Why you should care about service quality?
Service quality is one way — probably to most universal way — customers evaluate your business. Even if you sell products — like cars — service aspects exist and may even dominate customer evaluations of your business. In marketing, this fact is termed Service Dominant Logic. When customers believe a firm provides quality service, they are more likely to:
- Be more satisfied with the service and the firm
- Recommend the business to others (both through social media, where it is amplified, and offline)
- Continue to use the services of the firm (maybe becoming loyal)
- Defend the firm when other complain or say negative things about the firm
Types of Services?
Not all services are the same, but the interesting thing is that customers appear to evaluate them the same at some level. A scale
measure this service quality is SERVQUAL and was developed in the mid ’80’s by 3 marketing researchers — Valerie Zeithaml, Parsu Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry. Their model is built on 5 gaps and its sometimes referred to as the Gaps Model. The gaps reflect disconnects between expectations of evaluations of the service, as well as other gaps. The model was mainly developed in kind of boring services, such as banking and shoe repair to reflect 5 dimensions related to the service:
- Tangibles – those elements you can touch and feel, like the car
- Empathy – the extent to which service providers treat customers as individuals
- Reliability – service is performed accurately over time
- Assurance – service providers inspire trust
- Responsiveness – willingness to respond to customer needs.
A lot of conflict exists over the applicability of this model to all types of services, but its used pretty extensively by practitioners. Another problem is it’s very complex requiring customers to respond to both expectations and evaluations to determine values for each of the 5 dimensions.
It appears SERVQUAL fails most when used to evaluate service quality for certain types of products, including:
- Hedonic products - products that excite our imagination such as travel, a movie, or decadent dessert
- Professional services – such as Dr and lawyers, but also trained services such as hairstylists and auto mechanics
- Products delivered over time — such as multi-day tours
For these types of services, building a social relationship between the service provider and the customer appears to more heavily influence customer satisfaction and evaluations of service quality.
How can you improve service quality to increase your ROI?
One way is to do a service audit or use a service blueprint to see how well you’re already doing at providing quality service. These tools help you track the customer from their first impression of your business to their last and evaluating how they might view the interaction. By setting service standards for each stage of the encounter, you can assure the service is of the highest quality at all time. If you need help in developing a service audit or setting service standards, we’re happy to help at very reasonable rates.
You should track service quality evaluations from customers over time. While you may not want to use the entire SERVQUAL scale or feel other attributes are more important for your customers, you should make an effort to measure service quality at regular intervals, not just with new customers but all customers. Measuring service quality can be tricky, so I would hire a professional to set this system up for you and do the statistical analysis if you’re not an expert in this area. Again, we can help.
Measuring service quality is only half the battle, however. You need to be able to figure out how to improve evaluations of service quality. You also need to be able to figure out why fluctuations occur and adapt to changing customer demands to bring your service quality evaluations back up.
What do you think?
Are you measuring service quality in your firm? How?
Has tracking service quality helped you reach your goals?