Introduction Of Service Quality Marketing Essay

5453 words (22 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Marketing Reference this

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Service quality is a concept that has aroused considerable interest and debate in the research literature because of the difficulties in both defining it and measuring it with no overall consensus emerging on either (Wisniewski, 2001). There are several different “definitions” as to what is meant by service quality. One that is commonly used defines service quality as the extent to which a service meets customers’ needs or expectations (Lewis and Mitchell, 1990; Dotchin and Oakland, 1994; Asubonteng et al ., 1996; Wisniewski and Donnelly, 1996). Service quality can thus be defined as the difference between customer expectations of service and perceived service.

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If expectations are greater than performance, then perceived quality is less than satisfactory and hence customer dissatisfaction occurs (Parasuraman et al ., 1985; Lewis and Mitchell, 1990). Always there exists an important question as to why should service quality be measured. Measurement allows for comparison before and after changes, for the location of quality related problems and for the establishment of clear standards for service delivery. Edvardsen et al . (1994) stated that, the starting point in developing quality in services is analysis and measurement. The SERVQUAL together with the GRONROOS approaches, which will be discussed, defined in the ‘methodology’ chapter and applied in this project are the most common methods for measuring service quality.

As far as this study is concerned a subsection of the Rose Hill branch will be considered , more specifically the region of Ebene. This area is a newly developed one with a new concept in itself. It consists of the ebene village which encloses residential houses and the ebene cybercity which covers the commercial part that is linked to the new types of businesses that have emerged over there. Subsequently, the needs and expectations of the applicants of the CEB for its services are specify in nature and pertinent for this particular region.

2.1.1 Definition of Quality

Numerous scientific papers have already attempted to define quality, and most of the authors agree that it is not possible to arrive at a correct and unambiguous definition (Macukow, 2000). However, following are number of common quality definitions: “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements (ISO 9000: 2005); “Conformance to requirements” (Crosby, 1979); “Fitness for Use”, (Juran and Gryna, 1988); “the total composite product and service characteristics of marketing” (Feigenbaum, 1991); “a predictability degree of uniformity and dependability at low cost and suited to the market” (Deming, 1986); Value to some person (Weinberg, 1994). “the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs”, American Society of Quality; “Products and services that meet or exceed customers’ expectations”, (Kano, 1884). Japanese companies find the old suggestion of quality, “the degree of conformance to a standard”, too narrow and, consequently, have started to use a new definition of quality of “customer satisfaction” (Wayne, 1983). Basic parameters of quality were grouped into three areas: quality of design; quality of conformance; and quality of performance (Wildrick et al., 2002). Quality is multi-dimensional concept and different definitions are appropriate under different circumstances (Viswanadhan, 2006). Harvey and Knight (1996) stated that Quality can be viewed as exceptional, as perfection (or consistency), as fitness for purpose, as value for money and as transformative:

Quality viewed as “exceptional”, very high standard

Quality viewed in terms of “consistency” in the process

Quality viewed in terms of achieving customer satisfaction

Quality viewed in term of value for money

Quality viewed as “transformative”

Harvey and Knight (1996) concluded that, while it is not suggested that these five definitions of quality are in any sense mutually exclusive, transformation is a metaquality concept and the other aspects of quality are possible operationalizations of the transformative process rather than ends in themselves. (Sangeeta et. al. 2004)

2.1.2 Definition of Service Quality

The characteristics of service quality which is intangible, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability (Parsuraman, 1985), cannot be measured objectively (Patterson and Johnson, 1993). However, many researchers stated that service quality can be measured by making the comparisons between customers’ expectations and perceptions (Zeithaml et al, 1990). The authors have distinguished the service quality into four types namely expected service; desired service; adequate service; and predicted service. Expected services are the services that customers intend to obtain from the service provider. Desired services is the level of service which the customer wish to obtain. Adequate service refers to the minimum level of services expected from the service provider and finally, predicted services is what the customers believe the company will perform. O’Neil and Palmer (2004) also define service quality as the difference between what a student expects to receive and his/her perceptions of actual delivery. This definition is similar to the one advocated by Zeithaml et al, (1990)

2.2 Service Quality in Public Service

Services provided by the public sector are responsible and accountable to residents and communities as well as to its customers. Several researchers have dealt with service quality in public services (Wisniewski and Donnelly, 1996; Rowley, 1998; Wisniewski, 2001; Brysland and Curry, 2001). Brysland and Curry (2001) stated that the literature clearly supported the use of SERVQUAL in the public sector. According to Gowan et al. (2001), service provision is more complex in the public sector as it is not simply a matter of meeting expressed needs, but of finding out unexpressed needs, setting priorities, allocating resources and publicly justifying and accounting for what has been done. In addition, Caron and Giauque (2006) pointed out that public sector employees are currently confronted with new professional challenges arising from the introduction of new principles and tools inspired by the shift to new public management. Anderson (1995) also measured the quality of service provided by a public university health clinic. Using 15 statements representing the five-dimensions of SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988), she assessed the quality of service provided by the clinic at the University of Houston Health Center.

Patients were found to be generally dissatisfied with the five dimensions of SERVQUAL. The highest dissatisfaction emerged from the ‘assurance’ dimension. On the other side, ‘tangibles’ and ’empathy’ exhibited the lowest level of dissatisfaction. Using the SERVQUAL approach, Wisniewski (2001) carried out a study to assess customer satisfaction within the public sector throughout a range of Scottish Councils services. In the library 40 service, the analysis of gap scores revealed that tangibles and reliability generated negative gaps which indicate that customer expectations were not being met. However, responsiveness and assurance were positive implying that customer expectations were actually exceeded by the service provided. Furthermore, Donnelly et al. (2006) carried out a study to explore the application of SERVQUAL approach to access and determine the level of quality of service of the Strathclyde Police in Scotland. The survey captures customers’ expectations of an excellent police service and compares these with their perceptions of the service delivered by Strathclyde Police. The paper also reports on a parallel SERVQUAL survey of police officers in Strathclyde to examine the degree with which the force understands its customers’ expectations and how efficiently its internal processes support the delivery of quality services in the police department. It was found that Strathclyde Police seems to have a good understanding of the service quality expectations of their customers as denoted by the responses of elected councilors of the region falling under the jurisdiction of the force. Service quality performance can still be improved considerably both from the viewpoint of the customer and through police force attention to the definition of, and compliance with, service quality standards. Agus et al. (2007) conducted a study to investigate into the management and customer perceptions of service quality practices in the Malaysian Public sector. It is important to note that whereas the SERVQUAL model focused on identifying “gaps” between expectations and actual delivery, their model was precisely focused only on perceptions of actual service delivery. They used nine out of the ten service dimensions identified by Parasuraman et al. (1985). Their study looked at the perceptions of management and customers, thereby excluding the views of front- line employees (FLE). It is thus observed that most of the studies to date, have concentrated on service quality in US and European public service sector, while recent studies have thrown light at service quality in developing countries (Agus et al., 2007).

2.2.1 Customer Perception

Perceived service value is the consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product based on perceptions of what is received and what is given (Zeithaml,1988). As service quality improves, the chances of customer satisfaction increases. In turn, perceptions of better service value in service exchanges provided by service organizations leads to increased customer satisfaction (Arasli, Mehtap-Smadi, & Turan Katircioglu, 2005; Lovelock & Wirtz, 2007),and positive evaluations of these service exchanges (Cronin et al., 2000).Customer satisfaction refers to the degree to which customers are satisfied and pleased with their shopping experience (Szymanski & Hise, 2000). Previous researchers have suggested that customer satisfaction can be significantly predicted by the perceived quality of convenience, product information, security, and reliability or fulfillment (Szymanski & Hise, 2000; Zeithaml et al., 2002).Service satisfaction results from perceptions of quality or value. Customers will decide whether they are receiving fair treatment based on their own service experiences and expectations (Oliver, 1999). With the aim of satisfying its customers, a service firm needs to fulfill three customer expectations; product quality, service quality, and price value. In a service management context, customer satisfaction is the consequence of the customer’s perception of value received from the transaction or relationship with the service providers (Lam, Shankar, Erramilli, & Murthy,2004). Consumers’ perceptions of good service are closely related to their appreciation of the exceptional value they have received from a service exchange with a service provider, and customer satisfaction reflects the customer’s overall feeling derived from that value.

2.2.2 Service Encounter

The model of service encounter in itself relies on Shostack’s (1985,p 243) definition of the term “service encounter” as ” a period of time during which a consumer directly interacts with a service “. Shostack’s definition includes all aspects of the service firm with which the consumer may interact including its personnel, its physical facilities, and other tangible elements during a given period of time.

For consumers, appraisal of a service firm often depends on evaluation of the “service encounter” or the period of time when the customer interacts directly with the firm. Knowledge of the factors that influence customer evaluations in service encounters is therefore decisive, particularly at a time when general perceptions of service quality are declining.

2.2.3 Customer Expectation

Parasuraman et al. (1988) suggested that customer expectations are what the customers think a service should offer rather than what might be on offer. Zeithaml et al. (1990) identified four factors that influence customers’ expectations: word-of-mouth communications; personal needs; past experience; and external communications.

2.2.3.1 Word of mouth communications

Word of mouth communication relates to secondary evidence from other users and is considered to be a potential determinant of expectations. High recommendations positively influence expectations, while poor publicity will result into poor expectations on the part of potential consumers. According to Bansal and Voyer (2000); the higher the risks that customers perceive in purchasing a service, the more actively they will seek and rely on word of mouth communication to guide their consumption pattern.

2.2.3.2 Personal needs

According to Durvasula et al. (1999); building strong customer-focused relationships requires understanding the needs of specific customers and the firm’s success in meeting these needs. Hence, expectations vary according to the individual consumers’ characteristics and prevailing circumstances.

2.2.3.3 Past experience

Literature suggests that consumers rarely approach the decision to purchase with a clear and open mind (O’Neil and Palmer, 2003). They generally base themselves on their previous knowledge and experience to sift through the conundrums of stimuli they are subjected to. Similarly, De Bono (1977) suggestion that the mind is like a pattern-making system that constantly tries to make new images and information fit to previously gathered and recorded data.

Katz (1968) pointed out that experience depends on and influences perception, since it involves changes in behaviour which necessitate meaning and order being given to sensory data. Van Der Wagen (1994) proclaimed that individual customers have many different perceptions, which are influenced by their education, upbringing, experience and many other factors. Researchers advocate that expectations of service quality may be an almost meaningless notion for customers who are first time users of a service and who are therefore unable to form a complex set of expectations (Boulding et al., 1993 and 1999).

2.2.3.4 External communications

Effective communications is the basis of long term relationships which in turn impacts positively on the firm (Caruana and Pitt, 1997). As such external communications influence significantly the perception of the service delivered throughout consumers’ expectations. If much is promised, and likewise communicated, to the consumers, then the latter are deemed to have greater expectations of the service being experienced (Zeithaml et al. 1990).

2.3 Components and Requirements of Customer Satisfaction

The concept of customer satisfaction is composed of several components from distinct sources

(McColl-Kennedy & Schneider, 2006). Customer satisfaction starts with clear, operational definitions from both the customer and the organization.

Understanding the motivations, expectations, and desires of both gives a foundation in how to

best assist the customer. It can even provide information on making improvements in the nature of business. This is the heart of research into customer satisfaction (Naylor & Greco, 2002). The

importance of clearly defining the key concepts and elements of satisfaction provide a template by which information can be assembled about what is, and what is not, working. This includes both the hard measures – those that are more tangible and observable (i.e., number of complaints, average wait time, product returns, etc) and the soft measures – those less tangible aspects (i.e., friendliness, helpfulness, politeness, etc) (Hayes, 1998). These definitions often start with the most elusive and general, and become more to the highly specified and precise examples. The bottom line is that in order to know about customer satisfaction, one needs to know what to look for (Mitchell, 1999). The organization needs to search for this information from both within and without. The organizational requirements of customer satisfaction are the internally based processes, components, standards, and criteria that a business struggles to achieve. These are the performance aims and benchmarks set forth by the business, for the business. These are the elements of corporate culture (Hayes, 1998). Meeting or exceeding these often indicates success or failure. At times, these indigenous components of customer satisfaction may overlap with those laid down by the customer; at others they may be divergent. Those processes, components, and standards that are deemed important by customers are another important source of information. In order for a business to meet the needs and desires of the customer, the business must know the latter’s needs and desires. This information is of fundamental importance not only for successful business, but also for understanding and improving customer satisfaction. This important component helps to set the standards and components of satisfaction from the perspective of the consumer (Hayes, 1998).

Satisfaction dimensions are developed from the previously identified requirements. These are the specific components that constitute the requirements. For example, if a customer and organizational requirement is for customer service, the satisfaction dimensions may include interactions, timeliness, and responsiveness. These are the clusters that define the requirements (Hayes, 1998).

Critical incidents are the explicit operations that relate to the satisfaction dimensions. These are frequently the concrete and measurable behaviours and actions of employees, groups, or organization. This may also include policies, procedures, and protocols in place within an organization (Hayes, 2008). From this continued definition and distillation of various sources of data, the actual development of a particular customer satisfaction instrument or tool can begin in earnest. As always, the planning of the research is the most important component in a successful information-gathering process. It will be of an additional help that a model of customer satisfaction that incorporates the organizational and customer requirements exists and is applicable in practice.

2.4 Service Quality Dimensions

The main concern in decision on developing the dimension of service quality is the wide range of areas which should be included in the survey of the research. Different dimensions of service quality are used for different industries. However, there are some similarities on the chosen dimensions (Lagrosen, 2004). Many authors have developed service quality dimensions to suit their customers’ preferences. Researchers agree that there is no single dimension which can be applicable for all the service sectors (Carman, 1990; Brown, 1993; Cronin and Taylor, 1994). They also agree that customers must be the determinant of service quality dimensions rather than the management or the academic staff of the respective university. (Parasuraman, 1985; Cronin and Taylor, 1994; Carman, 1990; Lagrosen, 2004; Madsen and Carlsson; Lee et al, 2000).

Parasuraman et al, (1991) initially developed ten dimensions and later categorize it into five dimensions. The earlier ten service quality dimensions developed by Parasuraman et al, 1985 are summarize in Table1.0 below :

Table 1.0 : Service Quality Dimensions developed by Parasuraman et al, 1985

No.

Service Quality Dimensions

Brief Description

1

Reliability

service carried out in the way it is promised

2

Responsiveness

services that are carried out promptly according to the needs of the customers

3

Competence

service provider’s staff have the knowledge and skills required for delivering the service in a proper way

4

Access

concerns with examples such as opening hours, physical location, etc

5

Courtesy

staff are polite, friendly, respectful, etc.

6

Communication

keeping customers informed in a language that they can understand and listen to them

7

Credibility

service provider is trustworthy, believable and honest

8

Security

freedom from danger, risk or doubt

9

Understanding the customer

service provider makes an effort to understand the needs and wants of the individual customers

10

Tangibles

physical objects that are required for carrying out the service such as facilities, equipment, etc

Through an empirical test, the authors in the course of time have condensed the ten dimensions into five (Parasuraman and Berry, 1991; Zeithaml et al, 1990) .In their study, the data on the 22 attributes were factor analyzed and resulted in the following five dimensions shown in Table 2.0 below :

Table 2.0 : Service Quality Dimensions by Parasuraman and Berry, 1991; Zeithaml et al, 1990

No.

Service Quality Dimensions

Brief Description

1

Tangibles

physical facilities, equipment, appearance of personnel

2

Reliability

ability to perform the desired service dependably, accurately, and consistently

3

Responsiveness

willingness to provide prompt service and help customers

4

Assurance

employees knowledge , courtesy, and ability to convey trust and confidence

5

Empathy

provision of caring, individualized attention to customers

2.5 Measurement of Service Quality

Grönroos (1984) shows that service quality include three dimensions. The first is the technical quality which refers to the results or what is being delivered to or what customers gain from the service. The second dimension is the functional quality which refers to the way in which the service is delivered or how it is delivered. Finally, the corporate image which refers to store’s image which is largely based on both the quality of technical, artistic, and to some extent other factors such as traditional marketing activities. The most widely used service quality model is the Robinson’s 1990s model (1999) which was proposed by Parasuraman et al., (1985). Their model supported Grönroos’ findings as the model has its source on the following three core themes. First, service quality is more difficult for the consumer to evaluate than goods’ quality. Second, service quality perceptions result from a comparison of consumer expectations with actual service performance. Finally, quality expectations are not made solely on the results of the service (Parasuraman et al.,1985).

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The SERVQUAL scale is a principal instrument in the services marketing literature for assessing quality (Parasuraman et al., 1991; Parasuraman et al., 1988). This instrument has been widely used by both managers (Parasuraman et al., 1991) and academics (Babakus and Boller, 1992; Carman, 1990; Crompton and MacKay, 1989; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Johnson et al., 1995; Webster, 1989) to assess customer perceptions of service quality for a variety of services (e.g. banks, credit card companies, repair and maintenance companies, and long distance telephone companies). Based on Parasuraman et al.’s (1988) conceptualization of service quality, the original SERVQUAL instrument included two 22-item sections that intended to measure (a) customer expectations for several aspects of service quality, and (b) customer perceptions of the service they actually received from the focal service organization (Parasuraman et al., 1988). In short, the SERVQUAL instrument is based on the gap theory (Parasuraman et al., 1985) and suggests that a consumer’s perception of service quality is a function of the difference between his/her expectations about the performance of a general class of service providers and his/her assessment of the actual performance of a specific firm within that class (Cronin and Taylor, 1992).

The results of the initial published application of the SERVQUAL instrument indicated that five dimensions of service quality emerged across a variety of services (Parasuraman et al., 1988). These dimensions are reliability, responsiveness, tangibles, assurance, and empathy (Carman, 1990; Crompton and MacKay, 1989; Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988, 1991). Reliability involves consistency of performance and dependability (i.e. a firm performs the service right the first time and honors its promises); responsiveness concerns the willingness or readiness of employees to provide service (e.g. timeliness of service); tangibles are the physical evidence of the service (e.g. physical facilities, appearance of personnel, or tools or equipment used to provide the service); assurance corresponds to the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence ,and finally empathy which pertains to caring, individualized attention that a firm provides to its customers.

A study by O’Neill et al. (2001) indicated some benefits of using the SERVQUAL approach such as its ability to make a clear suggestion of how well the company performs to meet the customer’s requirement according to the customer’s perception. Besides, SERVQUAL also helps the company to priorities customer needs, wants and expectations derived from customer’s opinion. Furthermore, SERVQUAL allows the organization to set the standards to meet the quality requirement spelt out by customers and other stakeholders.

2.6 Quality Service Models

Various service quality models have emerged with time such as Nash,1988; Heywood-Farmer,1988; Beddowes et al.,1988; Philip and Hazlett,1997; Robeldo,2001 . However, it is to be pointed out that the SERVQUAL (Asubonteng et al.,1996; Robinson,1999; Waugh,2002) approach to determine service quality developed by Parasuraman et al (1985,1988) has been and still remains the best researched method

2.6.1 Gronroos (1984) Perceived Service Quality Model

According to Gronroos (1984), the service quality experienced by a customer has two dimensions; namely the technical quality and the functional quality. Functional quality describes how the service is delivered and technical quality describes what the customers received during a service delivery.

The organisation’s image works as a filter and can therefore positively or negatively modify the customers’ perception of service quality. Gronroos (2007) acknowledged that the model was planned to offer a conceptual framework to understand the features of service and is not a measurement model.

Gronroos (2001) identifies a list of determinants of good service quality and argues that the list needs to be short but comprehensive for it to be useful for managerial purposes. By expanding the argument, Gronroos (2007) highlighted that the following ‘seven criteria of good perceived service quality’ are the determinants that should to be considered when evaluating the service quality of any organization.

Professionalism and Skills

Attitudes and Behaviour

Accessibility and Flexibility

Reliability and Trustworthiness

Service Recovery

Serviscape

Reputation and Credibility

However, the above mentioned ‘seven criteria of good service quality ‘ concepts have very similar characteristics to the Parasuraman et al (1985) ‘Ten determinants of service quality’ which identified from a series of focus group discussions.

2.7 The Disconfirmation Model of Service Quality

The SERVQUAL model was developed by A. Parasuraman and colleges in the USA. Likewise SERVQUAL is based on the expectations disconfirmation approach known as disconfirmation paradigm.

The model of service quality, which they made, identifies the reasons for any gaps between customer expectations and perceptions (refer to flowchart below). Gap 5 is the outcome of gaps 1, 2, 3 and 4. If these four gaps, all of which are positioned below the line that separates the customer from the company, are closed then gap 5 will close. The gaps are explained as more fully described below:

Gap 1 is the gap between what the customer expects and what the company’s management thinks customers expect. Customers’ expectations versus management perceptions: as a result of the shortage of a marketing research orientation, inadequate upward communication and too many layers of management.

Gap 2 is the gap that arises when management fails to design service standards that meet customer expectations. Management perceptions versus service specifications : as a result of inadequate commitment to service quality, a perception of unfeasibility, inadequate task standardization and an absence of objective setting.

Gap 3 occurs whenever the company’s service delivery systems – people, technology and processes – fail to meet and deliver to the specified standard .Service specifications versus service delivery: as a consequence of role ambiguity and conflict, poor employee-job fit and poor technology-job fit, inappropriate supervisory control systems, lack of perceived control and lack of teamwork.

Gap 4 occurs when the company’s communications with customers promise a level of service performance that people, technology and processes are unable to deliver. Service delivery versus external communication: as a result of inadequate horizontal communications and propensity to over-promise.

The Gap Model

Obrazek

Adapted from : A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for future research” (The Journal of Marketing, 1985), A. Parasuraman, VA Zeitham and LL Berry

To find the level and extent of the Gap 5, authors developed the 22 item SERVQUAL scale. The model’s authors identified five core components of service quality: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness.

Gap5: The discrepancy between customer expectations and their perceptions of the service

delivered: as a result of the influences exerted from the customer side and the underperformance (gaps) on the part of the service provider. In this case, customer expectations are influenced by the extent of

personal needs, word of mouth recommendation and past service experiences.

The relative importance of these variables is also measured. This enables you to compute the relative importance of any gaps between expectation and perceptions. Management can then focus on strategies and tactics to close down the important gaps.

SERVQUAL can be used or adapted to measure service quality in variety of service settings. Another advantage is that it can be used to compare competitors and associated with a wide range of services.

This method could be adopted for internal marketing. It is based on the idea that every employee within an organisation, particularly a service organisation, should recognise that they have customers to serve. There is a positive link between both internal service quality and external service quality and hence similarly with customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and the profitability of the organisation. Market research can be adopted for use with employees. Personnel can be given the opportunity to give feedback to management about working conditions, company policy in general and workers’ own understanding about what comprises quality for the customer. The relationship between organisational subunits and their relationship to top management are crucial. This can be assessed by a variation of the SERVQUAL instrument.

Parasuraman et al. (1985), on the basis of the non-confirmatory paradigm, conceive a service quality model to which they add a nuance, important in our opinion, in the sense that the evaluation of the quality of the service cannot be done on the basis of the actual result of

Service quality is a concept that has aroused considerable interest and debate in the research literature because of the difficulties in both defining it and measuring it with no overall consensus emerging on either (Wisniewski, 2001). There are several different “definitions” as to what is meant by service quality. One that is commonly used defines service quality as the extent to which a service meets customers’ needs or expectations (Lewis and Mitchell, 1990; Dotchin and Oakland, 1994; Asubonteng et al ., 1996; Wisniewski and Donnelly, 1996). Service quality can thus be defined as the difference between customer expectations of service and perceived service.

If expectations are greater than performance, then perceived quality is less than satisfactory and hence customer dissatisfaction occurs (Parasuraman et al ., 1985; Lewis and Mitchell, 1990). Always there exists an important question as to why should service quality be measured. Measurement allows for comparison before and after changes, for the location of quality related problems and for the establishment of clear standards for service delivery. Edvardsen et al . (1994) stated that, the starting point in developing quality in services is analysis and measurement. The SERVQUAL together with the GRONROOS approaches, which will be discussed, defined in the ‘methodology’ chapter and applied in this project are the most common methods for measuring service quality.

As far as this study is concerned a subsection of the Rose Hill branch will be considered , more specifically the region of Ebene. This area is a newly developed one with a new concept in itself. It consists of the ebene village which encloses residential houses and the ebene cybercity which covers the commercial part that is linked to the new types of businesses that have emerged over there. Subsequently, the needs and expectations of the applicants of the CEB for its services are specify in nature and pertinent for this particular region.

2.1.1 Definition of Quality

Numerous scientific papers have already attempted to define quality, and most of the authors agree that it is not possible to arrive at a correct and unambiguous definition (Macukow, 2000). However, following are number of common quality definitions: “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements (ISO 9000: 2005); “Conformance to requirements” (Crosby, 1979); “Fitness for Use”, (Juran and Gryna, 1988); “the total composite product and service characteristics of marketing” (Feigenbaum, 1991); “a predictability degree of uniformity and dependability at low cost and suited to the market” (Deming, 1986); Value to some person (Weinberg, 1994). “the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs”, American Society of Quality; “Products and services that meet or exceed customers’ expectations”, (Kano, 1884). Japanese companies find the old suggestion of quality, “the degree of conformance to a standard”, too narrow and, consequently, have started to use a new definition of quality of “customer satisfaction” (Wayne, 1983). Basic parameters of quality were grouped into three areas: quality of design; quality of conformance; and quality of performance (Wildrick et al., 2002). Quality is multi-dimensional concept and different definitions are appropriate under different circumstances (Viswanadhan, 2006). Harvey and Knight (1996) stated that Quality can be viewed as exceptional, as perfection (or consistency), as fitness for purpose, as value for money and as transformative:

Quality viewed as “exceptional”, very high standard

Quality viewed in terms of “consistency” in the process

Quality viewed in terms of achieving customer satisfaction

Quality viewed in term of value for money

Quality viewed as “transformative”

Harvey and Knight (1996) concluded that, while it is not suggested that these five definitions of quality are in any sense mutually exclusive, transformation is a metaquality concept and the other aspects of quality are possible operationalizations of the transformative process rather than ends in themselves. (Sangeeta et. al. 2004)

2.1.2 Definition of Service Quality

The characteristics of service quality which is intangible, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability (Parsuraman, 1985), cannot be measured objectively (Patterson and Johnson, 1993). However, many researchers stated that service quality can be measured by making the comparisons between customers’ expectations and perceptions (Zeithaml et al, 1990). The authors have distinguished the service quality into four types namely expected service; desired service; adequate service; and predicted service. Expected services are the services that customers intend to obtain from the service provider. Desired services is the level of service which the customer wish to obtain. Adequate service refers to the minimum level of services expected from the service provider and finally, predicted services is what the customers believe the company will perform. O’Neil and Palmer (2004) also define service quality as the difference between what a student expects to receive and his/her perceptions of actual delivery. This definition is similar to the one advocated by Zeithaml et al, (1990)

2.2 Service Quality in Public Service

Services provided by the public sector are responsible and accountable to residents and communities as well as to its customers. Several researchers have dealt with service quality in public services (Wisniewski and Donnelly, 1996; Rowley, 1998; Wisniewski, 2001; Brysland and Curry, 2001). Brysland and Curry (2001) stated that the literature clearly supported the use of SERVQUAL in the public sector. According to Gowan et al. (2001), service provision is more complex in the public sector as it is not simply a matter of meeting expressed needs, but of finding out unexpressed needs, setting priorities, allocating resources and publicly justifying and accounting for what has been done. In addition, Caron and Giauque (2006) pointed out that public sector employees are currently confronted with new professional challenges arising from the introduction of new principles and tools inspired by the shift to new public management. Anderson (1995) also measured the quality of service provided by a public university health clinic. Using 15 statements representing the five-dimensions of SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988), she assessed the quality of service provided by the clinic at the University of Houston Health Center.

Patients were found to be generally dissatisfied with the five dimensions of SERVQUAL. The highest dissatisfaction emerged from the ‘assurance’ dimension. On the other side, ‘tangibles’ and ’empathy’ exhibited the lowest level of dissatisfaction. Using the SERVQUAL approach, Wisniewski (2001) carried out a study to assess customer satisfaction within the public sector throughout a range of Scottish Councils services. In the library 40 service, the analysis of gap scores revealed that tangibles and reliability generated negative gaps which indicate that customer expectations were not being met. However, responsiveness and assurance were positive implying that customer expectations were actually exceeded by the service provided. Furthermore, Donnelly et al. (2006) carried out a study to explore the application of SERVQUAL approach to access and determine the level of quality of service of the Strathclyde Police in Scotland. The survey captures customers’ expectations of an excellent police service and compares these with their perceptions of the service delivered by Strathclyde Police. The paper also reports on a parallel SERVQUAL survey of police officers in Strathclyde to examine the degree with which the force understands its customers’ expectations and how efficiently its internal processes support the delivery of quality services in the police department. It was found that Strathclyde Police seems to have a good understanding of the service quality expectations of their customers as denoted by the responses of elected councilors of the region falling under the jurisdiction of the force. Service quality performance can still be improved considerably both from the viewpoint of the customer and through police force attention to the definition of, and compliance with, service quality standards. Agus et al. (2007) conducted a study to investigate into the management and customer perceptions of service quality practices in the Malaysian Public sector. It is important to note that whereas the SERVQUAL model focused on identifying “gaps” between expectations and actual delivery, their model was precisely focused only on perceptions of actual service delivery. They used nine out of the ten service dimensions identified by Parasuraman et al. (1985). Their study looked at the perceptions of management and customers, thereby excluding the views of front- line employees (FLE). It is thus observed that most of the studies to date, have concentrated on service quality in US and European public service sector, while recent studies have thrown light at service quality in developing countries (Agus et al., 2007).

2.2.1 Customer Perception

Perceived service value is the consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product based on perceptions of what is received and what is given (Zeithaml,1988). As service quality improves, the chances of customer satisfaction increases. In turn, perceptions of better service value in service exchanges provided by service organizations leads to increased customer satisfaction (Arasli, Mehtap-Smadi, & Turan Katircioglu, 2005; Lovelock & Wirtz, 2007),and positive evaluations of these service exchanges (Cronin et al., 2000).Customer satisfaction refers to the degree to which customers are satisfied and pleased with their shopping experience (Szymanski & Hise, 2000). Previous researchers have suggested that customer satisfaction can be significantly predicted by the perceived quality of convenience, product information, security, and reliability or fulfillment (Szymanski & Hise, 2000; Zeithaml et al., 2002).Service satisfaction results from perceptions of quality or value. Customers will decide whether they are receiving fair treatment based on their own service experiences and expectations (Oliver, 1999). With the aim of satisfying its customers, a service firm needs to fulfill three customer expectations; product quality, service quality, and price value. In a service management context, customer satisfaction is the consequence of the customer’s perception of value received from the transaction or relationship with the service providers (Lam, Shankar, Erramilli, & Murthy,2004). Consumers’ perceptions of good service are closely related to their appreciation of the exceptional value they have received from a service exchange with a service provider, and customer satisfaction reflects the customer’s overall feeling derived from that value.

2.2.2 Service Encounter

The model of service encounter in itself relies on Shostack’s (1985,p 243) definition of the term “service encounter” as ” a period of time during which a consumer directly interacts with a service “. Shostack’s definition includes all aspects of the service firm with which the consumer may interact including its personnel, its physical facilities, and other tangible elements during a given period of time.

For consumers, appraisal of a service firm often depends on evaluation of the “service encounter” or the period of time when the customer interacts directly with the firm. Knowledge of the factors that influence customer evaluations in service encounters is therefore decisive, particularly at a time when general perceptions of service quality are declining.

2.2.3 Customer Expectation

Parasuraman et al. (1988) suggested that customer expectations are what the customers think a service should offer rather than what might be on offer. Zeithaml et al. (1990) identified four factors that influence customers’ expectations: word-of-mouth communications; personal needs; past experience; and external communications.

2.2.3.1 Word of mouth communications

Word of mouth communication relates to secondary evidence from other users and is considered to be a potential determinant of expectations. High recommendations positively influence expectations, while poor publicity will result into poor expectations on the part of potential consumers. According to Bansal and Voyer (2000); the higher the risks that customers perceive in purchasing a service, the more actively they will seek and rely on word of mouth communication to guide their consumption pattern.

2.2.3.2 Personal needs

According to Durvasula et al. (1999); building strong customer-focused relationships requires understanding the needs of specific customers and the firm’s success in meeting these needs. Hence, expectations vary according to the individual consumers’ characteristics and prevailing circumstances.

2.2.3.3 Past experience

Literature suggests that consumers rarely approach the decision to purchase with a clear and open mind (O’Neil and Palmer, 2003). They generally base themselves on their previous knowledge and experience to sift through the conundrums of stimuli they are subjected to. Similarly, De Bono (1977) suggestion that the mind is like a pattern-making system that constantly tries to make new images and information fit to previously gathered and recorded data.

Katz (1968) pointed out that experience depends on and influences perception, since it involves changes in behaviour which necessitate meaning and order being given to sensory data. Van Der Wagen (1994) proclaimed that individual customers have many different perceptions, which are influenced by their education, upbringing, experience and many other factors. Researchers advocate that expectations of service quality may be an almost meaningless notion for customers who are first time users of a service and who are therefore unable to form a complex set of expectations (Boulding et al., 1993 and 1999).

2.2.3.4 External communications

Effective communications is the basis of long term relationships which in turn impacts positively on the firm (Caruana and Pitt, 1997). As such external communications influence significantly the perception of the service delivered throughout consumers’ expectations. If much is promised, and likewise communicated, to the consumers, then the latter are deemed to have greater expectations of the service being experienced (Zeithaml et al. 1990).

2.3 Components and Requirements of Customer Satisfaction

The concept of customer satisfaction is composed of several components from distinct sources

(McColl-Kennedy & Schneider, 2006). Customer satisfaction starts with clear, operational definitions from both the customer and the organization.

Understanding the motivations, expectations, and desires of both gives a foundation in how to

best assist the customer. It can even provide information on making improvements in the nature of business. This is the heart of research into customer satisfaction (Naylor & Greco, 2002). The

importance of clearly defining the key concepts and elements of satisfaction provide a template by which information can be assembled about what is, and what is not, working. This includes both the hard measures – those that are more tangible and observable (i.e., number of complaints, average wait time, product returns, etc) and the soft measures – those less tangible aspects (i.e., friendliness, helpfulness, politeness, etc) (Hayes, 1998). These definitions often start with the most elusive and general, and become more to the highly specified and precise examples. The bottom line is that in order to know about customer satisfaction, one needs to know what to look for (Mitchell, 1999). The organization needs to search for this information from both within and without. The organizational requirements of customer satisfaction are the internally based processes, components, standards, and criteria that a business struggles to achieve. These are the performance aims and benchmarks set forth by the business, for the business. These are the elements of corporate culture (Hayes, 1998). Meeting or exceeding these often indicates success or failure. At times, these indigenous components of customer satisfaction may overlap with those laid down by the customer; at others they may be divergent. Those processes, components, and standards that are deemed important by customers are another important source of information. In order for a business to meet the needs and desires of the customer, the business must know the latter’s needs and desires. This information is of fundamental importance not only for successful business, but also for understanding and improving customer satisfaction. This important component helps to set the standards and components of satisfaction from the perspective of the consumer (Hayes, 1998).

Satisfaction dimensions are developed from the previously identified requirements. These are the specific components that constitute the requirements. For example, if a customer and organizational requirement is for customer service, the satisfaction dimensions may include interactions, timeliness, and responsiveness. These are the clusters that define the requirements (Hayes, 1998).

Critical incidents are the explicit operations that relate to the satisfaction dimensions. These are frequently the concrete and measurable behaviours and actions of employees, groups, or organization. This may also include policies, procedures, and protocols in place within an organization (Hayes, 2008). From this continued definition and distillation of various sources of data, the actual development of a particular customer satisfaction instrument or tool can begin in earnest. As always, the planning of the research is the most important component in a successful information-gathering process. It will be of an additional help that a model of customer satisfaction that incorporates the organizational and customer requirements exists and is applicable in practice.

2.4 Service Quality Dimensions

The main concern in decision on developing the dimension of service quality is the wide range of areas which should be included in the survey of the research. Different dimensions of service quality are used for different industries. However, there are some similarities on the chosen dimensions (Lagrosen, 2004). Many authors have developed service quality dimensions to suit their customers’ preferences. Researchers agree that there is no single dimension which can be applicable for all the service sectors (Carman, 1990; Brown, 1993; Cronin and Taylor, 1994). They also agree that customers must be the determinant of service quality dimensions rather than the management or the academic staff of the respective university. (Parasuraman, 1985; Cronin and Taylor, 1994; Carman, 1990; Lagrosen, 2004; Madsen and Carlsson; Lee et al, 2000).

Parasuraman et al, (1991) initially developed ten dimensions and later categorize it into five dimensions. The earlier ten service quality dimensions developed by Parasuraman et al, 1985 are summarize in Table1.0 below :

Table 1.0 : Service Quality Dimensions developed by Parasuraman et al, 1985

No.

Service Quality Dimensions

Brief Description

1

Reliability

service carried out in the way it is promised

2

Responsiveness

services that are carried out promptly according to the needs of the customers

3

Competence

service provider’s staff have the knowledge and skills required for delivering the service in a proper way

4

Access

concerns with examples such as opening hours, physical location, etc

5

Courtesy

staff are polite, friendly, respectful, etc.

6

Communication

keeping customers informed in a language that they can understand and listen to them

7

Credibility

service provider is trustworthy, believable and honest

8

Security

freedom from danger, risk or doubt

9

Understanding the customer

service provider makes an effort to understand the needs and wants of the individual customers

10

Tangibles

physical objects that are required for carrying out the service such as facilities, equipment, etc

Through an empirical test, the authors in the course of time have condensed the ten dimensions into five (Parasuraman and Berry, 1991; Zeithaml et al, 1990) .In their study, the data on the 22 attributes were factor analyzed and resulted in the following five dimensions shown in Table 2.0 below :

Table 2.0 : Service Quality Dimensions by Parasuraman and Berry, 1991; Zeithaml et al, 1990

No.

Service Quality Dimensions

Brief Description

1

Tangibles

physical facilities, equipment, appearance of personnel

2

Reliability

ability to perform the desired service dependably, accurately, and consistently

3

Responsiveness

willingness to provide prompt service and help customers

4

Assurance

employees knowledge , courtesy, and ability to convey trust and confidence

5

Empathy

provision of caring, individualized attention to customers

2.5 Measurement of Service Quality

Grönroos (1984) shows that service quality include three dimensions. The first is the technical quality which refers to the results or what is being delivered to or what customers gain from the service. The second dimension is the functional quality which refers to the way in which the service is delivered or how it is delivered. Finally, the corporate image which refers to store’s image which is largely based on both the quality of technical, artistic, and to some extent other factors such as traditional marketing activities. The most widely used service quality model is the Robinson’s 1990s model (1999) which was proposed by Parasuraman et al., (1985). Their model supported Grönroos’ findings as the model has its source on the following three core themes. First, service quality is more difficult for the consumer to evaluate than goods’ quality. Second, service quality perceptions result from a comparison of consumer expectations with actual service performance. Finally, quality expectations are not made solely on the results of the service (Parasuraman et al.,1985).

The SERVQUAL scale is a principal instrument in the services marketing literature for assessing quality (Parasuraman et al., 1991; Parasuraman et al., 1988). This instrument has been widely used by both managers (Parasuraman et al., 1991) and academics (Babakus and Boller, 1992; Carman, 1990; Crompton and MacKay, 1989; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Johnson et al., 1995; Webster, 1989) to assess customer perceptions of service quality for a variety of services (e.g. banks, credit card companies, repair and maintenance companies, and long distance telephone companies). Based on Parasuraman et al.’s (1988) conceptualization of service quality, the original SERVQUAL instrument included two 22-item sections that intended to measure (a) customer expectations for several aspects of service quality, and (b) customer perceptions of the service they actually received from the focal service organization (Parasuraman et al., 1988). In short, the SERVQUAL instrument is based on the gap theory (Parasuraman et al., 1985) and suggests that a consumer’s perception of service quality is a function of the difference between his/her expectations about the performance of a general class of service providers and his/her assessment of the actual performance of a specific firm within that class (Cronin and Taylor, 1992).

The results of the initial published application of the SERVQUAL instrument indicated that five dimensions of service quality emerged across a variety of services (Parasuraman et al., 1988). These dimensions are reliability, responsiveness, tangibles, assurance, and empathy (Carman, 1990; Crompton and MacKay, 1989; Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988, 1991). Reliability involves consistency of performance and dependability (i.e. a firm performs the service right the first time and honors its promises); responsiveness concerns the willingness or readiness of employees to provide service (e.g. timeliness of service); tangibles are the physical evidence of the service (e.g. physical facilities, appearance of personnel, or tools or equipment used to provide the service); assurance corresponds to the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence ,and finally empathy which pertains to caring, individualized attention that a firm provides to its customers.

A study by O’Neill et al. (2001) indicated some benefits of using the SERVQUAL approach such as its ability to make a clear suggestion of how well the company performs to meet the customer’s requirement according to the customer’s perception. Besides, SERVQUAL also helps the company to priorities customer needs, wants and expectations derived from customer’s opinion. Furthermore, SERVQUAL allows the organization to set the standards to meet the quality requirement spelt out by customers and other stakeholders.

2.6 Quality Service Models

Various service quality models have emerged with time such as Nash,1988; Heywood-Farmer,1988; Beddowes et al.,1988; Philip and Hazlett,1997; Robeldo,2001 . However, it is to be pointed out that the SERVQUAL (Asubonteng et al.,1996; Robinson,1999; Waugh,2002) approach to determine service quality developed by Parasuraman et al (1985,1988) has been and still remains the best researched method

2.6.1 Gronroos (1984) Perceived Service Quality Model

According to Gronroos (1984), the service quality experienced by a customer has two dimensions; namely the technical quality and the functional quality. Functional quality describes how the service is delivered and technical quality describes what the customers received during a service delivery.

The organisation’s image works as a filter and can therefore positively or negatively modify the customers’ perception of service quality. Gronroos (2007) acknowledged that the model was planned to offer a conceptual framework to understand the features of service and is not a measurement model.

Gronroos (2001) identifies a list of determinants of good service quality and argues that the list needs to be short but comprehensive for it to be useful for managerial purposes. By expanding the argument, Gronroos (2007) highlighted that the following ‘seven criteria of good perceived service quality’ are the determinants that should to be considered when evaluating the service quality of any organization.

Professionalism and Skills

Attitudes and Behaviour

Accessibility and Flexibility

Reliability and Trustworthiness

Service Recovery

Serviscape

Reputation and Credibility

However, the above mentioned ‘seven criteria of good service quality ‘ concepts have very similar characteristics to the Parasuraman et al (1985) ‘Ten determinants of service quality’ which identified from a series of focus group discussions.

2.7 The Disconfirmation Model of Service Quality

The SERVQUAL model was developed by A. Parasuraman and colleges in the USA. Likewise SERVQUAL is based on the expectations disconfirmation approach known as disconfirmation paradigm.

The model of service quality, which they made, identifies the reasons for any gaps between customer expectations and perceptions (refer to flowchart below). Gap 5 is the outcome of gaps 1, 2, 3 and 4. If these four gaps, all of which are positioned below the line that separates the customer from the company, are closed then gap 5 will close. The gaps are explained as more fully described below:

Gap 1 is the gap between what the customer expects and what the company’s management thinks customers expect. Customers’ expectations versus management perceptions: as a result of the shortage of a marketing research orientation, inadequate upward communication and too many layers of management.

Gap 2 is the gap that arises when management fails to design service standards that meet customer expectations. Management perceptions versus service specifications : as a result of inadequate commitment to service quality, a perception of unfeasibility, inadequate task standardization and an absence of objective setting.

Gap 3 occurs whenever the company’s service delivery systems – people, technology and processes – fail to meet and deliver to the specified standard .Service specifications versus service delivery: as a consequence of role ambiguity and conflict, poor employee-job fit and poor technology-job fit, inappropriate supervisory control systems, lack of perceived control and lack of teamwork.

Gap 4 occurs when the company’s communications with customers promise a level of service performance that people, technology and processes are unable to deliver. Service delivery versus external communication: as a result of inadequate horizontal communications and propensity to over-promise.

The Gap Model

Obrazek

Adapted from : A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for future research” (The Journal of Marketing, 1985), A. Parasuraman, VA Zeitham and LL Berry

To find the level and extent of the Gap 5, authors developed the 22 item SERVQUAL scale. The model’s authors identified five core components of service quality: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness.

Gap5: The discrepancy between customer expectations and their perceptions of the service

delivered: as a result of the influences exerted from the customer side and the underperformance (gaps) on the part of the service provider. In this case, customer expectations are influenced by the extent of

personal needs, word of mouth recommendation and past service experiences.

The relative importance of these variables is also measured. This enables you to compute the relative importance of any gaps between expectation and perceptions. Management can then focus on strategies and tactics to close down the important gaps.

SERVQUAL can be used or adapted to measure service quality in variety of service settings. Another advantage is that it can be used to compare competitors and associated with a wide range of services.

This method could be adopted for internal marketing. It is based on the idea that every employee within an organisation, particularly a service organisation, should recognise that they have customers to serve. There is a positive link between both internal service quality and external service quality and hence similarly with customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and the profitability of the organisation. Market research can be adopted for use with employees. Personnel can be given the opportunity to give feedback to management about working conditions, company policy in general and workers’ own understanding about what comprises quality for the customer. The relationship between organisational subunits and their relationship to top management are crucial. This can be assessed by a variation of the SERVQUAL instrument.

Parasuraman et al. (1985), on the basis of the non-confirmatory paradigm, conceive a service quality model to which they add a nuance, important in our opinion, in the sense that the evaluation of the quality of the service cannot be done on the basis of the actual result of

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