SERVQUAL or RATER is a service quality framework. SERVQUAL was developed in the mid-1980s by Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry. SERVQUAL means to measure the scale of Quality in the service sectors.
The service quality model or the ‘GAP model’ developed by a group of authors- Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry at Texas and North Carolina in 1985, highlights the main requirements for delivering high service quality. It identifies five ‘gaps’ that cause unsuccessful delivery. SERVQUAL was originally measured on 10 aspects of service quality: It measures the gap between customer expectations and experience. The basic assumption of the measurement was that customers can evaluate a firm's service quality by comparing their perceptions with their expectations. SERVQUAL has its detractors and is considered overly complex, subjective and statistically unreliable.
Customers generally have a tendency to compare the service they 'experience' with the service they 'expect' . If the experience does not match the expectation, there arises a gap.
Gap between consumer expectation and management perception : This gap arises when the management does not correctly perceive what the customers want. For instance – hospital administrators may think patients want better food, but patients may be more concerned with the responsiveness of the nurse. Key factors leading to this gap are:
- Insufficient marketing research
- Poorly interpreted information about the audience's expectations
- Research not focused on demand quality
- Too many layers between the front line personnel and the top level management
GAP 2 :
Gap between management perception and service quality specification : Here the management might correctly perceive what the customer wants, but may not set a performance standard. An example here would be that hospital administrators may tell the nurse to respond to a request ‘fast’, but may not specify ‘how fast’.Gap 2 may occur due the following reasons:
- Insufficient planning procedures
- Lack of management commitment
- Unclear or ambiguous service design
- Unsystematic new service development process
Gap between service quality specification and service delivery : This gap may arise owing to the service personnel. The reasons being poor training, incapability or unwillingness to meet the set service standard. The possible major reasons for this gap are:
- Deficiencies in human resource policies such as ineffective recruitment, role ambiguity, role conflict, improper evaluation and compensation system
- Ineffective internal marketing
- Failure to match demand and supply
- Lack of proper customer education and training
GAP 4 :
Gap between service delivery and external communication : Consumer expectations are highly influenced by statements made by company representatives and advertisements. The gap arises when these assumed expectations are not fulfilled at the time of delivery of the service. For example – The hospital printed on the brochure may have clean and furnished rooms, but in reality it may be poorly maintained – in this case the patient’s expectations are not met. The discrepancy between actual service and the promised one may occur due to the following reasons:
- Over-promising in external communication campaign
- Failure to manage customer expectations
- Failure to perform according to specifications
Gap between expected service and experienced service : This gap arises when the consumer misinterprets the service quality. The physician may keep visiting the patient to show and ensure care, but the patient may interpret this as an indication that something is really wrong.
The ten determinants that may influence the appearance of a gap were:
- Competence is the possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service. For example, there may be competence in the knowledge and skill of contact personnel, knowledge and skill of operational support personnel and research capabilities of the organization.
- Courtesy is the consideration for the customer's property and a clean and neat appearance of contact personnel, manifesting as politeness, respect, and friendliness.
- Credibility is the factors such as trustworthiness, belief and honesty. It involves having the customer's best interests at prime position. It may be influenced by company name, company reputation and the personal characteristics of the contact personnel.
- Security is the customer feeling free from danger, risk or doubt including physical safety, financial security and confidentiality.
- Access is approachability and ease of contact. For example, convenient office operation hours and locations.
- Communication means both informing customers in a language they are able to understand and also listening to customers. A company may need to adjust its language for the varying needs of its customers. Information might include for example, explanation of the service and its cost, the relationship between services and costs and assurances as to the way any problems are effectively managed.
- Knowing the customer means making an effort to understand the customer's individual needs, providing individualized attention, recognizing the customer when they arrive and so on. This in turn helps in delighting the customers i.e. rising above the expectations of the customer.
- Tangibles are the physical evidence of the service, for instance, the appearance of the physical facilities, tools and equipment used to provide the service; the appearance of personnel and communication materials and the presence of other customers in the service facility.
- Reliability is the ability to perform the promised service in a dependable and accurate manner. The service is performed correctly on the first occasion, the accounting is correct, records are up to date and schedules are kept.
- Responsiveness is to the readiness and willingness of employees to help customers in providing prompt timely services, for example, mailing a transaction slip immediately or setting up appointments quickly.
By the early 1990s, the authors had refined the model to the useful acronym RATER:
- Empathy, and
The simplified RATER model however is a simple and useful model for quantitatively exploring and assessing customers' service experiences and has been used widely by service delivery organizations.
Nyeck, Morales, Ladhari, and Pons (2002) stated the SERVQUAL measuring tool “appears to remain the most complete attempt to conceptualize and measure service quality” (p. 101). SERVQUAL measuring tool has been used by several researchers to examine numerous service industries such as healthcare, banking, financial services, and education (Nyeck, Morales, Ladhari, & Pons, 2002).
Francis Buttle critiques Servqual in the article “SERVQUAL; review, critique, research agenda" and comes up with these three key criticisms: Perception and expectation are very subjective, and thus not good measures, that there isn’t necessarily a direct relationship between service and quality, and the measures in the model are not necessarily the right things to be measuring. The fact that SERVQUAL has critics does not render the measuring tool moot. Rather, the criticism received concerning SERVQUAL measuring tool may have more to do with how researchers use the tool. Nyeck, Morales, Ladhari, and Pons (2002) reviewed 40 articles that made use of the SERVQUAL measuring tool and discovered “that few researchers concern themselves with the validation of the measuring tool” (p. 106).
- Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, "Delivering Quality Service; Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations," Free Press, 1990.
- Francis Buttle, 1996, "SERVQUAL: review, critique, research agenda," European Journal of Marketing, Vol.30, Issue 1, pp. 8–31
- Luis Filipe Lages & Joana Cosme Fernandes, 2005, "The SERPVAL scale: A multi-item instrument for measuring service personal values", Journal of Business Research, Vol.58, Issue 11, pp. 1562–1572.
- Deborah McCabe, Mark S. Rosenbaum, and Jennifer Yurchisin (2007), “Perceived Service Quality and Shopping Motivations: A Dynamic Relationship,” Services Marketing Quarterly, 29 (1), 1-21.
- Nyeck, S., Morales, M., Ladhari, R., & Pons, F. (2002). "10 years of service quality measurement: reviewing the use of the SERVQUAL instrument." Cuadernos de Diffusion, 7(13), 101-107. Retrieved July 8, 2007, from EBSCOhost database.