If anyone wants to measure the quality of services provided by a service organization, he/she will have to evaluate not only the expectations of the customers but also the actual service offered by the organization on the basis of the five service quality dimensions, i.e., reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy, and responsiveness.
The deviation assessed between the two aforementioned factors will determine the quality of service rendered. SERVQUAL model, designed and developed by Zeithaml, might prove very effective in this regard.
The SERVQUAL can be understood through the following formula:
SERVQUAL = [Perception of an ideal service organization based on customer ratings for every variable on a scale] – [Actual service provided by the service organization based on customer ratings for every variable on a scale]
Dimensions of Service Quality
Though there are numerous dimensions suggested by researchers to determine service quality, the most accepted ones are suggested by Parasuraman and his colleagues.
They identified ten dimensions used by customers for evaluating service quality :
Dependability and consistent performance come under reliability. Reliability means when a service organization starts properly delivering the services right from the beginning and puts value on its promises. Reliability primarily includes accurate billing and timely service delivery.
The employees’ promptness and willingness in providing the services come under responsiveness. A couple of examples can be a prompt call-back to the customer, immediate dispatch of the receipt, etc.
Proper know-how of service delivery and skills to perform them come under competence. It also includes the skills and awareness of both operations personnel and contact personnel.
Through understanding, the accessibility of the service organization, the quality of the services can be judged. The ease with which a consumer can approach a service determines access.
For example, accessibility through phone, minimal waiting time, etc.
The degree of compassion, politeness, regard, and consideration shown by the front office staff, telecalls, and contact personnel displays courtesy. Proper appearance, cleanliness, and showing consideration for the customer’s belongings are a few examples.
It includes not only regularly informing the customers but also paying due attention to what they have to say. Also, communication must take place in a language that is easily understandable to customers. It should also be customized for different customers.
For example, providing complete details about the service, explaining the expected cost, highlighting the derived values from the services, etc.
The level of belief and trust a customer has in a service organization shows its credibility. Considering the interests of the customer and giving value to it comes under credibility. The personal attributes of the contact person and the service provider’s reputation influence credibility.
It is also a dimension to judge the service quality of a service organization. Freedom from doubt, risk, or danger is termed security. Physical, as well as financial safety, comes under it.
Making efforts to understand the needs of the customer shows a level of understanding. This dimension can be judged by finding whether the customers’ specific needs are identified by the service providers and whether individual attention is given to the customers.
Another dimension to assess the quality of service offered by the service organizations is the tangibles. These include equipment and tools utilized in providing the service, the appearance of contact personnel, and other physical evidence of the services.
These dimensions, however, were redefined by Parasuraman et al into five dimensions. They used the acronym RATER to redefine these dimensions. These five dimensions are as follows:
1. Reliability: Consistently accurate and dependable service delivery leads to reliability. Precisely, keeping the promises made with regard to service price, problem-solving, service requirements, and service delivery refers to reliability.
Reliability is most relevant for services like banks, insurance firms, buses, railways, motor repairing, plumbing, etc.
2. Assurance: The degree to which a service organization and its employees develop trust and confidence among the customers is referred to as assurance.
The knowledge and humility of employees also define the same. For the services which involve risk and for which the people are unsure of the results (like brokerage, insurance, medical, insurance, legal, banking, etc.), this dimension is preferred over others.
The individuals who establish a direct relationship between the service organization and the consumer must be entrusted with confidence, e.g., lawyers, brokers, insurance agents, etc.
3. Tangibles: The communication material, equipment, physical facilities, personnel, etc., are termed tangibles.
An overall image of services that is likely to be used by the customers for assessing the quality is created by these.
In retail stores, hotels, restaurants, entertainment firms, etc., and other hospitality services where it is mandatory for the consumer to visit the establishment if he/she wants to avail the service, focus more on these tangibles while formulating strategies.
4. Empathy: The individual consideration or care shown by a service organization towards the customers is termed empathy.
Making the consumer feel special and unique by providing customized services forms the basis of empathy.
It is a basic desire of the consumers that the service provider understands them and gives them due importance.
Sometimes, the service personnel at a relatively small service outlet knows the customer personally and establishes a sound relationship with them.
This shows their awareness of customer preferences and needs.
5. Responsiveness: The degree of readiness towards assisting the consumer and providing quick service defines responsiveness.
The willingness to handle customer complaints, queries, and issues comes under this.
A customer perceives the degree of responsiveness of a service organization by the volume of time he/she has to spend in getting a problem resolved.
Process of Measuring Service Quality
A five-dimensional approach can be used in order to determine the service quality, which contains the following steps.
Select a specific service industry and the service organization for which the measurement of quality has to be conducted.
Two sets of data will be required in order to determine the service quality with the help of the SERVQUAL methodology.
One set of data is required to determine the expectations of the customer with reference to the service quality and with reference to perceived service; the second set of data is collected.
In order to make the context more certain, the required adaptations to the SERVQUAL instrument are performed.
In order to obtain the scores on the instrument for both perceptions and expectations, a survey of the customer should be conducted.
In order to determine the service quality gap, the scores of perceptions and expectations should be compared.
For a better understanding of the quality dimensions of the firm, these gaps can be plotted on a graph.
For correlating the score gaps with the future behavior of customers, a behavioral intention battery test can be conducted.
In order to rectify these gaps, various managerial interventions must be developed, which can change the purchase intention and loyalty of the customer.
Application of SERVQUAL
SERVQUAL model has the following applications:
- It estimates a firm’s overall weighted SERVQUAL score that considers the relative significance of the dimension as well as the service quality gap on each dimension (as indicated by the number of points assigned to it).
- SERVQUAL model differentiates a firm’s SERVQUAL scores against those of competitive firms.
- It establishes the average gap score between customers’ interpretations and presumptions for each and every service element.
- It evaluates internal service quality. It compares the quality of service provided by one division or department of a firm to others within the same firm.
- All five SERVQUAL dimensions form the basis of the evaluation of a firm’s service quality.
- It locates and studies customer segments that vary considerably in their assessments of a firm’s service performance.
- This model tracks customers’ perceptions and expectations of discrete service traits and/or the SERVQUAL dimensions over time.