The SERVQUAL service quality model was developed by a group of American authors, 'Parsu' Parasuraman, Valarie Zeithaml and Len Berry, in 1988. It highlights the main components of high quality service. The SERVQUAL authors originally identified ten elements of service quality, but in later work, these were collapsed into five factors - reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness - that create the acronym RATER.
Businesses using SERVQUAL to measure and manage service quality deploy a questionnaire that measures both the customer expectations of service quality in terms of these five dimensions, and their perceptions of the service they receive. When customer expectations are greater than their perceptions of received delivery, service quality is deemed low.
In addition to being a measurement model, SERVQUAL is also a management model. The SERVQUAL authors identified five Gaps that may cause customers to experience poor service quality.
Gap 3: between service quality specification and service delivery
This gap may arise through service personnel being poorly trained, incapable or unwilling 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: 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 which case the patients' 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 5: between expected service and experienced service
This gap arises when the consumer misinterprets the service quality. For example, a 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 are:
- 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 includes 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 enables the customer to feel 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 to delight the customers by rising above their expectations.
- 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 the readiness and willingness of employees to help customers by 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 five factors that enable the acronym RATER:
- Reliability: the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
- Assurance: the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence
- Tangibles: the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials
- Empathy: the provision of caring, individualized attention to customers
- Responsiveness: the willingness to help customers and to provide prompt service
The simplified RATER model allows customer service experiences to be explored and assessed quantitatively 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). The 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 two clusters of criticisms based on theoretical and operational criteria. Nyeck, Morales, Ladhari, and Pons (2002) reviewed 40 articles that made use of SERVQUAL and discovered “that few researchers concern themselves with the validation of the measuring tool”.
- 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 Difusion, 7(13), 101-107. Retrieved July 8, 2007, from EBSCOhost database.