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Comparing service quality performance with customer service quality needs. Explanation of the SERVQUAL Methodology of Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry. ('88)

Contributed by: Paul Fedoroff



SERVQUAL Gaps ModelWhat is SERVQUAL? Description

The SERVQUAL method from Valarie A. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard L. Berry is a technique that can be used for performing a gap analysis of an organization's service quality performance against customer service quality needs.

SERVQUAL is an empirically derived method that may be used by a services organization to improve service quality. The method involves the development of an understanding of the perceived service needs of target customers. These measured perceptions of service quality for the organization in question, are then compared against an organization that is "excellent". The resulting gap analysis may then be used as a driver for service quality improvement.

SERVQUAL takes into account the perceptions of customers of the relative importance of service attributes. This allows an organization to prioritize. And to use its resources to improve the most critical service attributes.

The data are collected via surveys of a sample of customers. In these surveys, these customers respond to a series of questions based around a number of key service dimensions.

The methodology was originally based around 5 key dimensions:

  1. Tangibles. Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.
  2. Reliability. Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.
  3. Responsiveness. Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
  4. Assurance. Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence.
  5. Empathy. The firm provides care and individualized attention to its customers.

This has been adapted later by some to cover:

  1. Tangibles. Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.
  2. Reliability. Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.
  3. Responsiveness. Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
  4. Competence. Possession of required skill and knowledge to perform service.
  5. Courtesy. Politeness, respect, consideration and friendliness of contact personnel.
  6. Credibility. Trustworthiness, believability, honesty of the service provider.
  7. Feel secure. Freedom from danger, risk, or doubt.
  8. Access. Approachable and easy of contact.
  9. Communication. Listens to its customers and acknowledges their comments. Keeps customers informed. In a language which they can understand.
  10. Understanding the customer. Making the effort to know customers and their needs.

Origin of SERVQUAL. History

The authors conducted a qualitative study, from which they concluded that customers ranked the importance of two SERVQUAL dimensions consistently. Regardless of service industry. Reliability is the most important contributing factor to service quality and tangibles is the least important.

Usage of SERVQUAL. Applications

  • SERVQUAL is widely used within service industries to understand the perceptions of target customers regarding their service needs. And to provide a measurement of the service quality of the organization.
  • SERVQUAL may also be applied internally to understand employees' perceptions of service quality. With the objective of achieving service improvement.

Steps in SERVQUAL. Process

The method essentially involves conducting a sample survey of customers so that their perceived service needs are understood. And for measuring their perceptions of service quality for the organization in question.

Customers are asked to answer numerous questions within each dimension that determines:

  • The relative importance of each attribute.
  • A measurement of performance expectations that would relate to an "excellent" company.
  • A measurement of performance for the company in question.

This provides an assessment of the gap between desired and actual performance, together with a ranking of the importance of service criteria. This allows an organization to focus its resources. To maximize service quality whilst costs are controlled.

Strengths of SERVQUAL. Benefits

Most users would agree that a comprehensive and thorough examination of service needs and service quality provides an invaluable approach to improving service quality. SERVQUAL provides detailed information about:

  • Customer perceptions of service (a benchmark established by your own customers)
  • Performance levels as perceived by customers
  • Customer comments and suggestions
  • Impressions from employees with respect to customers expectations and satisfaction

Limitations of SERVQUAL. Disadvantages

There have been a number of studies that doubt the validity of the 5 dimensions. And of the uniform applicability of the method for all service sectors. According to an analysis by Thomas P. Van Dyke, Victor R. Prybutok, and Leon A. Kappelman, it appears that the use of difference scores in calculating SERVQUAL contributes to problems with the reliability, discriminant validity, convergent validity, and predictive validity of the measurement. These findings suggest that caution should be exercised in the use of SERVQUAL scores and that further work is needed in the development of measures for assessing the quality of information services.

Assumptions of SERVQUAL. Conditions

  • The results of market surveys are accurate. The validity of the model is based around the results of empirical studies. A number of academics have since performed further empirical studies that appear to contradict some of the original findings.
  • Customer needs can be documented and captured, and they remain stable during the whole process.

Book: Zeithaml Parasuraman Berry - Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations. -

Journal: Parasuraman, Berry, and Zeithaml (1988) - SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring customer perceptions of service quality - Journal of retailing 64 (1) Spring. 12-40 -

Journal: Parasuraman, Berry, and Zeithaml (1991) - Refinement and reassessment of the SERVQUAL scale - Journal of retailing 67 (4) Winter. 420-450 -

Journal: Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985) - A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for future research - Journal of marketing 49 (4) Fall. 41-50 -

Journal: Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1994) - Alternative scales for measuring service quality: A comparative assessment based on psychometric and diagnostic criteria - Journal of marketing 70 (3) Fall. 201-230 -

SERVQUAL Special Interest Group

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Compare with SERVQUAL: Relationship Marketing  |  Customer Relationship Management  |  Operational CRM  |  Extended Marketing Mix (7-Ps)  |  Customer Satisfaction Model  |  Two Factor Theory  |  Total Quality Management  |  Quality Function Deployment  |  3rd Party Logistics (3PL)  |  Service Profit Chain

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Dr. Paul Yap
Business Consultant

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