Managing Service Quality

Another way for a service firm to succeed is by delivering consistently higher-quality service than that of its competitors and by exceeding customers' expectations. These expectations are formed by the firm's past experiences, word of mouth, and advertising. After receiving the service, customers compare the perceived service with the expected service. If the perceived service falls below the expected service, customers lose interest in the provider. If the perceived service meets or exceeds their expectations, they are apt to use the provider again.

Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry formulated a service-quality model that highlights the main requirements for delivering high service quality.20 The model, shown in Figure 4-7, identifies five gaps that cause unsuccessful service delivery:

Figure 4-7 Service-Quality Model

Figure 4-7 Service-Quality Model

Service Quality Gap Hospital

1. Gap between consumer expectation and management perception: Management does not always perceive correctly what customers want. Hospital administrators may think that patients want better food, but patients may be more concerned with nurse responsiveness.

2. Gap between management perception and service-quality specification: Management might correctly perceive the customers' wants but not set a specified performance standard. Hospital administrators may tell the nurses to give "fast" service without specifying it quantitatively.

3. Gap between service-quality specifications and service delivery: Service personnel might be poorly trained, or incapable or unwilling to meet the standard. Or they may be held to conflicting standards, such as taking time to listen to customers and serving them fast.

4. Gap between service delivery and external communications: Customer expectations are affected by statements made by company representatives and ads. If a hospital brochure shows an attractive, modern room, but the patient finds an older, unappealing room, external communications will have distorted the customer's expectations.

5. Gap between perceived service and expected service: This gap occurs when the consumer misperceives the service quality. The physician may keep visiting the patient to show care, but the patient may interpret this as an indication that something really is wrong.

In addressing these gaps and pursuing service quality, well-managed service companies share the following common practices: a strategic concept, a history of topmanagement commitment to quality, high standards, systems for monitoring service performance and customer complaints, and an emphasis on employee satisfaction.

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