SERVQUAL model is the model of service quality that is used for measuring service quality and customer satisfaction. American marketing gurus Valarie Zeithaml, Leonard Berry, and A. Parasuraman suggested this SERVQUAL model in the year 1988 to analyze dimensions of service quality as well as perceptions of service quality.
What is the SERVQUAL model?
The SERVQUAL model which is short for the Service Quality model is the research method to capture and analyze consumer expectations and perceptions of the service.
Originally it was measured keeping in mind 10 components- responsiveness, reliability, competence, access, courtesy, communication, credibility, security, understanding the customer, and tangibles.
All these components were eventually merged and now the SERVQUAL model deals with five components- Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, and Responsiveness. Hence it is also known as the RATER model.
10 Original Dimensions of SERVQUAL Model / Service Quality
The ten original dimensions of the SERVQUAL model or service quality model are-
5 RATER Dimensions of Service Quality
While the SERVQUAL model had ten dimensions, its simplified model- the RATER model has five parameters under which the customer evaluation is measured. They are understood as service quality dimensions used to find out perceived service quality on the multiple-item scale.
These dimensions suggest an item scale for measuring the quality of service as per the customer perceptions. They also help in knowing the customer, and that is why they are integral parts of services marketing.
This is the ability of the firm to perform the service effectively and accurately. It measures whether the firm lived up to its promises or not.
This dimension depends on the employees of the firm. It is their skill to produce trust and credibility in minds of the consumer. It requires proper knowledge and dedication.
This dimension refers to physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication material.
This dimension refers to the attention and priority the organization gives to the needs and requests of the customers.
This dimension is related to the firm and its ability and willingness to aid customers and provide apt service as promised.
These are the five dimensions that help a firm to tend to its consumers and maintain a positive relationship with the latter.
How SERVQUAL Model measures Service Quality?
As it is based on consumer relations, a sample survey is conducted in order to understand customer need for a product or service. Originally SERVQUAL consisted of 22 questions. Post-debate and modifications of these questions were finalized that addressed customer feedback.
Initially, four service industries were looked at- banking, credit cards, repairs and maintenance, and telephone companies. This SERVQUAL questionnaire was split into two main parts:
Respondents were enquired about their expectations of the ideal service firm in that service category and respondents were then asked about the service quality delivery of specific firms in that industry.
Let us now have a look at the SERVQUAL question area associated with different dimensions of service quality-
SERVQUAL Questionnaire of Five Dimensions
As discussed above, 22 SERVQUAL questions are related to the five dimensions of service quality, and they can be used for measuring service quality and customer satisfaction.
The answers to these questions let brands know their reliability and validity as well as ability to perform as per customer expectations. Let us go through the 22 questions of the SERVQUAL questionnaire-
1. Tangible Service Quality Question Area
1.1 About the existence and use of up-to-date equipment
1.2 If the physical facilities are visually appealing
1.3 If the employees are well-dressed/neat
1.4 Is the appearance of the physical facilities are consistent with the type of service industry
2. Reliability Service Quality Question Area
2.1 Does the firm meet their promised time-frames for response
2.6 Does the firm have an approach that is sympathetic and reassuring when the customer has problems
2.7 If they are dependable
2.8 Do they offer their services at the times promised
2.9 Do they keep accurate records
3. Responsiveness Service Quality Question Area
3.1 Should they tell customers exactly when the service will be performed
3.2 Should they expect prompt service from employees
3.3 Will the employees be willing to help customers
3.4 How and when employees should respond to customer requests
4. Assurance Service Quality Question Area
4.1 Are the employees trustworthy
4.2 Do customers feel safe when transacting with employees
4.3 Are the employees polite
4.4 Do the employees have adequate support from the firm to do their job well
5. Empathy Service Quality Question Area
5.1 Do the firms give each customer individualized attention
5.2 Do the employees give each customer individualized attention
5.3 Do the employees fully understand the needs of the customer
5.4 Do the employees have the best interests of the customer at the heart
5.5 Do the firms operate at hours convenient to all customers
The five Gaps of Service Quality
The correspondence between the client and the service-providing association, just as the association’s inner correspondence, is of fundamental significance for the degree of nature of the assistance.
It is acceptable when firms realize the patterns of their clients. Consequently, the SERVQUAL Model recognizes five gaps that can emerge between the client’s necessities and the help that an organization offers.
1. Knowledge Gap
A gap emerges when a firm’s information on consumer needs is not enough, keeping them from precisely moving toward customers.
Also known as the management perception gap. When the organization’s assumptions of customer perception are different from the customers, this gap arises. This occurs as a result of insufficient and careless research. It hints towards a problem with market understanding.
Causes- Lack of quality marketing, poorly interpreted information, unfocused research on customer needs, Too much miscommunication between frontline employees and top-level management.
For example- If a coffee brand misreads customer need for affordable coffee and instead markets itself as very expensive. While there are people who will buy it, coffee is an everyday need for the majority of people and hence they prefer an affordable brand over an expensive one.
2. Standards Gap
The firm has framed its thought regarding what the client anticipates from its administration. In the event that this thought isn’t right from the beginning and doesn’t relate to what clients expect, there is a huge danger that the firm will interpret it wrongly into a quality approach and comparing rules.
It is also known as the quality specification gap. Service design and performance standards are required to fill this gap.
Causes- Absence of proper goal, insufficient planning, absence of quality service, not estimating the feasibility of the service, overall inadequate approach towards task standardization.
For example- The majority of hotels do not clean the rooms on the day of check out. They do not take into consideration late checkouts. Hence ignoring the expectations of the customer.
3. Delivery Gap
A gap can likewise happen when the firm offers a service that is not the same as what the customer had anticipated. This additionally includes off-base usage. For example, in the manner in which workers complete strategy.
This gap is also known as the service delivery gap. Hence customer experience with a particular service or product must be taken into account for improvement. This is usually done in form of feedbacks.
For example- Many times while delivering food, the orders are wrong or the packaging is not proper.
4. Communications Gap
This gap occurs when the organization promises services that they are not capable to deliver. The communications that the firm sends out can create wrong expectations. It is the difference between consumer experience and expectations.
It is also known as the market communication gap. As the majority of the communication is done by the marketing team, this is often a fault on their part.
The firms often exaggerate the results they deliver and this, in turn, leaves the customer unhappy and dissatisfied.
Causes- failure to manage consumer demand, failure to perform promised services, poor communication, over-estimating on behalf of the marketing team.
For example- Various fairness creams promise a lighter skin tone in 5-6 weeks but often fail to mention extra precautions like scarves and hats that need to be worn to shield from the sun.
5. Satisfaction Gap
This is a combination of knowledge gap and communication gap. It is the overall difference between the perceived service by the customer and the experience of the customer with the service and the firm.
Unless customer satisfaction is kept intact, the firm is at risk of losing credibility and reputation in the market. Also known as perceived service quality gap.
Causes- online information, reviews, feedbacks by other customers, word of mouth, cultural background, personality, and other various factors can cause a satisfaction gap between the consumer and the provider.
While there are various solutions to filling these gaps, the first and foremost step is effective communication. The majority of the problem can be solved if the organization is clear with its agenda and communicates the same clearly with its consumers.
Another way to fill the gap is to ensure proper feedback is taken from the customers and those pointers implemented for better customer service.
Applications of SERVQUAL
Some of the published studies regarding SERVQUAL include in the fields of Hotel, travel, tourism, car servicing, business schools, accounting firms, architectural services, airline catering, mobile telecom services.
Advantages and Disadvantages
SERVQUAL has become an integral part of customer monitoring and has a lot of advantages.
These range from enabling assessment of service quality to tracking customer expectations and perceptions over time. SERVQUAL also enables comparing with competitors on similar aspects.
The disadvantages of this include that SERVQUAL remains that uniformity of this for all the service sectors remain unsure and it does not measure service outcome perceptions.
The use of measuring expectations in service quality has come under a lot of criticisms.
Criticisms of Model of Service Quality
It is criticized that the 5 dimensions of SERVQUAL or RATER as they are called.
These dimensions or RATERS are not universal and that is the reason why there remains little evidence that customers assess service quality in terms of expectations and perceptions.
SERVQUAL also faces criticisms on the grounds that this form only focuses only on service delivery and not on the outcomes. There is also a high degree of correlation between the 5 dimensions of SERVQUAL and thus the scores obtained cannot be exact.
Thus though being an efficient method, SERVQUAL faces its criticisms mainly on the grounds of lack of customer perception and thus remains debated.
On the concluding note, it can be said the despite being an efficient model in helping an organization in shaping up the efforts and bridging the gap between perceived and expected service, SERVQUAL is considered very subjective, complex, and statistically unreliable.
It is used to compare the SERVQUAL scores of a company with its competitors. Although SERVQUAL’s face and construct validity are in doubt it is widely used within its modified forms or RATERS as they are referred to measure customer expectations perceptions of service quality.
While there is criticism, the SERVQUAL model remains to be a good analysis method to understand consumer perceptions and needs. It is complex yet effective. This helps the firm bridge the gap between expected service and perceived service.
While not all organizations follow this model, the simplified version which is the RATER model is adapted by a lot of organizations. It not only helps improve the credibility and performance of a company but also helps stay ahead in the competitive market.
How effective do you consider the SERVQUAL model as a model of service quality for measuring customer service and customer satisfaction?