Service Quality cannot be understood by simply having knowledge about goods quality. Service Quality has no concrete definition but Parasuraman et al. briefly suggested service quality to be a function of customer`s expectation before purchase , expected process quality and expected output quality. Kasper et al. (1999), defined service quality as “the extent to which the service, the service process and the service organisation can satisfy the expectations of the user”, while Parasuraman et al. Defined service quality as the gap between service expected and customer perception of the actual service provided. Nitecki et al. (2000) defined service quality in terms of “meeting or exceeding customer expectations, or as the difference between customer perceptions and expectations of service.”
To continue, there are various researchers who have given several definitions for service quality. As cited in Santos (2003), Parasuraman et al. (1988) defined service quality as “The overall evaluation of a specific service firm that results from comparing that firms performance with the customer’s general expectations of how firms in that industry should perform “Also Asubonteng et al. (1996), as cited in Saha and Zhao, 2007, defined service quality as “The difference between customer’s expectations for service performance prior to the service encounters and their perceptions of the service received service quality was defined by Bitner et al. 1990, (as cited in Hank and Beak , 2004) “the consumers overall impression of the relative inferiority/superiority of the organization and its services.” However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there are various definition of service quality which may differ person to person but the inherent characteristics is the same. Definitions of service quality differ in terms of words only but normally, it involves the determination of whether perceived service delivery meets exceeds or fails to satisfy customer expectation and this was argued by Ojo (2010).
There are also, further definitions to be considered such as service quality can be defined as the difference between customer`s expectation and the actual service received. Oliver (1980) provided the service quality theory which suggested that a prediction is made where quality will be judge by customers. They will judge it as” low,” if performance is less than expectations and “high”, if performance meets expectations. Hence, to close this gap, it requires adjustments in expectation or actual service received, for example it might require toning down the expectations or heightening the actual performance (Parasuraman et al., 1985). Gronroos (1982) argued that perceived service quality of a service is resulted from an evaluation process since customers often tend to compare between services expected and actual service provided. Gronroos (1982) also provided that service quality is dependent on two variables: Expected service and perceived service. “Quality spells superiority or excellence (Taylor and Bater, 1994; Zeithaml, 1988, or, as the customer`s overall impression of the relative inferiority of the organization and its services (Bitner and Hubber, 1994; Keiningham et al., 1994-95”. Also, standards of service quality are affected by consumer behavioural intensions (Bitner, 1990; Cronin and Taylor, 1992, 1994; hoi et al., 2004)
Discussions on service quality have been done by a handful of writings (Gronroos, 1982; Lehtinen and Lehtinen, 1982; Lewis and Brooms; Sasser, Olsen and Wyckoff (1978) and some underlying themes were suggested when these writings and other related literature were examines. The first underlying point is that evaluation of goods quality is easier for customers rather than evaluation of service quality. Next theme is that service quality perceptions is a result of the difference between consumer expectation and actual service performance. Another theme is that quality evaluations are not based only on service outcome, rather they also involve evaluation of service delivery`s process.
Customer satisfaction is defined by Kotler (1996), as “the level of a person` s felt state resulting from comparing a product`s perceived performance or outcome in violation o his/her own expectation.” Therefore, customer satisfaction could be considered a comparative behaviour between the levels of service quality performance and the user`s expectations.” Cronin and Taylor (1992) defined and measured customer satisfaction as a one-item scale where to measure satisfaction, the customer`s overall feeling about a service was asked. On the other hand, Parasuraman et al.1985, 1988) used a multiple item scale to measure satisfaction using various dimensions such a SERVQUAL dimensions. For measuring customer satisfaction, it is suggested by Westbrook (1980) that for future research, a multi-item scale should be proposed, where errors lowering and improvement of scale reliability will be taken care of at the same time. Also, it is pointed out by Sureshchandar et al.2002 that customer satisfaction should be seen as a multi-dimensional construct and the measurement; items should be like the same dimensions of service quality.
Moreover, studies on customer satisfaction is often closely linked with measurement of service quality (Anderson and Sullivan, 1993; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Bitner and Hubbert, 1994; Taylor and Bakes, 1994; Rust and Olives, 1994; Levesque and McDougall , 1996) The feeling derived by a customer after having used a service is called satisfaction whereas service quality is simply: “customer’s overall impression of the relative inferiority / superiority of the organisation and its services” (Bitner and Hubbert, 1994, p.77). However, some arguments established that both service quality and customer satisfaction are: “Best conceptualised as unique constructs that should not be treated as equivalents in models of consumer decision-making” (Taylor and Bakes, 1994, p. 165)
To continue, others works have placed emphasis on the multi-faceted nature of customer satisfaction and multi-items scales have been made use of to measure customer satisfaction (Westbrook and Oliver, 1981; Crosby and Stephens, 1987; Suprenant and Solomon, 1987; Oliver and Swan, 1989; olive et al., 1992). Different multiple item scales were used such as shemwell et al. (1998) used a five-item scale while Price et al. (1995) used a six-item scale to measure satisfaction. Customer satisfaction can also be defined as a function of customer`s expectations and perceived performance according to the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm(Tse & Wilton, 1988) and it is a construct closely related to perceived service quality( Magi & Julander,1996,p.34).
To continue, Lewis and Booms (1983) argued that service quality involves a comparison of expectation with performance: “service quality is a measure of how well the service level delivered matches customer expectations. Delivering quality service means conforming to customer expectation on a consistent basis” Also, with this thinking, a model was developed by Gronroos (1982) where he contended that consumers will make a comparison between expectations and actual performance of service quality. A claim was made by Smith and Houston (1982) that customer satisfaction with service is linked to confirmation or disconfirmation of expectations. Hence, their research was based on the disconfirmation paradigm, which focuses on the point that satisfaction has a relationship with the size and direction of the disconfirmation experience where the latter is linked to a customer’s actual expectations (Churchill and Suprenant 1982). According to Peter and Olson (1996, p.509):” Pre-purchase expectations are beliefs about anticipated performance of the product; disconfirmation refers to the differences between pre-purchase expectations and post-purchase perceptions.” This disconfirmation theory is used to build up satisfaction models where there are studies on formation of satisfaction in marketing literature (Churchill and Surprenant 1982, Olives 1980) and there are also, current studies based upon information system (McKinney et al. , 2002). Liu and Khalifa, (2003) argued that this theory suggests that satisfaction is derived by the gap between actual performance and cognitive standards like wishes and expectations.
Furthermore, McKinney et al. (2002) provided that customer expectation is referred as the belief of a customer on a product before using it. Zrithaml et al. (1993) argued that customer expectations are beliefs about a service that are used as standards for judging service performance. Also, Parasuraman et al. (1988) defined it as what customer thinks is being offered by the service provider rather than thinking about what might be on offer. The words may be different in defining customer expectation but the essence and significance are the same.
Relationship between service and customer satisfaction
When reviewing the literature, it suggests that for us to understand the relationship between customer satisfaction judgements and service quality perceptions is still difficult (Taylor and Baker, 1994). Yi (1999), as cited in Saha and Zoha, (2005), defined customer satisfaction as: “customer satisfaction is a collective outcome of perception, evaluation and psychological reactions to the consumption experience with a product service “. A group of researchers has maintained by reasoning that customer satisfaction judgements are causal antecedent of judgements of service quality (Bitner, 1990; Parasuraman et al., 1988). In contrast to the above, others argued, that it is service quality which instead seems to be the causal antecedent of customer satisfaction (Anderson and Sullivan, 1993; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Oliver, 1993; Taylor and Baker, 1994; Woodside et al., 1989). These contrasting empirical evidence is showing the direction of the causal relationship between satisfaction and service quality which is likely to lead to various customer behaviour results, which in turn could have vital management relevance. (Dabholkar, 1995).
Previous studies also suggest that the service quality expected is likely to ponder more on the idea of excellence whereas satisfaction judgements are likely to ponder more on a large range of non-quality issues (Taylor and Baker, 1994; Patterson and Johnson, 1993; Rust and Oliver, 1994). To be more specific, service quality is included amongst the various antecedents of customer satisfaction, which is perhaps owing to the fact that the measurable extent of customer satisfaction judgements are global rather than precise. There are certain reported determinants of customer satisfaction and they include service quality, anticipations, disconfirmation, performance, wishes, affect and equity (Churchill and Suprenant, 1982; Glenn et al., 1998; Levesque and McDougall, 1996; Oliver, 1993; Patterson et al., 1997; Spreng et al., 1996; Szymanski and Henard, 2001). On the other hand, past studies show that formation of performance expectations, when evaluating a product or a service can be moderated by customers` expertise (Bettman, 1970; Fishbein, 1993; Fishbein and Aizen, 1975; Rosenberg, 1950).
In addition to this, previous research also suggests that customer with special skills and expertise is more likely to have higher and better knowledge of existing alternatives. Encoding new information and discriminating between relevant and irrelevant information, we also likely to be one of the special skills of the customer (Alba and Hutchinson, 1987; Johson and Russo, 1984) It is important to note that a recent study by Levesque and McDougall (1996) confirmed the fact that if a customer service is not satisfactory, then this may eventually lead to a decrease in customer satisfaction and also, customers will be reluctant to recommend the service to others unfortunately, this would result in an increase in the switching rate of customers.
Furthermore, it is important to note that with the growing competition in this world, the prime factor contributing to sustainable competitive advantage is in providing a very god quality service which results in consumer satisfaction (Shemwell et al., 1998). Service quality is seen as a form of attitude where a complete evaluation in the long-run and the two constructs (service quality and attitude) are viewed as similar (Parasuraman et al., 1988; Zeithaml, 1988; Bitner et al., 1990; Bolton and Drew, 1991a, b; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Bitner and Hubert, 1994). Allport (1935) defined attitude as “a learned predisposition to respond to an object in a consistently favourable or unfavourable or unfavourable way”. Since perceived service quality shows a general overview of service, therefore, it is seemed as similar to attitude. Perceived service quality could occur at different stages in an organisation, for e.g. with the core service, physical environment, connection with service providers etc (Bitner and Hubert, 1994). On the contrary, the satisfaction of consumer from service provided by organisation is mainly link to customer’s experiences with that organization. From the wide range of literature on service quality and customer satisfaction the con conclusion drawn is that service quality and customer satisfaction are conceptually different but closely related constructs (Parasuraman et al., 1994; Dabholkar, 1995; Shemwell et al., 1998)
Various studies have been conducted to focus on the link between satisfaction and quality and they argued for different view in terms of relationship. Amongst the various studies, some thought that quality lead to satisfaction (McDougall & Levesque, 1996, 2000); Negi (2009), while others supported the idea that satisfaction lead to quality (Cronin & Taylor, 1992). However, there are also some researchers like Parasuraman et al. (1988, p.16) that satisfaction is measured by same dimensions of the SERVQUAL model since the latter measure attitude. According to Saravanan & Rao (2007, p.436) the basis of customer satisfaction is the level of service quality delivered by service providers and the result is obtained by the customer`s cumulative experiences at all of the points of contact with company (Cicerone et al., 2009, p.28). Hence, this shows that indeed there is some connection between service quality and customer satisfaction which highlights the significance of customer satisfaction when defining service quality (Wicks & Roethlein, 2009, p.83). The above studies mentioned confirm a relationship and service quality, however, Asubonteng et al. (1996, p.66) argued that there is no such agreement on the exact kind of relationship between these two. Hence, the SERVQUAL instrument is made use of, along with its dimension to measure the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction.
It could also be said that customer satisfaction and service quality are inter-related; that is if service quality increases, customer satisfaction will also increase. This implies that there is a positive relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction. Many agree that in several sectors, recognized standard scales for measuring perceived quality are missing. Thus, for survival, competitive advantage through high quality service is rather vital. According to Bateson (1985), it is rather difficult for service providers to measure service quality since the latter has some unique characteristics such as intangibility, hererogeneity, inseparability and perishability. These complexities have given rise to various measuring models of perceived service quality(gronroos,1985;1990;Parasuraman et al.,1985;1988;1991;Stafford,1996;Balia and nantel,2000;Aldlaigan and Buttle,2002)
To continue, the most comprehensive instigation into service quality had been initiated by Parasuraman et al. (1985), over a decade over. According to Parasuraman et al. (1988), service quality was defined as the gap between customers` expectations and their perceptions of the service experience, which gave rise to the now-standard SERVQUAL multiple-item survey instrument. In the services marketing literature, the SERVQUAL scale is a prime instrument for the assessment of quality (Parasuraman et al., 1991; Parasuraman et al., 1988). This SERVQUAL scale 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.,1988;Webster,1989;Woodside et al.,1989) to measure service quality for a variety of services such as banks, credit card companies amongst others. The SERVQUAL instrument is based on a gap theory (Parasuraman et al., 1985) and originally, it included two 22-item sections (Parasuraman et al., 1988) which intended to measure customer`s perception of actual service derived.
Accordingly, when created, the SERVQUAL model was made up of ten dimensions of service quality and they were tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, communication, credibility, security, competence, courtesy, understanding the customer, and access, Parasuraman et al., 1985,(p.47-48), but afterwards, these dimensions were reduced to five because of overlapping of some dimensions( communication, creditability, security, competence, courtesy, understanding customers and access). When reviewing the literature, it is suggested that service quality is not a uni-dimensional construct of perceived service quality: reliability, tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy (Carman, 1990; Gronroos, 1984; Lewis, 1993; Britran and lojo, 1993; McDougall and Leveque, 1994; Parasuraman et al., 1988, these items reflect both expectations and perceived performance. To be more precise, tangibles are the physical evidence of the service( for example physical facilities, equipments and staff), reliability involves consistency and the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately, responsiveness is concerned with the willingness of employees to help customers and provide prompt service( example, timeliness of service), assurance corresponds to the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence, and, finally, empathy refers to the care and individual attention that the firm provides its customers.
At the same time, these dimensions mainly place their attention on the human aspects of service delivery (responsiveness, reliability, assurance and empathy) and the tangibles of service. Undoubtedly, it can be argued that there are two overriding dimensions of service quality (Levesque and McDougall, 1996; Gronroos, 1984; McDougall and Levesque, 1994; Parasuraman et al., 1991a). The first dimension refers to the core aspects of the service (example reliability) and the second one is about the relational aspects of the service (examples are tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy (Parasuraman et al., 1991a)). As per the latter, this is owing to the fact that the outcome of service is mainly concerned by reliability while the service process is concerned by tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy (Parasuraman et al.1991a). In this context, it is proposed that both the core and the relational dimensions of service quality are likely to be antecedents of customer satisfaction. According to Ladhari, (2009), the SERVQUAL model is recommended to be a good method of measuring service quality in many specific industries, however the most important dimensions, fitting that particular service should be chosen so as to ensure reliability and validity in the results. Shahin, 2005, p.3 argued that the SERVQUAL model is the best measuring technique for both customer`s expectation and perceived service quality. Service quality is being counted among the important research topic because of its relationship to costs (Crosby, 1979), profitability (Buzzell and Gale, 1987, Rust and Zahorik, 1993; Zahorik and Rust, 1992), customer satisfaction (Bolton and Drew, 1991; Boulding et al., 1993), customer retention (Reichheld and Sassen, 1990), and positive word of mouth and it is widely considered as a driver of corporate marketing and financial performance.
Tangible dimension of service quality
Since services are intangible in nature, it is often difficult for customers to understand services (Legg and Baker, 1996). Thus, customers make deductions about service quality on the basis of tangibles(buildings, physical layout,etc), which surround the service environment(Bitner,1990).this argument can be supported by empirical evidences which suggest that tangible and physical surroundings of the service environment can have a huge impact on customers` effective responses and their behavioural intensions(Wakefield and Blodgett,1999).by exploring the use of evaluative criteria in forming performance expectations, it has had a huge impact on the study of customer behaviour(Bettman,1970;Fishbein,1963;Fishbein and Ajzen,1975;Rosenberg,1950).
Regarding services, quite an amount of research has looked into the criteria used by customers in forming performance expectations (for example, Anderson et al.,1976;Tan and Chua,1986;Laroche and Taylor,1988;erol and El-Bdour,1989;erol et al.,1990;denton and Chan,1991;Kaynak et al.,1990; Khazeh and Decker,1992;Levesque andMcDougall,1996;Mittal,1999). Convenience and accessibility of location are treated as part of the tangible dimension of service quality, since they influence the formation of performance expectations by customers. Hence, tangible dimension of service quality also forms part of the important antecedent of customer satisfaction.
Last but not the least, according to Nyeck,Morales,Ladhari and pons(2000), the SERVQUAL model” remains as the most complete attempt to conceptualize and measure service quality”(p.101). Incidentally, the main benefit of the SERVQUAL model lies in its ability of allowing researches to examine various service industries such as healthcare, banking, financial services, and education (Nyeck, Morales, Ladhani and Pons, 2000). The criticisms about this model concern more on how researchers use it. By reviewing 40 articles that made use of the SERVQUAL model Nyeck, Morales, Ladhani and Pons (2000) discovered “that few researchers concern themselves with the validation of the measuring tool”(p.106). However, according to Cai and Jun, 2003, the SERVQUAL model is based mainly on customer-to-employee interactions rather than embracing the unique facets of online service quality, such as customer-to-web interactions. Han and Beak (2004) argued that despite the SERVQUAL being an acceptable instrument to measure service quality, there are still many researchers who want the SERVQUAL to be customized to the specific service area. Also, saha and Zhao (2007) argued that the SERVQUAL is not as such applied to e-services, but the dimensions that closely resemble them can be constructed.
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