The SERVQUAL model is a multidimensional structured service quality research tool that assesses the consumer expectations and perceptions of service across five dimensions to determine the quality of service provided.
For a business to understand what caliber of services it provides, what the consumers expect from its services, and how the consumers perceive its services are all research questions that can go a long way in helping the business improve its overall service. Ensuring the customer experience is satisfactory is crucial to forming a long-lasting relationship with the customer and keeping the company in a good light in the public eye. For this to be possible, there is a need for constant monitoring on all fronts of customer service to identify gaps in service quality and the designing and implementation of a better system.
Managers usually did not have a lot of information to analyze when identifying service quality gaps. First came the identification of these gaps, and then the decision to make a priority list to decide which problem to take care of first. To enable companies to take on the task of closing service quality gaps, the SERVQUAL model was introduced. This model optimized the process of identifying service quality gaps using different dimensions, increasing the efficiency tenfold.
The History of the SERVQUAL Model
The SERVQUAL model was first published in 1985 to tackle the issue of identifying and studying quality gaps in the service sector. Designed by researchers Valarie Zeithami, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard L. Berry, this model sought to provide companies with an efficient way of improving the deficiencies in their service quality.
This model was essentially designed for the service sector due to the differences between a company that provides services and one that provides products. A business that sells products can physically inspect its product to keep a check and balance on quality control. In contrast, a service firm cannot test its service in the same way due to its intangibility and diversity
The 5 Dimensions of the SERVQUAL model (The RATER model)
The SERVQUAL model is also referred to as the ‘RATER’ model, named after the acronym formed by the first letters of the 5 dimensions. These dimensions are
- R – Reliability
- A – Assurance
- T – Tangibles
- E – Empathy
- R – Responsiveness
Customers will always want to deal with a business that is honest and makes good on its promises. Reliability is defined as the ability of a business to perform the offered service accurately, within the correct timeframe, and with dependability. This includes delivery conditions and time, service quality, after-sales service, pricing promises, consistent and clear communication, etc. Remember: customers will always be ready to do business with businesses that can walk the walk, so it is integral to provide core services to the best of your ability while keeping the customer expectation of reliability in mind.
This dimension is concerned with gaining the trust of customers and making them feel at ease with choosing your company. It is most important in businesses where the customer cannot initially evaluate their feelings towards the company. Hence the employees need to be aware of their job to create trust between them and the customer to solidify a good business-customer relationship since the employee acts as a representative of the whole company.
Seeing as how the service provided by a company is itself usually intangible, here the tangibility refers to surrounding physical facilities and their features. This includes equipment, personnel, the products used, communication tools. The quality of these tangibles helps customers answer the SERVQUAL questionnaire questions relating to the physical aspects of the service.
Like assurance, empathy is a dimension created to specifically cater to the customer’s needs when it comes to service provision. Empathy refers to the individual-focused, undivided attention a business shows to its customers to meet their needs and expectations accurately. This builds the confidence of the customer in the business, hence improve brand loyalty. If customers are not shown the proper attention, they will search elsewhere for better service.
Responsiveness is defined as the willingness of a business to help its customers and its efficiency in providing quick and flexible service to them. It includes the company’s ability to deal with customers respectably, provide after-sales assistance, and respond to requests and complaints. The quality of a company’s responsiveness is gauged by its flexibility in service customization on a case-by-case basis, communication, and customer assistance.
The Content of the SERVQUAL questionnaire
The SERVQUAL scale questionnaire consists of 22 questions that were drawn up after the original consideration of 97 factors across 4 different service industries (credit cards, banking, repair and maintenance, telephone companies).
The SERVQUAL instrument questionnaire was split into two parts. The first part asked respondents to outline their expectations of ideal service from the specific service category. This varies based on the type of service provided and gives a benchmark of what is expected from the companies.
The second part of the questionnaire asks respondents about the service quality of specific businesses of that service category. This gives researchers the ability to compare the perceived service quality between different competitors in the industry while also comparing the expected and delivered service quality of each business. Lastly, researchers can use the questions within the questionnaire to zero in on where a business is under or overperforming in relation to the expectations of the customer or competitor quality level.