Retail Service Quality

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A Measure of Service Quality for Retail Stores: Scale Development and Validation

Pratibha A. Dabholkar Dayle I. Thorpe Joseph 0. Rentz
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Current measures of service quality do not adequately capture customers 'perceptions of service quality for retail stores (i.e., stores that offer a mix of goods and services). A hierarchical factor structure is proposed to capture dimensions important to retail customers based on the retail and service quality literatures as well as three separate qualitative studies. Confirmatory factor analysis based on the partial disaggregation technique and cross-validation using a second sample support the validity of the scale as a measure of retail service quality. The implications of this Retail Service Quality Scale for practitioners, as well as for future research, are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

The retail environment is changing more rapidly than ever before It is characterized by intensifying competition from both domestic and foreign companies, a spate of mergers and acquisitions, and more sophisticated and demanding customers who have greater expectations related to their consumption experiences (Sellers 1990, Smith 1989). Consequently, retailers today must differentiate themselves by meeting the needs of their customers better than the competition. There is general agreement that a basic retailing strategy for creating competitive advantage is the delivery of high service quality (e.g., Berry 1986; Hummel and Savitt 1988; Reichheld and Sasser 1990). The most widely known and discussed scale for measuring service quality is SERVQUAL, a scale designed to Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Volume 24, No. 1, pages 3-16
Copyright © 1996 by Academy of Marketing Science.
measure five dimensions of service quality: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Although SERVQUAL has been empirically tested in a number of studies involving "pure" service settings (e.g., banking, long-distance telephone service, securities brokerage, and credit card service), it has not been successfully adapted to and validated in a retail store environment. In fact, little research has been conducted in retail settings, defined here as stores that offer a mix of merchandise and service. A retail store experience involves more than a nonretail service experience in terms of customers negotiating their way through the store, finding the merchandise they want, interacting with several store personnel along the way, and returning merchandise, all of which influence customers' evaluations of service quality. Thus, although measures of service quality for pure service environments and for retail environments are likely to share some common dimensions, measures of retail service quality must capture additional dimensions. Our purpose is to investigate the dimensions of service quality in a retail environment and to develop and validate a scale to measure retail service quality.

EXPLORING POSSIBLE FACTOR STRUCTURES FOR RETAIL SERVICE QUALITY

An examination of the retail literature offers little to support a theory-based factor structure of retail service quality. The retail literature focuses on service quality at either the integrated or the attribute level; there is a lack of discussion of service quality at the factor (or dimension) level. At the integrated level, Westbrook (1981) suggests that two broad categories of retailer-related experiences

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4 JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF MARKETING SCIENCE

are important to the customer: (1) m-store experiences and (2) experiences related to the merchandise In-store experiences include interactions with store employees as well as the ease of walking around the store. Experiences related to merchandise include quality and availability of merchandise. Although we agree that these experiences are important to retail...
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