Roles of expectations in service quality & dimensions of service quality- the SERVQUAL model

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Figure 1 The framework of customer satisfaction (Rai 2008, p111)…………………. 4

Figure 2 Oliver (1980)’s disconfirmation theory……………………………………………. 7

Content page

  1.      Definition of service quality……………………………………………………………………….. 3
  2. The roles of expectations in service quality…………………………………………………… 3

2.1      Competitors’ set service benchmark……………………………………………………. 5

2.2      Individual psychology and individual background……………………………….. 5

2.3      Company’s previous service records……………………………………………………. 6

2.4      External communications………………………………………………………………….. 6

  1. The disconfirmation theory…………………………………………………………………………. 7
  2. The dimensions of service quality- the SERVQUAL model……………………………. 8

4.1      Reliability……………………………………………………………………………………….. 8

4.2      Responsiveness………………………………………………………………………………… 9

4.3      Assurance……………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

4.4      Empathy…………………………………………………………………………………………. 9

4.5      Tangibles……………………………………………………………………………………….. 10

  1. Concluding remarks and implications of service quality……………………………….. 10

Reference list:……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
Literature Review on Service Quality

 

1.        Definition of service quality

 

Duke university Professor Valarie Zeithaml and Pofessor A. Parasuraman together with Texas A&M University’s Lenard Berry had been long contributing to the research field of service quality since 1983 through a serious of exploratory researches and empirical studies had come to a well known definition about the concept of service quality that service quality as perceived by the customer could be defined as the extent of discrepancy between customers’ expectations or desires and their perceptions (Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry 1990, p19). The most similar synonym of service quality according to Lijander and Strandvik (1995) is customer satisfaction which refers to a post-purchase evaluative judgment concerning a specific buying decision (Homburg & Giering 2001). Three major conclusions have been reached through various studies regarding the relationship between customer satisfaction and service quality: the first one suggests that the evaluation of the customer satisfaction leads to the service quality; in contrast the second one indicates that service quality results in customer satisfaction and the third conclusion claims that there are no distinctions between two concepts of service quality and customer satisfaction (Ekinci & Riley, 1998). Despite various studies regarding the difference and relationship between the two concepts, theoretical arguments suggest that either customer satisfaction or service quality is similar to an attitude though without empirical evidence (Crouch 2004, p190). And among this literature review the concepts of service quality and customer satisfaction will be used as two identical concepts for the purpose of the convenience of the study.

 

2.        The roles of expectations in service quality

 

Provided the definitions of service quality and its similar concept customer satisfaction, the most apparent conclusion that could be made about the service quality is that service quality is a customer issue (Kandampully, Mok & Sparks 2001, p162) as Cook (1997) put it that customer’s perception are their reality as service will fail once the customer satisfaction has not been achieved regardless of what benefits that the service could bring together. And the perception of the service quality will be influence by the customer expectation as the customer’s expectation and customer’s perception are the two most important determinants in the customer satisfaction.

  Customer Dissatisfaction             Customer Satisfaction

Figure 1 The framework of customer satisfaction (Rai 2008, p111)

 

As illustrated in the figure above, the leverage of the customer’s expectation and customer perception would determinate the extent of the final customer satisfaction. And here suppose that the customer perception would not be easily changed and the perception of the service of different customers is similar by providing service products which are standardized, the customer’s expectation would serve as a benchmark for determination of the final customer satisfaction or customer dissatisfaction and the extent of how satisfied or dissatisfied the customer would perceive in the end of a single consumption behavior. This understanding corresponds with the claims holding that services delivery which act as a standard or reference point with which performance is judged (Zeithaml & Bitner 2005). Provide the critical role of the customer expectation to the quality service or customer satisfaction; it is useful and meaningful to probe into the issue of customer expectations. And according to Rai (2008) there are four major factors that have influences over the customer expectations.

 

2.1    Competitors’ set service benchmark

 

The concept of benchmark within the particular service business represents the best in the organizational achievements and practices for different processes and generally accepted as the “first class” and “industrial leadership” (Cummings & Worley 2009, p363) in the given service industry. By comparing the best service level that the customer has known or experienced to the current service provided, the customer would lower the customer satisfaction if there is distance between the offered service quality and the competitor’s set benchmark.

 

2.2    Individual psychology and individual background

 

Both the differences of individual psychology in term of different value, belief, tolerances and preference and the differences of individual background in term of different educational background, family experiences and personal experiences will exert influences over the process of the determination of the level of the expectation from the different customers. For example a well educated customer may have higher expectations of the dairy products in term of the containment of calcium and necessary nutrition which is similar to the higher expectation of a dairy worker who had the experience working in dairy farm and knows how to pick up a better quality dairy product. So the individual psychology and individual background which are both individual factors would need to be taken into consideration by the service providers. But provided that there could be one thousand different set of different individual psychology and individual backgrounds for one thousand customers, it is only useful and practical to study some common and shared individual features in term of customers’ psychology and background exhibited by the target group of customers because it is pragmatic to provide individually differentiated service products to the individual customer for most service business entities.

 

2.3    Company’s previous service records

 

As many customers would purchase a single type of products many times even with a single brand by the same company, it is important to provide an increasing or at least similar quality level of customer experience or in another word, “service performance” level to the customer aiming at maintaining the service stability which is a major service quality element (Bohlin, Levin, Sung & Yoon 2004 p233). For example, it is empirical for a customer to expect to receive the same service quality level while the previous experiences have support such service stability, and if the next time the customer received a worse customer experience though it is still better than that provided by other competitors still the customer would not be satisfied as he or she is disappointed to the service provided.

 

2.4    External communications

 

The external communications plays an important role in shaping the customers expectation which refer to a variety of direct and indirect messages conveyed by other people and service product providers (Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry 1990, p19). So there will be two major kinds of external communications that have influences over the formation of the customers’ expectations: the first type of external communication is from the other people such as friends and families who could share their experience of consuming the service product with other people to influence their impression about the what kind of experience they could expect disregarding of whether these communications are positive or negative. The second kind of external communication is from the servicer product providers through the marketing activities. For example, by having an advertisement in the various media such as television or setting a price which is higher than the competitors, the service providers could send messages to the target customers to help them set the expectations about what they would be getting if they make up their mind to do the purchasing.

 

3.        The disconfirmation theory

 

 

Figure 2 Oliver (1980)’s disconfirmation theory

 

As just discussed customers would have expectations depending on different individual factors, the stability of the service quality provided in a period of time and the competition environment within the industry, and after the happening of the consumption behaviors customers star to compare the actual service performance and the experience that that they have received against the expectations that they have in advance. And the extent to which perceptions of the service performance matches up with the expectations could be described by the three major types of disconfirmation results (Oliver 1980). The first type of disconfirmation result is described as positive disconfirmation resulted in the case when the perceived service performance exceeds the customer expectation; the second kind of disconfirmation result is native disconfirmation in case customer the service performance does not meet the customer expectations leading to customer dissatisfaction; and the last type of disconfirmation result is a zero disconfirmation or also known as confirmation happens when service performance matches the customer expectations. With basis laid in the social psychology (Weaver & Brickman 1974) and organizational behavior (Ilgen 1971) the disconfirmation theory (Oliver 1980) majorly involves two kinds of processes which have be mentioned above: the first process is the formation of the expectations of the product performance characteristics or hold attribute norms for product performance prior to purchase (Lee 2008, p49); and the second process refers to the disconfirmation judgment by comparing the actual service performance levels with the expectations. In term of the results of the disconfirmation process, Oliver (1993, p424) claim that only confirmation will be within the customer’s expectations and both positive and negative disconfirmations will beyond customer’s expectations. And positive disconfirmation will bring in customer satisfactions while the negative disconfirmation would lead to customer dissatisfactions.

 

4.        The dimensions of service quality- the SERVQUAL model

 

Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) developed the SERVQUAL (Service/equal) under the assumption that service quality is critically decided by the differences between customers’ expectation and the customers’ perception of the service that has been delivered to them (Waldt 2004, p195) and this model offers a reliable methodology for measuring the customer satisfaction in the service business based on the five parameters which will be elaborated below in details: reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles.

 

4.1    Reliability

 

Surveys have found out that among the five dimensions of service quality, reliability is the most powerful dimensions when the responsiveness is the second following by assurance, empathy and tangibles (Herbig 1998, p262). Such survey results show that the reliability of the service product which could be defined as the ability to deliver the promised service dependably and accurately is among the customers’ highest expectations which contributes to the measured service quality.

 

4.2    Responsiveness

 

Responsiveness refers to the willingness and ability to provide help and prompt service to the customers. This dimension of the service in the SERVQUAL model has at least two implications: the first implication is that customers will be satisfied when the service product that they desire has been delivered to them in a prompt manner and the second implication is it would be customers’ desire to receive prompt support and help if it is needed and in such situations not only the actions of the service providers and also the attitude of the service providers perceived by the customers would arouse satisfactions or dissatisfactions.

 

4.3    Assurance

 

The dimension of assurance includes several smaller dimensions which are closely related to provide the impression of assurance of the service products: competence, courtesy, credibility and security. The competence refers to the required skills and knowledge to perform and deliver the service while the dimension of courtesy is about the extent to which the customers receive the service from the contact staff in term of politeness, respect, consideration and friendliness. And the dimension of security helps keep the customers from any possible risks and dangers.

 

4.4    Empathy

 

Empathy rather sympathy is not focusing on the pity the customers would feel about but is about the understanding of the customer from the service providers of the customers’ worry and needs by communications and it is also about the further assistance offered by the service providers to meet the customers’ needs. On the other hand, the dimension of empathy is also related with the easy accessibility to the service providers in term of the ease of contact for example.

 

4.5    Tangibles

 

The dimension of tangibles refers to the tangible attributes of the service that could be perceived directly by the customers such as the designs of the services and cleanliness of the physical environment in which the service is offered. Though being ranked as the least important one among the five dimensions of service quality in the SERVQUAL model, daily life experiences have shown us that even the service intended to the customers are of quality and high standard but still the customers would be stopped from getting interesting in the service. For example, when a restaurant is famous for the delicious food that it has provided to the customers but many interesting customers could be kept away from having their meals there simply because they could not a find a parking place near the restaurant. So the tangible of the service is still matter to the customer satisfaction.

 

5.        Concluding remarks and implications of service quality

 

Based on the literature review on service quality we have above, several conclusions could be drawn and corresponding implications could be obtained from the conclusion to help with and guide the actual business practice especially in the marketing activities which need to involve a lot of direct contact and communication effort with the customers.

Firstly, service quality is all about customer satisfaction. As mentioned at the very beginning regarding the discussion of the definition of service quality, we have already postulated that and among this literature review the concepts of service quality and customer satisfaction will be used as two identical concepts for the purpose of the convenience of the study; and beside for the convenience of the study, the close meaning and business usefulness and implications between the concept of service quality and the concept of customer satisfaction also indicates that service quality has a quite different focus than the traditional understanding of what quality is. When asked about what quality is, most of us may probably think of the key words such as “ISO 9002” or free from defects and deficiencies, but the service quality focuses on the customer satisfaction and use customer satisfaction as the only standard to judge whether the service is quality or not.

 

Secondly, companies need to manage the customer expectation in a careful manner. As discussed above regarding the role of the expectations over the service quality, there are four major factors that have influences over the forming of the customer expectations before the customers consume the service products: Competitors’ set service benchmark, Individual psychology and individual background, Company’s previous service records and External communications. And among these four determinants the service providers could at least manage or influence the effect of two factors: Company’s previous service records and External communications. In term of company’s previous service records, companies need to provide service which has stable quality; in another word, customer could expect that the service he would receive would not be very good today but very bad tomorrow. What’s more after the achievement of stable service quality, companies also need to work to exceed the customer expectation which leads to customer satisfaction.

 

Thirdly, learning from the five dimensions of service quality or customer satisfaction provided by Oliver (1980)’s disconfirmation theory we can see that companies need to be reliable and responsive which are the two most desired service quality dimensions that contribute largely to the measured service quality. And the dimension of tangibles is regarded as the least desired features from the perspective of the customers suggesting again that service which is based on the physical provisions such as the shops and salesmen actually rely majorly the reliable service quality and companies’ attitude as to put the customers’ satisfaction as priority in term of actual business activities.

 

5.1

Reference list:

 

Bohlin, E., Levin, S. L., Sung, N. & Yoon, C. H., 2004, Global economy and digital society, Oxford: Elsevier Inc, p233

 

Crouch, G. L. 2004, Consumer psychology of tourism, hospitality and leisure, Oxford: CABI Publishing, p190

 

Cook, S. 1997, Customer Care, 2nd edition, London: Kogan Page

 

Cummings, T. G. & Worley, C. G., 2009, Organization development & change, 9th edition, Mason; South-Western Cengage Learning, p363

 

Ekinci, M. K., & Riley, M. 1998, Acritique of the issues and theoretical assumptions in service quality measurement in the lodging industry: time to move the goals posts? International Journal of Hospitality Management 17, 349-362

 

Herbig, P. A., 1998, Handbook of cross-cultural marketing, New York: The International Business Press, p262

 

Homburg, C. & Giering, A. 2001, Personal Characteristics as Moderators of the Relationship Between Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty- An Empirical Analysis. Psychology and Marketing Journal, 18, 43-66

 

Ilgen, D. R. 1971, Satisfaction with performance as a function of initial level of expected performance and the deviation from expectations, Organizational behavior and human performance, 6, 345-361

 

Kandampully, J., Mok, C. & Sparks, B. A. 2001, Service quality management in hospitality, tourism, and leisure, New York: The Haworth Hospitality Press, p162

 

Lee, J. W., 2008, The influence of culture and dimensions of service quality on positive affect, negative affect, and delightedness, Eisenhower Parkway: ProQuest LLC, p49

 

Lijander, V. & Strandvik, T. 1995, The nature of customer relationships in services. Advances in services marketing and management, 4, 141-167

 

Oliver, R. 1980, A cognitive model of the antecedents and consequences of satisfaction decisions, Journal of Marketing Research, 17 (3), 460-467

 

Oliver, R. L. 1993, Assessing the dimensionality and structure of the consumption experience: evaluation, felling, and satisfaction, Journal of consumer research, 20 (3), p424

 

Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. 1985, A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for further research, Journal of Marketing

 

Rai, A. K., 2008, Customer Relationship Management: Concepts And Cases, New Delhi: PHI Learning Private Limited, p111

 

Waldt, G. V. D, 2004, Managing Performance in the Public Sector: Concepts Considerations and Challenges, Lansdowne: Juta and Co Ltd, p195

 

Weaver, D. & Brickman, P. 1974 Expectancy, feedback and disconfirmation as independent factors in outcome satisfaction, Journal of personality and social psychology, 30, 420-428

 

Zeithaml, V. A., Parasuraman, A., & Berry, L. L., 1990, Delivering quality service: balancing customer perceptions and expectations, New York: The Free Press, p19

 

Zeithaml, V. A., & Bitner, M. J. 2005, Services Marketing- Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm, New York: McGraw-Hill,