of overall client satisfaction with several of its components. Results suggest the following insights for managing outdoor recreation areas to improve visitor satisfaction: Findings underscore the importance of maintaining and improving the esthetics of recreation areas. Feelings about the appearance of the area were the strongest predictor of satisfaction with facilities, and influenced satisfaction in the other domains as well.Current and accurate information was found to be the most important determinant of satisfaction with information services, highlighting the need for recreation managers to continually review and update information provided to the public.Surveys of customer satisfaction in outdoor recreation areas should not only consider tangible indicators of facilities, services, and information, but also intangible aspects of the outdoor recreation experience. Factors such as the opportunity to recreate without crowding affected visitors' feelings of satisfaction with facilities and services as well as their satisfaction with their overall outdoor recreation experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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