Based on the disconfirmation model, these models view service quality as the gap between the expected level of service and the customer’s perceptions of the actual service received. The gaps model proposes that consumers’ overall service quality perceptions are a result of comparisons between expectations and perceptions. The higher the service quality expectation in relation to actual performance, the lower the level of perceived service quality. Similarly, the lower the expectation in relation to actual performance, the higher the level of perceived service quality. In this way the gaps model sees service quality as a disconfirmation between expectations and perceptions. The gaps model (see figure 4.2) serves as a useful diagnostic tool for evaluating why service quality is failing, and comprises two primary sections. The first section section, comprising four gaps that are aimed at management, reflects potential service failure as a result of management’s actions. These gaps provide a framework for management to understand the causes of service quality failure. The second section, or fifth gap, occurs at the consumer level. This gap suggests that the difference between expected and perceived levels of service form consumers’ overall perception of service quality. It is this gap that is the central focus of the gaps model. It is also this gap that the SERVQUAL instrument measures
Three broad stages in consumer choice. Need recognition: physiolocical needs, safety & security needs, social needs, ego needs and self-actualisation. Different drivers that prompt consumers to move to the next stage.
Various researchers have developed models of service quality. Five of the key models include, in chronological order: the disconfirmation of expectations model (Oliver 1977, 1980, 1981); the Nordic model developed by Grönroos (1982; 1984); the SERVQUAL/Gaps model developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985, 1988, 1991); and the three-component model developed by Rust and Oliver (1994). More recently, researchers (Dabholkar, Thorpe & Rentz 1996, Brady & Cronin 2001) have focused on integrating the perspectives of these four service quality models in an effort to extend current thought in service quality into the twenty-first century. It is important that we explore each of these models so that we can see how service quality as a construct has developed over time. We begin with the disconfirmation of expectations model, which is the cornerstone of service quality research. Student activity Ask students to think about tertiary education. What constitutes quality in education? Ask students in groups to write down how they would assess quality in education. Provide two or three groups with overheads to write their answers on. Use the student overheads to highlight the aspects identified as you talk about each model in turn.
Much of the early service quality theory draws from research into how disconfirmed expectations affect product perceptions. That is, if our expectations are not met we change our perception and attitude toward a product. Many early models of service quality are based on the disconfirmation model used in the physical goods literature (Oliver 1977). The disconfirmation of expectations model shown in figure 4.1 was developed from the seminal work of Oliver (1980). This model proposes three determinants of customer (dis)satisfaction: expectations, perceptions and (dis)confirmation. Using adaptation level theory as a basis, Oliver (1980) claims that customers form expectations before the purchase of a product or service, with expectations acting as a standard or frame of reference against which the service performance is judged. Within this conceptualisation, expectations form a baseline for consumers’ satisfaction levels. The higher the expectation in relation to actual performance, the greater the degree of disconfirmation and the lower the level of satisfaction to be achieved. The model also implies that if customer expectations for a service are relatively low, then they may be satisfied with a service experience even if the performance is poor. For example, if a restaurant has a reputation for very inexpensive meals, customers will probably expect to wait or queue for a table and may not expect a high degree of personal service.
Grönroos’s (1984) model represents the service experience on the basis of functional and technical elements. The concept of technical quality refers to what the consumer receives from the service, or the outcome of the service process — for example the actual haircut from a hairdresser or legal advice from a solicitor. The functional quality of the service refers to the way the service is delivered as reflected through the consumer’s perception of interactions that occur during the service encounter. This might include, for example, the friendliness of the hairdresser, the amount of attention given to the customer and so on. Within this model, Grönroos contends that, in forming service quality perceptions, consumers compare the expected level of service and the actual service performance they receive. The key implication of this model for managers is the clear distinction drawn between the service itself and how it is delivered. This model emphasises that companies must be careful what they promise to consumers. The attributes and benefits popularised by companies through traditional marketing activities, such as advertising and promotion, must be realistic when compared to the service that customers eventually receive. If firms promise a level of service above what they can actually deliver, customers will be unsatisfied and unhappy with the service they receive.
The three-component model includes factors relating to the service product, service delivery and service environment, as shown in figure 4.3. The service product is the consumer’s overall perceptions of the service offering and outcome, including any additional services that accompany its delivery. The service delivery refers to the interaction between consumers and the organisation within the service setting. Because services are intangible, variable and inseparable, the communication between provider and customer shapes the way the customer perceives the service delivery. The service environment is the internal and external environment. Literature on the internal environment focuses on the organisational culture and philosophy of management. The external environment, termed the ‘servicescape’ by Bitner (1992) reflects the setting in which the service is delivered. The implications of this model are that organisations can target three main elements of service quality to improve their overall service quality. The model helps us to better understand how service quality works and suggests the elements on which managers should base service quality research. Management would need to develop surveys that reflect these three dimensions, in their specific industries, to properly assess consumers’ service quality perceptions.
Reliability refers to the firm’s ability to deliver a promised service dependably and accurately (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1985). An example of this is a taxi driver arriving promptly and taking you to your destination safely and efficiently. Assurance refers to the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1985). For example, an accountant is knowledgeable, skilled, qualified and has a good reputation. Tangibles are the physical facilities, equipment and the appearance of staff (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1985). For example, a hairdressing salon should be neat and tidy, employees appropriately dressed, and so on. Responsiveness refers to the service provider’s willingness to help customers and provide prompt service (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1985). In a dentist surgery, for example, the dentist should be accessible, there should be no waiting and staff should be willing to listen. Empathy is demonstrated by giving caring, individualised attention to customers (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1985). For example, employees should understand consumers’ needs, listen to their concerns and be patient.
Recap - The Gaps model (Zeithaml,
Parasuraman & Berry 1990)
Recap: Stages in Consumer Decision
Making and Evaluation of Services
Frequently Asked Questions
About Customer Expectations
Should a company aim to ‘delight’ the customer?
How does a company exceed customer service expectations?
Do customer service expectations continually escalate?
Is it a better strategy to under-promise and over-deliver?
How does a service company stay ahead of competition in meeting customer
The Nordic model
Represents the service experience on the basis of functional
and technical elements
Technical quality refers to what the customer receives from
Functional quality refers to service delivery
Model emphasises companies must be careful what they
The three-component model Rust &
Source: Rust & Oliver, 1994. p. 11
Customer expectations of service
Types of expectations customers hold for service
Sources of customer expectations
Dual customer expectations levels
and the Zone of Tolerance
Zones of Tolerance for Different
Source: L. L. Berry, A. Parasuraman, and V. A. Zeithaml, “Ten Lessons for Improving Service Quality,”
Marketing Science Institute, Report No. 93-104 (May 1993).
Factors That Influence Desired
PPeerrssoonnaall NNeeeeddss Zone
Factors That Influence Adequate
Factors That Influence Desired
and Predicted Service
Zone PPaasstt EExxppeerriieennccee
Factors which influence consumers’ perceptions
Factors which influence satisfaction
Dimensions of service quality
Customer Perceptions of Quality and
Specific product or service features
Attributions for service success or failure
Perceptions of equity or fairness
Other consumers, family members, and coworkers
the customer’s mood or emotional state
ASCI and Annual Percentage Growth
in S&P 500 Earnings
Source: C. Fornell “Customer Satisfaction and Corporate Earnings,“ commentary appearing on ACSI website, May 1, 2001,
Relationship between Customer
Satisfaction and Loyalty in Competitive
Source: James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., and Leonard A. Schlesinger, The Service Profit Chain, (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1997), p. 83.
The customer’s judgment of overall excellence of the service
provided in relation to the quality that was expected.
Service quality assessments are formed on judgments of:
physical environment quality
The SERVQUAL dimensions –
Perceived Service Quality
(Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry 1988)
Reliability (dependability, accurate performance)
Assurance (competence, courtesy, credibility & security)
Tangibles (appearance of physical elements)
Empathy (easy access, good communications & customer understanding)
Responsiveness (promptness & helpfulness)
The Five Dimensions of
Ability to perform the promised service
dependably and accurately.
Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their
ability to inspire trust and confidence.
Physical facilities, equipment, and appearance of
Caring, individualized attention the firm provides
Willingness to help customers and provide
Identify Service Attributes
In groups of five, choose a services industry and spend 10 minutes
brainstorming specific requirements of customers in each of the five
service quality dimensions. Be certain the requirements reflect the
customer’s point of view.