UNIVERSITY OF ZIMBABWE
"Gaps at any point in service delivery and design damage relationships with customers." Parasurama (1988), Ziethmal (1990). In cite of this statement what gaps can occur in service quality and how can service marketing reduce them? (25)
Knowing what customers expect is the first and possibly the most critical step in delivering service quality (Kotler 2000). Ziethmal et al (1988) propounds that the central focus of the gaps model is to close the all important the customer gap - the difference between customer expectations and perceptions. According to Seaton and Bennett (1996) the gaps model suggest four provider gaps which need to be closed which are; gap 1: the listening gap – not knowing what customer expect, gap 2: the designs and standards gap - not designing services to meet customer's expectations, gap 3: the service-performance gap - not performing the service as designed and gap 4: the communication gap - not matching performance to promises. Firms need to close these gaps by understanding customer needs and delivering services to match customer expectation and perceptions through internal and relationship marketing in order to satisfy their customers and build long term relationships with them.
Gap 1 is defined as lack of understanding of customer's expectations and perceptions of the service, motivated by both lack of initiative to listen customers (Ziethmal 1989) and by a lack of common understanding when these initiatives are taken (Parasurama 1985). Managers may cause this gap if they do not interact directly with customers, be unwilling to ask about expectations or be unprepared to address them. Formal and informal methods of capturing information about customer's expectations must be developed to curd this gap through market research. Relationship marketing is essential as it ensures that the company's strategy is designed to retain customers and strengthen relationships by creating customers for life.
According to Brogowicz (1990) the difference between company understanding of customer expectations and development of customer driven service designs and standards creates provider gap 2. Standards signal to contact personnel what management priorities are and which type of performance really count. Gap 2 originates from lack of management commitment to service quality and short term profit orientation. (Zeithmal et al 1980). Absence of goal setting and inadequate commitment to service quality and unwillingness to invest jeopardize service standards. When the standards in place do not reflect customers' expectations, quality of service as perceived by customers is likely to suffer (Kotler 2000). Therefore, closing provider gap 2 by setting customer defined performance standards has a powerful positive effect building relationships with customers. In this regard management should show support through measurement of results and rewarding employees for superior service.
Gronroos (1990) propounds that one of the most important ways to avoid gap 2 is to design service clearly without over simplicity, incompleteness, subjectivity, or bias. Innovative thinking can also eliminate gap 2 problems. Marriott's express check out system was developed by someone who viewed queues at the check out desk as a challenge rather than a challenge that was inherent in the system. There are similarly effective best practices to close the design and standards gap, starting with the catchy phrase, "service research and development." Besson (2004) advocates "blueprinting" the company's services to get inside the customer's head that is, to understand the service process from the customer’s point of view.
Gap 3 is the discrepancy between development of customer-driven service standards and actual service standards performance by company employees. The wrong employees, who do not clearly understand their roles and duties,...
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