Service Quality To Service Loyalty
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Service Quality To Service Loyalty Document Transcript

  • 1. TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT, VOL. 9, NO. 6, 1998, 431 ± 443Service quality to service loyalty: Arelationship which goes beyond customerservicesJAY K ANDAMPULLYCommerce Division, Lincoln University, Canterbur y, New ZealandAbstract The premise of `quality of ser vice’ as the competitive edge in gaining market leadershiphas been well recognized both in academic research and by leading ser vice organizations. However,it has become increasingly important for organizations to ® nd ways, not only to reach the top, but tomaintain that leadership in an ever increasing competitive market-place. In order to protect theirlong-ter m interest, ser vice organizations are seeking ways to forge and to maintain an on-goingrelationship with their customers. This paper presents the changing focus of ser vice quality from amere competing instrument to that of the basic core of the ser vice concept in meeting and exceedingcustomer expectations. It is argued that long-ter m super iority of a ser vice ® r m is dictated by theorganization’s ability to maintain their relationship with the customer by oþ ering `ser vice loyalty’ : ademonstration of the organization’s commitment to maintain the ser vice promise. The thesis hereargues that ser vice loyalty precedes customer loyalty. This paper outlines how a ® rm’s ser viceemployees develop the emotional connection with customers which leads to exceptional ser vice and theability to exceed customer expectations. It is proposed that oþ er ing loyal ser vice gives an organizationthe advantage, not only to be able to ful® l customers’ present needs, but also the ability to anticipatetheir future needs. This ability to anticipate presents the ® rm with the opportunity to sur prise anddelight customers on a consistent basis thereby reinforcing to the customer, the ® r m’s ser vice loyaltyand subsequently eþ ecting a responsive and sustained patronage.IntroductionOne of the greatest challenges facing organizations today is the ever-growing com petition,the continuous increase in custom er expectation ( Joseph & Walker, 1988; Leonard & Sasser,1982; Takeuchi & Quelch, 1983) and customers’ subsequent demands as service improves(Ettorre, 1994). M oreover, customers are becoming increasingly critical of the quality ofservice they experience (Albrecht & Zemke, 1985a). Custom er demand and competition areforcing ® rms to cut loose from the traditional customer satisfaction paradigm, to adoptproactive strategies which will assist them to take the lead in the market-place. One strategy which has gained momentum, in services, is the concept of quality andquality management. According to Berry et al. (1988), service quality has become agreat diþ erentiator and the most powerful competitive weapon which many leading serviceCorrespondence to Jay Kandam pully (Tel: 006 4 3 325 2811, ext. 8453; Fax: 006 4 3 325 3847).0954 ± 4127 /98/060431-1 3 $7.00 199 8 Carfax Publishing Ltd
  • 2. 432 JAY KANDAMPULLYorganizations possess. Service business success has been associated with the ability to deliversuperior service (Gale, 1990; Rudie & Wansley, 1984). Delivering superior service bymaintaining high quality is a prerequisite for success (Parasuraman et al., 1988). Leadingservice organizations strive to m aintain a superior quality of service in an eþ ort to gaincustomer loyalty (Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996); thus, a service organization’ s long-term successin a market is essentially determined by its ability to expand and maintain a large and loyalcustomer base. M oreover, the yardstick by which an exceptional service organization may bemeasured is its returning customer ratio: the loyal customer base. Evaluating the impact ofservice quality through customer retention will help companies to gauge the ® nancial impactof service quality (Zeithaml et al., 1996). W hile service organizations aim to gain customers’ loyalty, customers, on the otherhand, seek an organization’s service loyalty (the assurance of a consistent and superior qualityof service) as proof of the organization’ s commitment to oþ ering superior service, for boththe present and the long term. Berry (1987) proposed the idea of earning loyalty by beingloyal. While gaining loyalty from the customer has been a topic of study in the past, thisstudy proposes the concept of loyalty being oþ ered by a service organization to its customers.Thus, the purpose of this study is to initiate the development of a conceptual model for`service loyalty’ and to ascertain strategies which will assist companies to retain theircustomers. It is argued here that service loyalty precedes customery loyalty, and, hence, it isimperative that service organizations convince their customers of their commitment tosuperior quality of service now, and in the future. The criteria for future success willsubsequently be determined by organizations’ ability to oþ er loyalty: to ful® l their customers’present needs, to anticipate their prospective needs and to enhance on-going relationship.The author suggests that `loyalty’ should be perceived as a verb not as a noun; customerloyalty is tim e-speci® c and thus non-permanent. Organizations must, therefore, constantlystrive to develop and maintain their customer’ s loyalty or, as is true in the majority ofrelationships, risk losing it to someone else.Service quality: A changing philosophyThe primary objective of the service provider is identical to that of the tangible goodsproducer, i.e. to develop and provide oþ erings that satisfy custom er needs, thereby ensuringtheir own economic survival. To achieve this objective, service providers will need tounderstand how customers evaluate the quality of their service oþ erings, how they chooseone organization in preference to another and on what basis they give their long-termpatronage. Service quality is one of the most dominant themes of research in services (Fisk et al.,1993). During its infancy, service quality research based its foresight on consumer behaviourand the con® rmation/discon® rmation paradigm (Gronroos 1992). According to this para-digm, as customers consume a product, they compare the quality they have experienced tothat of their prior expectations (Swan and Comb, 1976), which leads to an emotionalreaction manifested in the satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the products or services purchased(Woodruþ et al., 1983). Thus, instead of using quality concepts from manufacturing, services marketing research-ers based their work on developing a service quality concept on models from consumerbehaviour (Brown et al., 1992). Following extensive research on the so-called perceivedservice quality model, it has been recognized that customers evaluate service quality bycomparing the service provider’s actual perform ance `perceptions’ with what they believe
  • 3. SERVICE QUALITY TO SERVICE LOYALTY 433service performance would be `expectations’ in their service experience (Gronroos , 1982;Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1982; Lewis & Booms, 1983; Lindqvist, 1987; Parasuraman et al.,1985; Zeithaml et al., 1988). According to Lewis and Booms (1983), service quality is a measure of the degree towhich the service delivered matches customer expectations. Delivering quality service meansconform ing to customer expectations on a consistent basis. Extensive study on servicequality conducted by researchers Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml have proposed thenotion that service quality can be measured (Parasuraman et al., 1988, 1991b, 1994)using the SERVQUAL instrument and managed using expectationsÐ the perform ance gapmodel (Zeithaml et al., 1988; Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996). Despite criticisms of the generalapplicability of the perceived service quality model (SERVQUAL instrument) by Croninand Taylor (1994), this instrument is a concise multiple-item scale with good reliability(Lewis & Mitchell, 1990) and has been widely accepted as a valid instrument (Carman,1990; Clark et al., 1992; Finn & Lamb, 1991; Fisk et al., 1993) in the measurement ofservice quality. D elivering superior quality of service has been recognized as the most eþ ective means ofensuring that a company’s oþ erings stand out from a crowd of look-alike competitive oþ erings(Parasuraman et al., 1991a). Furthermore, it constitutes a weapon which many leadingorganizations possess (Berry et al., 1988). Research speci® c to these issues has repeatedlydemonstrated the strategic advantage of superior quality in contributing to pro® t and marketshare (Buzzell & Gale, 1987; Gale, 1992; Koska, 1990; Zeithaml et al., 1996). The customer’s perception of quality of service is based on the degree of concordancebetween expectations and experience. Where comparability is apparent, the customer isdeemed to be satis® ed; however, in many cases, this will not be enough to create a competitiveadvantage. M ore and more, there is a need to oþ er superior service (Parasuraman, 1995)and to exceed customer expectations (Berry & Parasuraman, 1991; Klose, 1993; W ren,1988) to delight the customer, as opposed to merely satisfying his/her needs (Brown et al.,1992; Timmers & van der Wiele, 1990). Customers will remain loyal to a service organization if the value of what they receive isdetermined to be relatively greater than that expected from competitors (Zeithaml & Bitner,1996). W hile service quality has proved to be an essential ingredient to convince customersto choose one service organization over another, many organizations have realized thatmaintaining excellence on a consistent basis is imperative if they are to gain customer loyalty.This long-term perspective has created a strong shift in orienting service strategy towards aservice promise (Albrecht, 1988; Albrecht & Zemke, 1985b; Hart, 1990). M oreover, in thepresent competitive setting, if one were to understand the lifetime value of a customer(Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996), developing a long-term customer relationship is param ount(Gronroo s, 1990b, 1991; Peters, 1988) to an organization’ s survival. Customers commonly desire personalized and close relationships with service providers(Parasuraman et al., 1991c); moreover, custom ers value the bene® ts of maintaining therelationship (Zeithaml et al., 1996). It has become increasingly important for serviceorganizations’ vision to conceptualize the service concept beyond the short-term ® nancialgoal to the long-term `relational value’ . The relational value paradigm (between: customerand employee; customer and service organization; employee and service organization;service provider and service intermediaries) has now become more important than everbefore. A remarkably clear changing philosophy behind service quality is lucidly apparentfrom almost all leading service organizations. The concept of loyalty and the interdependentpartnership has gained notable recognition among both academics and leading serviceorganizations.
  • 4. 434 JAY KANDAMPULLYResearch outlineHere, it is suggested that today’s proactive service ® rms operate on two fundam entalstrategies: (1) To exceed the expectations of customers by anticipating their needs and subsequently surprising and/or delighting them. (2) To maintain a long-lasting relationship with customers by oþ ering loyal service.Numerous studies have been conducted in an attempt to determine the essential nature anddevelopment of loyalty, i.e. how organizations can create and enhance customer loyaltythrough products and services. Recognizing its importance, previous researchers examinedthe many facets of loyalty: brand loyalty (Bloom , 1981; Carman, 1970; Cooper & Inoue,1996; Cunningham, 1967; Day, 1969; Frank, 1967; Jacoby, 1971; Olson & Jacoby, 1971;Zeithaml, 1981); store loyalty (Langrehr & Rinne, 1987; Samli & Sirgy, 1981); customerloyalty (Fredericks & Salter, 1995; Lowenstein, 1993; M aruca & Halliday, 1993; O’ Brien &Jones, 1995; Ostrowski et al., 1993; Reichheld, 1993); repeat business (Collis, 1990;Crowford, 1993; Lynch, 1995; Sellers, 1989; W iersem a & Thompson, 1991). Research addressing loyalty within the context of the service industry has traditionallyfocused on the m eans by which loyalty may be acquired. Snyder (1986) studied howcustomers’ loyalty to a service organization m ay be measured accurately. Czepiel and Gilmore(1987) proposed a model showing the development of customer loyalty in services. Gremlerand Brown (1996) argued that the loyalty of the service customer is a multi-dim ensionalconstruct, comprising three dimensions: behavioural loyalty, attitudinal loyalty and cognitiveloyalty. The focus of this research is on `service loyalty’ : a service organization’s commitm ent toits customers, which is manifested in activities undertaken by the organization for thedevelopment of a long-term relationship with the customer, eþ ecting loyal service, everytime, all the time.The concept of ser vice innovation and the position of qualityCustomer satisfaction no longer constitutes the convincing focus for success, it has beenreplaced by customer delight (Brown et al., 1992). In today’s competitive environm ent,customers’ expectations and technological innovation demand that service leaders distinguishthemselves from the competition by truly delighting the customer (Kandampully, 1997).According to Timmers and van der W iele (1990), satisfying the customer is not enough:there is a compelling need to delight the customer if a competitive advantage is to beachieved. Exceptional service which delights customers requires that organizations undertakecontinuous service innovation. Service innovation, as de® ned here, is a process involved withthe transformation of an organization’s dormant assets (service elements which includetechnology, service processes, environment and people) into something of substantiallygreater value to both the custom er and the organization. Customers’ perception of exceptional service is often associated with the personalinteraction of the employees (Kandampully, 1993). Services management literature hasrepeatedly emphasized the importance of the hum an element in the delivery of superiorservice (Crosby & Stephens, 1987; Gronroos , 1990b; Parasuraman et al., 1985; Solomonet al., 1985). Moreover, the human propensity for the delivery of superior service is greatlyenhanced by continuous service innovation. Indeed, technological im plementation and thesubsequent changes in the service process not only has the potential to aþ ect em ployee±
  • 5. SERVICE QUALITY TO SERVICE LOYALTY 435 Figure 1. In¯ uences on the delight factor.customer interaction positively, but may actually augment the importance of the humanelement as an organization’s competitive edge (see Fig. 1). Service excellence is now an integral part of any superior service (Berry & Parasuraman,1992), it is not the value-adding peripheral but actually constitutes the core of the servicepromise (Kandampully, 1996). In other words, quality was introduced to many ® elds ofindustry as an elem ent designed to eþ ect competitive advantage (Berry et al., 1988; Berry &Parasuraman, 1991; Brunell et al., 1992; Peters & Waterman, 1982). Quality was thusconceived as a peripheral value-adding com ponent of a service (Parasuraman et al., 1991b).However, the position of quality, from a customer’s point of view, has moved from a value-adding perspective to that of an uncompromisable component of the service promise(Kandampully, 1996). Hence, I argue that quality in services has moved from the peripheralsto the core (see Fig. 2). This perceived repositioning of the quality element has major rami® cations for servicemanagement. This new position of quality within the service package demands that servicemanagers reconsider and subsequently redesign the services they oþ er.Exceeding expectations through em otional relationshipsWe now live in a service economy where relationships are becoming more important thanphysical products (Albrecht & Zemke, 1985a), in terms of both our business and our personallives. Business is nothing but relationship (M cCormic, 1988) and, within service industries,this relationship is an interactive process (Booms & Bitner, 1981). Services are commonly Figure 2. Q uality as the core ser vice.
  • 6. 436 JAY KANDAMPULLYoþ erings designed to assist, serve or ful® l customers’ personal needs, where the customercommonly seeks to establish and maintain a relationship; with the service provider (Parasura-man et al., 1991c). Customer satisfaction and subsequent desire to develop a relationshipemanates from the em otional connection to the service provider (Stauss, 1996). In manyservices, emotion is an element of the service delivery process (Kandampully, 1993) andplays an important role in shaping the customer’s perception of service quality. This emotionalelement of the service process is indeed that which subsequently constitutes the genesis ofthe all-important relationship. This emotional bond leads the customer to buy repeatedly orexclusively from that service provider (Butz & Goodstein, 1996). The challenge for today’ s organizations is not merely to reach the top, but to stay there.If that is an organization’ s aim, its primary focus should be not m erely to attract customers,but to obtain their loyalty and, thus, their patronage, not only for the present, but also forthe long term. This loyalty, however, is the end result of an on-going, long-term relationship.Such relationships are founded on an organization’s ability to maintain and extend itsrelationships with customers (Gummesson, 1994). According to Levitt (1983), buyer± sellerinteraction is similar to a marriage; the quality and duration, however, depends predominantlyon the eý cacy with which the organization manages the relationship. Customer± supplierrelationships are central to exceeding customer expectations (Parasuraman et al., 1991c). Itis, indeed, the progressive, responsive relationship with the customer which manifests in`service loyalty’ and, ultimately, gives an organization service superiority. Almost all business interactions are conceived as relationships between the ® rm and thecustomer; m aintaining this long-term relationship is the true indicator of the ® rm’s success.However, in most business situations, it is not common to see a long-term relationshipbetween the service provider and the customer. M ost of these relationships tend to besurprisingly short term in nature. On the assumption that they will lose a number of theircustomers, ® rms strive to attract more customers than those with whom they realisticallyexpect to forge a relationship. By this very process, the ® rm establishes a system whichaccordingly ensures that only half of its customers succeed in receiving services commensuratewith their expectations, while the other half become dissatis® ed and subsequently leave. Customers seek a business interaction on the tacit understanding that they will receivethe service they require; they neither desire nor expect to receive mediocre service or theexperience dissatisfaction. Further, in reality, customers are inherently loyal and seek aloyal relationship; when customers seek service, they are essentially seeking to establish arelationship. Customers have a greater need to maintain a relationship with the service ® rmbecause of the unique features inherent in services, namely intangibility, inseparability ofproduction and consumption, heterogeneity and perishability. The customer’s desire for arelationship is, thus, founded on the tacit understanding that this will proþ er a guarantee ofservice reliability and ful® l not only the custom er’s present but also his/her future needs. Thus, it is apparent that customers cannot `try out’ services; they purchase a serviceprior to experiencing it and must trust the ® rm to deliver the perceived service promise(Berry & Parasuram an, 1992). W hile service ® rms attract their customers through theirpromise, the customer’s decision to purchase is founded on the trust that the ® rm will ful® lhis/her needs. Moreover, the human interaction evident during the service delivery processcommonly reinforces the customer trust (Evans & Crosby, 1988), and eþ ectively strengthensthe relationship (M cKenna, 1991). Bell (1993) is of the view that customers are loyal toservice providers who trust them. According to him, it essentially communicates one-half ofa partnership reaching out to the other half. Customers acknowledge and reward suchpartnerships by manifesting allegiance: transient sampling transpires into long-term relation-ships. Once customers receive con® rmation that such trust is warranted, they desire and seekto maintain that relationship loyalty.
  • 7. SERVICE QUALITY TO SERVICE LOYALTY 437 Gummesson (1987) identi® es two dimensions of relational quality in the service interface.He de® nes them as professional relations and social relations. The professional relationshipis grounded on the service provider’ s demonstration of competence; the social relationship isbased on the eý cacy of the service provider’s social interaction with the customer. Researcherssuch as Crosby et al. (1990) and Lagace et al. (1991) studied many aspects of relationshipquality, and perceive it as a buyer’s trust in a salesperson and satisfaction in the relationship.Additionally, research conducted by Bejou et al. (1996) concludes that custom er± salespersonrelationship quality is an important prerequisite to a successful long-term relationship. Let us consider, as an example, the number of times we seek to change our dentist,hairdresser, accountant or doctor. Our aim is to create an emotional connection with them;transference, however, becomes evident only when they fail to live up to their promise.According to Berry et al. (1990), breaking the service promise is the single most im portantway in which service com panies fail their customers. Firms are established on the premise of oþ ering and delivering good service and thecreation of satis® ed customers. However, it is apparent that, despite the comparability of theconsumer’ s and producer’ s aspirations, the system implemented to ensure the ® rm’s survivalengenders the reason behind its demise. We commonly ® nd that management’s predominantconcern is to market continuously: to increase awareness and to attract more customers tochoose the ® rm’s products or services. Management has failed to understand that the truepurpose of marketing is to build and maintain strong relationships (bridge) between theproducer and the customer, thus reinforcing the producer’ s promise and, ultimately, thebond between the producer and the customers. Christopher et al. (1991) express the view that there has been a change in the focus ofmarketing: transactional marketing emphasizes the individual sale, whereas relationshipmarketing is designed to eþ ect a long-term, on-going relationship. Gronroo s (1990b) arguesthat developing and maintaining long-term relationships is of paramount importance to a® rm’s competitiveness. Gummesson (1996), similarly, proposes that ful® lment of the service promise may inspire a long-term relationship, positively aþ ecting long-term customer reten- tion and sustainm ent, and subsequently reduce the likelihood of customer defection. Accord- ing to Gummesson, relationship marketing, in principle, encourages retention marketing ® rst and attraction marketing (attracting new customers) second. M oreover, companies that focus extensively on attracting new customers may fail to understand the changing needs and expectations of their existing customers (Zeithaml & Bitner, 1996). From a customer’ s perspective, a strong relationship with the supplier constitutes the ® rm’s accessibility in the event of something going wrong. In professional services such as medical and legal services, this emotional bond is frequently esteemed more highly, by the customer, than the service itself. In many service business situations, this emotional bond is created through personal interaction with the service provider (employee) and constitutes a primary and eþ ective marketing medium. It is often witnessed that a ® rm’s customers exhibit more loyalty to the service providers than to the ® rm itself and, conversely, according to Parkington and Schneider (1979), front-line employees are sometimes more loyal to their customers than to their m anagement. Parkington and Schneider’ s ® ndings reinforce the fact that loyalty is instigated and developed between the service provider and the customer. Service ® rms have many opportunities to utilize creatively the relationships established between service personnel and their customers. However, service ® rms continue to rely on traditional management functions, notably non-personal marketing techniques. A good example from the airline industry is the `frequent ¯ ier’ programme. In this case customers are often not loyal to the service ® rm, as they are essentially attracted into forming a relationship based on sentiment associated neither with the service provider nor with the
  • 8. 438 JAY KANDAMPULLYorganization, but are attracted solely by the evident potential material bene® ts. This type offorced relationship does not manifest as a loyal relationship; it tends to be short term ineþ ect, since it will not prevent the customer’ s exit to a competing organization. According toCzepiel and Gilmore (1987),market loyalty often results in repeat purchase behaviour. Thetrue bene® t of loyalty is not only continued patronage, but a willingness to voice dissatisfactionand to give time to improve the ® rm’s shortcomings, as opposed to exit. Once custom ershave experienced service loyalty and developed a bonding relationship with a company, itrenders a competing ® rm’s comparable oþ erings less attractive. A sim ilar view is expressed by Hirchman (1970). According to him, the presence ofloyalty makes exit less likely. He indicates that, when exit is possible, one of the principledeterminants of readiness to resort to voice, by the customers, is clearly due to their specialattachmentÐ their loyaltyÐ to the ® rm. Thus, he adds that, even with a given estimate ofone’s in¯ uence, the likelihood of voice increases with the degree of loyalty. A customer witha considerable attachment to an organization will often seek ways to make him self/herselfin¯ uential, particularly when the ® rm moves in the wrong direction. This constitutes thetrue purpose of the ® rm’s customer feedback system, m arket research and other marketcommunication channels. However, many ® rms have failed to understand the essential genesis of the loyalrelationship. In their haste to improve the eý ciency of the relationship, they have directedtheir attention towards measurement of the relationship, as de® ned by customer satisfactionand perceived quality. Stauss (1996) proposes a qualitative satisfaction model which resultsin ® ve diþ erent qualitative satisfaction types comprising diþ ering patterns of emotions,cognitions and intentions. Citing various examples, he goes on to argue that a globalsatisfaction score fails to constitute the only valid indicator for custom er loyalty. Here, it is argued that, although it may prove to be one of the factors favouring thegrowth of a relationship, customer satisfaction alone is insuý cient for the fruition of a loyalrelationship. Thus, in order to create a loyal relationship, it is not suý cient to studyand measure satisfaction/dissatisfaction. In fact, organizations should, instead, focus onunderstanding the cause of strong or poor relationships: the factors in¯ uencing the origin ofrelationships, their development and the means through which they may be maintained. The most successful service companies emphasize employees’ personal attention as thepre-eminent factor for service delivery (Berry et al., 1990). A ® rm’s relationship with itscustomers is instigated and established by the service personnel who interact with thecustomer day in and day out. It is the service personnel’s commitm ent to seamless, consistentand superior service that enables the ® rm to create the emotional, lasting, loyal relationshipwith the customer in which personal interaction assumes centre stage. Gummesson (1993)is of the view that contribution to relational quality is created through direct contact with thecustomer, which, in most cases, is through service personnel. Direct contact with thecustomer, on an intimate level, enables employees to develop the emotional connectionthrough which they are able to understand and anticipate the unexpressed needs of thecustomer. Here, it is argued that, while customer services aim to satisfy the expressed needs of thecustomer, service loyalty, on the other hand, enables the ® rm to understand, and commonlyto anticipate, customers expressed and unexpressed needs. According to M artin (1986),eþ ective anticipation requires that service consistently remain one step ahead of the customer’ sneeds. It is apparent, therefore, that products and services should be provided before theneed has been identi® ed by the customer; services cannot be deemed superior if they becomeevident only upon request. Thus, referring to Fig. 3, the service personnel (human element) in an organization are
  • 9. SERVICE QUALITY TO SERVICE LOYALTY 439 Figure 3. Model for ser vice loyalty.crucial to the em otional connection and development of a long-term relationship with thecustomer. In many service situations the service personnel’ s interaction with the customerhas been recognized as a critical determinant of satisfaction (Surprenant & Soloman, 1987)and, in many cases, this person essentially epitomizes or de® nes the service to the customer(Boom s & Nyquist, 1981; Lewis & Entwistle, 1990). Parasuram an et al. (1991c), in theirresearch, found evidence substantiating customers’ desire for a closer relationship with serviceproviders. As previously indicated, Parkington and Schneider’s (1979) study concluded thata ® rm’s employees show a tendency to develop close relationships with the customer. Thisability to anticipate and delight customers constitutes the foundation on which organizationsexhibit and con® rm their service loyalty. Delivering loyal service establishes and maintainsthe long-term relationship, commonly de® ned as customer loyalty.ConclusionsThis study adds a new dimension to the existing body of knowledge in the ® eld of servicequality and relationship management. In conclusion, the author proposes that a true, loyalrelationship between a ® rm and its customer is created by the organization’s ability to connectemotionally and forge along-term bond with the customer. In fact, a custom er’s loyalty andtrust is gained by the service personnel’s commitment to seamless, consistent and superiorservice, which manifests itself, to the customer, as `service loyalty’ . Thus, he argues thatservice loyalty precedes customer loyalty. I suggest that, regardless of the rhetoric or sincerity of intention, if customer trust islimited or absent there is no foundation for a permanent and successful relationshipÐ henceno loyalty. Thus, service loyalty is a prerequisite in today’ s competitive environment if anorganization is to maintain market leadership. It is through service loyalty that an organizationachieves customer delight and customers’ honest participation (custom er voice) in therelationshipÐ this is, indeed, the key to continuous improvement and sustained superiority. Some of the important issues identi® ed from this study for future research are: (1) How service loyalty assists service organizations to sustain a superior quality of service as customers’ expectations maintain a dynamic momentum. (2) The eþ ects of service loyalty and how it enhances service promotion through word of mouth.
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