The SERVQUAL concept measures the service quality on the basis of multiple service quality drivers and there are variations of what should be measured and what drivers make the overall service experience and many organizations have been adopted the model by defining their own service quality drivers based on their business model and their customer requirements.
However let’s take a look at some general service quality variables which can be pretty much applied to any business in any industry with some minor modifications:
Understanding your customers
In general quality is what quality means for the customer not for your engineers, sales reps or marketing people. Clearly understanding your customer needs and preferences is the foundation of your service and business in general.
Ongoing communication with the customer, asking questions, surveys, interviews and any other instrument should be used to improve your level of understanding your core customers. This will help you improve the quality of your services and create offerings and solutions which are customized to your customers.
Reliability measures how reliable is the company from a customer perspective. This is the perception the customers have in terms of how reliable is a particular service or company in general.
This is in reality how much your customers trust your business to deliver the same consistent quality of service over and over again by providing a continuous high level of quality. Reliability is very important in business because it drives customer loyalty, customer lifetime value and company’s reputation in general.
Competence is the knowledge, experience and capability of the company to perform certain service at a certain level. Service organizations can successfully differentiate themselves based on their core competences and core capabilities.
Being the recognized expert in your market or industry allows you to position your services in a unique way based on your customer preferences. The customer perception of your competence as a company is an important quality element.
Responsiveness is the ability, willingness and capacity of the organization to respond to customer needs and demands. In many business cases especially when it comes to service providers responsiveness is crucial for customers whose needs may change over time or their demand fluctuates over time.
This service variable is important when offering niche service solutions and specialized services as a total solution for the customer.
Credibility is the quality of being trusted. To what extend your customers trust your brand, organization, your promise, your marketing messages and any type of communication including both formal and informal.
Credibility can be built by doing a good job and building a strong base of satisfied customers and of course using a third party recommendations. Credibility is especially important for getting new customers since it can help your customers trust your promise before they start doing business with you.
Access in service business operations means creating an easy and convenient way for the customer to communicate and work with your business. The more efficient and effective access you can provide to your customers the better your service quality will be.
Quality of service depends on the attitude and behaviors of your employees (not only the customer service employees) from customer service to sales, marketing, production, etc.
Friendly service providers who are always polite and caring about their customers increase their probability of retaining the customer longer, get satisfied customers, get more referrals and recommendations and improve their market position in general.
The ability of the company to communicate effectively and respond to customer requirements is crucial for each and every service provider. Communication quality should be measured on different levels based on the company’s business, services and customers.
For example, the quality of communication when responding to customer requirements, ongoing periodic communication by sales people, newsletters, webinars and other important information helping the customer do a better job with the service on an ongoing basis, etc.
Security is a general term and can mean different things to different businesses and customers and it is very important service variable. It includes safety of the service provided but it also includes various potential risks and threats for the customer such as operational, quality and financial state of security.
As a result all potential risks and threats should be minimized by the company in order to encourage trust by the customers.
Services are more difficult to be perceived in a specific and concrete way by your customers. They can’t store them, touch them, feel them… before consumption. Compared to physical products which are tangible, services cannot be clearly perceived before they are delivered and experienced by your customer. Because of this you should always use tangibles to improve the position of your service.
For example, you can deliver tangible products along with your service, you should use tangible items in your offices, you should use ‘proof items’ such as awards, guides, tutorials, educational materials, videos, Q&A support materials, etc. to add some tangibility to your services. In addition the appearance of your employees, professional office environment, cleanliness, your equipment, etc. add some tangible elements to your business.
The main purpose of the SERVQUAL model is to use the service quality variables described above in order to measure, manage and continuously improve the service quality by identifying any quality gaps and working on closing those gaps.
These are the potential gaps which should be considered:
- Gap between what customers expect and what management thinks they expect.
- Gap between what management thinks and the service itself in terms of service structure, definition and specifications.
- Gap between the defined or desired service and the actual service which is delivered to the customer
- Gap between what is delivered to the customer and what was communicated to the customer
- Gap between what is perceived by the customer and the customer expectation.
How to use the SERVQUAL model?
Start by defining your service quality drivers or variables. Go through the definitions and examples above and define your own variables and ways to measure them. For example your definition of responsiveness, reliability or security should be unique and customized to your business.
After you define the service quality components develop the most effective measurement instruments for your business such as surveys, interviews, phone calls, customer visits, etc. to quantify your service quality.
Identify potential gaps based on the 5 types of gaps described above.
Once you have developed your own approach for measuring service quality use it periodically as a measurement and reporting system to compare results, measure improvements and find new ways to improve your services.