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Any business strives to achieve customers’ satisfaction as one of the main indicators of demand and verification of quality by target market audience. The service sector is extremely customer-oriented and commercial success depends on the level of satisfaction. Evaluation of service quality, as the most complex and important process for both customers and organizations, involves the SERVQUAL service quality model as one of its main components. When employing modeling approach, the noted model reflects the measure of the service quality through estimating perceptions and expectations by employees from the provided services. The criteria of estimation, which are used in the model, include: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness.
The Elements of Service Quality (RATER)
As the model for measurement, the SERVQUAL service quality uses particular points for the customers who would determine the level of their expectations and perceptions of the provided and obtained services. These points are the elements of the model that label reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness. They serve for determination, how expectations of the customers match their perceptions (Ladhari 2009).
Reliability as one of the dimensions is a feasibility of the promised service to be performed properly and dependably. Perception of reliability by the customers occurs during the actual process of providing the service or by satisfaction from the obtained results. All characteristics of service are estimated according to its available and included components according to market supply and quality standards. These results appear in the form of sensations, by which a person evaluates reliability and usefulness of the provided service. At the same time, customers are able to assess their expectations of reliability, which are formed on the basis of their needs.
The concept of quality includes assured service, as it has the guarantees and certainty of the vendor or the manufacturer of the product. Perception of assurance is gained due to competence and experience of the personnel, its ability to create an atmosphere of confidence and trust, and the opportunity to inspire the customers to purchase the service (Santos, et. al., 2015). Strong impact of the employees on the customers increases the level of assurance included in the product quality and, consequently, customers’ satisfaction from using the service. Assurance is a component, expectations of which are natural and can potentially improve overall assessment of service quality. This mechanism may occur due to difference in the volume of information that accompanies promotion of services. If an organization has more information about the service provided, hence, has more confidence than the customer, the customer’s expectations of the service may be lower than perception of these guarantees because of the assurance, which provides the staff (Chingang, & Lukong 2010).
Although the service is not a tangible product of a company, it certainly is accompanied by tangible assets, or tangibles. They are also a specified component in evaluation of the quality of services. Due to tangibles, the customers can essentially assess perception of the received service as tangibles can be realized through physical ability, for example, presence and support of the personnel, ability to visit the office, check equipment, etc. Actually, it is a physical sensation of additional services rendered. Customer expectations with respect to tangibles can hardly be fully formed here, but they have a chance to be lower than the actual perception. Thus, holistic level of customer satisfaction will be increased.
Empathy conforms to assurance and displays the level of relations between personnel and the customers. It is the level of creditability, individual approach, attention and care that the customer can feel from the employees in provision of services, pre- and after-sales service. Perception of empathy is considered as one of the main components of service quality, as it largely determines satisfaction of the customers. It is not only competence of the employees that is important, but also their personal features and skills in human relationship and leadership. Expectations are manifested almost at the same level as they are natural desire of a person to be serviced respectfully and empathically.
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Responsiveness is another determinant of the service quality. Therefore, the customers perceive ability of the personnel to promptly and willingly provide quality services. Perception of responsiveness occurs when a client needs fast, but high quality service. Ability to provide such service constantly proves that its quality is brought to a high level. Therefore, expectations of responsiveness are an important criterion in gaining customers’ satisfaction, hence are worth the efforts on the side of personnel (Mongay 2014).
It should be noted that these components, by which the client can commonly and thoroughly assess the level of satisfaction, are interrelated and constitute a single expressions from the provided service. For example, assurance includes empathy and responsiveness, while provision of full services without tangibles is hard to achieve. At the same time, empathy and assurance will be the markers of responsiveness. Therefore, the above essential elements constitute the basis of service quality assessment.
Practical Manifestation of the RATER in Assessment of Service Quality
Activities and performance of a hotel as a business unit focused on customer satisfaction provide a perfect example of practical evaluation of service quality. In this case, the RATER is applicable in evaluation of hotel services (Razi, et al., 2012).
Reliability of quality of hotel services is estimated by the ability of the clients to use all services included in the price as well as to feel their timeliness, correctness and consistency. In other words, a client should get all in the way as prescribed by the standards of quality according to the status of the hotel. Hence, expectations in this case are concluded in full compliance with the actual service to the needs of clients. At the same time, clients’ expectations vary on the degree of attitudinizing, experience of staying in hotels, demands and other personal or professional features.
Assurance plays a crucial role in assessing the quality of hotel services. Perception of this element by the client occurs when he/she receives reliable and relevant information upon the request and / or guaranteed confidence, and correction of deficiencies of hotel services. Specific expectations of assurance occur mainly at the beginning of provision of the service during the guest arrival at the hotel, while more general expectations are formed by the distant (marketing) impact on the client (advertising, advice of friends, exterior and interior).
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The tangibles of hotel services are also important for the clients, as the room, staff, material valuables, communication affect the degree of customer satisfaction and the general impressions of the hotel services. Expectations of tangibles as in the previous case are amplified by the actual acquaintance with the circumstances of the hotel services provided and depend on the length of stay, material needs etc. However, a priori tangibles include high subjective desire of material reinforcement of the services.
Empathy in the hotel services is manifested in the attitude of the hotel personnel towards the clients, namely, the extent of their goodwill, respect, compassion and care. In addition, perception of empathy by the clients is conditioned by ability of the hotel employees to demonstrate high professional knowledge and skills. Expectations can mirror the character of the client and conclude his/her wishes of the tangibles complaint to the high empathy by the hotel personnel and management.
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Customers estimate perception of responsiveness by ability of managers and service staff to meet the needs of hotel guests in the force majeure conditions or in adverse circumstances due to the fault of the hotel staff or the customer. Expectations in this case are quite vague, as they are determined by the experience of using the services of this hotel, the risk of force majeure, and the degree of empathy. However, an important part of both the expectations and perception of responsiveness is professionalism of the hotel staff.
The Gaps Which Reflect Customer Dissatisfaction
Customer dissatisfaction may occur in cases of poor quality of the service provided and/or suffered discrepancies. These include the gaps between management perception and consumer expectations, service quality specification and management perception, service delivery and service quality specification, external communication and service delivery, as well as experienced service and expected service. The above affect the level of customer satisfaction and determine the further management measurement to improve service quality. Depiction of the SERVQUAL model allows demonstrating the role of each gap for overall process of estimation of customer satisfaction.
The gap between management perception and consumer expectations is in that hotel managers were not able to define customer expectations of service quality due to poor marketing facilities or low professional interest. Therefore, this gap leaded to low satisfaction or met expectations without special additional benefit.
The gap between service quality specification and management perception occurs when the service is provided in compliance with the quality standards even if researching customer expectations from the service (Pahang-Malaysia 2011). This gap reflects low efficiency of management procedures over the service, unsystematic development processes of new service, undetermined design of service, etc.
If there is a low customer satisfaction, the manager should also pay attention to the gap between service delivery and service quality specification. Lack of training, knowledge and motivation in personnel causes the above discrepancy and is based on poor HR policy and qualitative education of the workers.
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Customer dissatisfaction may be caused by the gap between external communication and service delivery. This unfavorable obstacle often occurs when promised service does not correspond to the factual level. Customer expectations may be matured by strong marketing measurement or representatives of an organization. In cases when the promised level of service quality does not meet the expectations, there will be noted gap and customer dissatisfaction (Woods, & Parker Miles, 2014). Such effect consequently depends on over-promising statements of external activity of organization, poor management of real processes and appropriate study of customer expectations.
Moreover, if the customers have an experience in high quality service, they would not be satisfied till the promised service quality matches the one experienced before. Therefore, such discrepancy causes the gap between experienced service and expected service (Gibson 2009). At this point, the effect of the model is that service performance (customer perception) should overweigh customer expectations and form high level of customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, previous experience of the customers in qualitative service will determine their further satisfaction.
To sum up, the SERVQUAL service quality model is applicable to measure customers’ satisfaction and manage it through a number of special tools. The elements of the model (reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness) facilitate the study of the ways to evaluate the level of customer satisfaction, while the gaps between the experience and ongoing performance of both parties, customers and service organizations, prompt the last to take care of marketing approach and quality level.
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