Measuring Service Quality - Quality Management

Historically, service quality has been measured by customer satisfaction audits, where customers either rate satisfaction on an ordinal scale or give verbal feedback on their experience of the service (or a combination of both). This has often proved to be little more than a ‘feel good measure’ where organizations get a general sense of doing OK or not doing OK. It often does not, however, impart much impetus for, or data to support, detailed improvement activity. One useful way of thinking about this is to consider the equation for customer value described in chapter on customers:

Value = Results – Expectation

The SERVQUAL model (Parasuraman et al, 1988) suggests that, in fact, we should modify this equation, because the results as delivered are moderated by the perceptions of the customer, that is, what we perceive as the result may not actually be an accurate reflection of the actual result. For example, the time to deliver a meal may meet our expressed tolerance, but due to circumstances such as mood, urgent appointments elsewhere or degree of hunger, it may feel too long to us at that particular time. So the equation modifies to:

Value = Perception -Expectation

This equation can be applied to all of the 5 dimensions of service quality identified in order to establish which elements of customer value are being delivered, and where improvement is required. The overall measure of service quality is the sum of the equation for all of the dimensions modified by the importance placed upon each dimension by customers. Clearly the importance of a dimension will vary for different services. For instance, customers at a high end restaurant will have a great focus on the tangibles whereas at a doctor’s surgery they will have a strong focus on empathy, and a train operator might be tasked principally with reliability. This is not to say other dimensions are not important, just where customers place their emphasis. So the equation further modifies to:

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