SERVQUAL is a method to identify and solve problems related to quality of services. It was presented by A. Parasuraman, V. Zeithaml and L. Berry in 1988. The main idea is based on 5 gaps, which result in lower than expected quality of services. The method was one of the first tools created to evaluate and improve quality of services. Therefore, is became popular very soon.
There is a number of critique articles in literature. They point that the model doesn't take into account some important research results related to services. The result of the critique was SERVPERF method, which was statistically validated and simper to use, however it didn't became so popular.
The SERVQUAL model is presented on fig. 1. The upper side of the model is related to consumer, while the lower part - to enterprise. The consumer expects certain quality of the service based on:
- word of mouth,
- personal needs and
- past experience.
The enterprise delivers the service, which is perceived by the consumer. If the perceived quality is not lower than expected quality, the overall assessment is positive. In other case - it is negative. This however doesn't take into account prejudice, bad mood, bad day, etc., which was one of objections raised by SERVQUAL critiques.
Gap 5. Expected vs. perceived service
No, we can count to five. We start with the gap 5, because it focuses all others gaps. It is the only gap that doesn't include enterprise. But if the managers and employees are able to close other four gaps, this one should be closed automatically.
Gap 1. Expected service vs. management perception
The company managers should know what customer expects. The organization should perform market research, focus groups, etc. to understand the customer. If this fails, the first gap opens.
Gap 2. Management perception vs. Service design
Even if we know what are the customer expectations, we might have no competences or resources to fulfil them. In that case the gap 2 opens. The knowledge is not enough, it has to be translated into process of service delivery. This gap can be compared to designed quality in case of tangible products.
Gap 3. Service design vs. Service delivery
This gap is related to non-conformities that occur during the service delivery. In case of tangible product it is enough if it conforms the specification. In case of services there is much more: even smile or lack of it can have impact on perceived quality. Every problem encountered by customer (before, during or after the service delivery) can increase this gap.
Gap 4. Service delivery vs. Communication
This gap can occur in two cases:
- The company promised more than it is able to deliver.
- The company delivers good service, but cannot communicate this.
The first case is obvious. The second can happen if the service delivery is not so obvious to the customer and requires some faith that this was a good service. E.g. a visit to the dentist. If the dentist is sure of what he/she is doing, the customer is convinced that the service was good. The real quality of the service doesn't matter so much in that moment (it will be important later, if the tooth start to ache again).
In order to use SERVQUAL, the questionnaire is required. The questionnaire contains 44 statements which are related to 5 dimensions (called RATER):
- Tangibles (statements 1-4)
- Reliability (statements 5-9)
- Responsiveness (statements 10-13)
- Assurance (statements 14-17)
- Empathy (statements 18-22)
Each of statements is evaluated in 7-step Likert scale.
Part 1. Expectations
- Excellent companies will have modern looking equipment.
- The physical facilities at excellent banks will be visually appealing.
- Employees at excellent banks will be neat in their appearance.
- Materials associated with the service (pamphlets or statements) will be visually appealing at an excellent bank.
- When excellent banks promise to do something by a certain time, they do.
- When a customer has a problem, excellent banks will show a sincere interest in solving it.
- Excellent banks will perform the service right the first time.
- Excellent banks will provide the service at the time they promise to do so.
- Excellent banks will insist on error free records.
- Employees of excellent banks will tell customers exactly when services will be performed.
- Employees of excellent banks will give prompt service to customers.
- Employees of excellent banks will always be willing to help customers.
- Employees of excellent banks will never be too busy to respond to customers' requests.
- The behaviour of employees in excellent banks will instil confidence in customers
- Customers of excellent banks will feel safe in transactions.
- Employees of excellent banks will be consistently courteous with customers.
- Employees of excellent banks will have the knowledge to answer customers' questions.
- Excellent banks will give customers individual attention.
- Excellent banks will have operating hours convenient to all their customers.
- Excellent banks will have employees who give customers personal service.
- Excellent banks will have their customers' best interest at heart.
- The employees of excellent banks will understand the specific needs of their customers.
Part 2. Perceptions
- The organization has modern looking equipment.
- The organization's physical features are visually appealing.
- The organization's reception desk employees are neat appearing.
- Materials associated with the service (such as pamphlets or statements) are visually appealing at the organization.
- When the organization promises to do something by a certain time, it does so.
- When you have a problem, the organization shows a sincere interest in solving it.
- The organization performs the service right the first time.
- The organization provides its service at the time it promises to do so.
- The organization insists on error free records.
- Employees in the organization tell you exactly when the services will be performed.
- Employees in the organization give you prompt service.
- Employees in the organization are always willing to help you.
- Employees in the organization are never too busy to respond to your request.
- The behaviour of employees in the organization instils confidence in you.
- You feel safe in your transactions with the organization.
- Employees in the organization are consistently courteous with you.
- Employees in the organization have the knowledge to answer your questions.
- The organization gives you individual attention.
- The organization has operating hours convenient to all its customers.
- The organization has employees who give you personal attention.
- The organization has your best interests at heart.
- The employees of the organization understand your specific needs.
Evaluation of the questionnaire
Each statement from part 1 should be compared with the statement from part 2. They describe expectations and perception.
|Dimension||Statement||Expectation score||Perception score||Gap score||Average for the dimension|
Scores are summed up and weighted. The weights are chosen based on expert assessment of top management.
|Average weighted score|
Examples of SERVQUAL
- Gap 1: Customer Expectations vs. Management Perception – This gap occurs when customers have higher expectations of the service than what is being offered by the service provider. For example, a customer may expect a quick response to a query, but the management may not have the resources to provide this.
- Gap 2: Management Perception vs. Service Quality Specifications – This gap occurs when the management misunderstands or misinterprets the service quality specifications. For example, a customer may expect their order to be delivered the same day, but the management may not have the resources to fulfill this.
- Gap 3: Service Quality Specifications vs. Service Delivered – This gap occurs when the service quality specifications are not met. For example, a customer may expect their order to be delivered within 24 hours, but the service provider may not be able to deliver it on time.
- Gap 4: Service Delivered vs. External Communications – This gap occurs when the service delivered differs from the external communications. For example, a customer may expect a certain level of customer service, but the service provider may not be able to provide this based on the external communications.
- Gap 5: Perceived Service vs. Expected Service – This gap occurs when the customer’s perception of the service differs from their expectations. For example, a customer may expect a certain level of customer service, but their perception of the service may be lower than their expectations.
Advantages of SERVQUAL
SERVQUAL is a popular method to identify and solve quality of service issues. Its main advantages are:
- It is easy to use: SERVQUAL consists of two simple steps. First, identify the gaps between customer expectations and service performance. Second, take corrective actions to reduce or eliminate these gaps.
- It is comprehensive: SERVQUAL takes into account both tangible and intangible factors and considers customer expectations as well.
- It is objective: SERVQUAL uses customer surveys to measure customer satisfaction, allowing for objective data to be collected.
- It is reliable: SERVQUAL has been tested and proven to be reliable and effective in detecting customer service issues.
- It is cost-effective: SERVQUAL is a relatively inexpensive method to measure customer satisfaction and identify areas of improvement.
Limitations of SERVQUAL
SERVQUAL has many limitations that should be considered when using it to evaluate and improve quality of services. These include:
- Difficulty in quantifying the results: SERVQUAL is a qualitative method of assessment and therefore the results cannot be quantified in a numerical manner.
- It does not take into account customer expectations: SERVQUAL does not measure customer expectations, which is an important component of overall service quality.
- It does not measure customer satisfaction: SERVQUAL does not measure customer satisfaction and therefore it cannot be used to determine the success of existing services.
- It is time-consuming: SERVQUAL is a complex method that requires extensive time and resources to be used properly.
- It is expensive: it requires a significant amount of resources and money to implement SERVQUAL properly.
Other approaches related to SERVQUAL include:
- The Quality Function Deployment (QFD) approach, which is a tool used to identify customer needs and translate them into design features. It is used to ensure that customer expectations are met during the design and production of a product or service.
- The Total Quality Management (TQM) approach, which is a management strategy that seeks to continuously improve the quality of a product or service by making use of customer feedback. It focuses on process improvement and customer satisfaction.
- The Six Sigma approach, which is a management strategy focused on improving business processes and reducing defects. It utilizes statistical analysis to identify problems and improve processes.
- The Balanced Scorecard approach, which is a tool used to measure the performance of an organization by utilizing both financial and non-financial metrics. This helps organizations to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for achieving their goals.
In summary, SERVQUAL is a method to identify and solve problems related to quality of services. Other approaches related to SERVQUAL include the Quality Function Deployment, Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and the Balanced Scorecard approaches. These approaches are used to identify customer needs, continuously improve quality, reduce defects, and measure performance.
- Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. (1988). Servqual. Journal of retailing, 64(1), 12-40.
- Parasuraman, A., Berry, L. L., & Zeithaml, V. A. (1991). Refinement and reassessment of the SERVQUAL scale. Journal of retailing, 67(4), 420.
- Cronin Jr, J. J., & Taylor, S. A. (1994). SERVPERF versus SERVQUAL: reconciling performance-based and perceptions-minus-expectations measurement of service quality. The Journal of Marketing, 125-131.
- Buttle, F. (1996). SERVQUAL: review, critique, research agenda. European Journal of marketing, 30(1), 8-32.
Author: Slawomir Wawak