Introduction Defining service quality and its components in a form that is actionable in the workplace is an important endeavour that an organisation should not take lightly. Without a clear and unambiguous definition, employees will be left with vague instructions on improving service quality within the workplace. The result will be that each employee will be left to form and act upon his or her own definition of quality which, more often than not, may be incomplete or inaccurate. Fortunately, there are researchers such as Grönroos (1983), Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1982), and Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (hereafter referred to as PZB) (1985) who are working to uncover the factors that determine service quality and to provide a number of actionable tools that a marketer can use to gauge his or her firm’s performance. This paper will review and analyse the literature on service quality, particularly those that delineate its components as well as those that provide links to behavioural intentions. It will also critically analyse SERVQUAL, a survey tool put forth by PZB based on their findings, and show that it is an inadequate tool for measuring service quality. The paper is organised into four sections. First, it will present the dimensions of service quality. Second, it will delineate the tributary gaps that contribute to the customer gap. Third, it will present two of the competing survey tools that are being used in the industry today. Finally, this paper will present possible future directions of the service quality literature. The Dimensions of Service Quality Many scholars agree that service quality can be decomposed into two major dimensions (Grönroos, 1983; Lehtinen and Lehtinen, 1982). The first dimension is concerned with what the service delivers and is referred to by PZB (1985) as “outcome quality” and by Grönroos (1984) as “technical quality”. The second dimension is concerned with how the service is delivered: the process that the customer went through to get to the outcome of the service. PZB (1985) refer to this as “process quality” while Grönroos (1984) calls it “functional quality”. However, while PZB (1985) and PZ (2006) confirmed these distinctions, they often confusingly use “service quality” when they mean “service process quality.” Thus to avoid any
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further confusion a distinction will be made between “service process” and “service outcome”. Whenever the word service is used, it should be taken as the total service which is a combination of process and outcome. Likewise, service quality shall be used to refer to the totality of process quality and outcome quality. PZ define service quality as “the degree and direction of discrepancy between customers’ service perceptions and expectations” (2006). Thus if the perception is higher than expectation, then the service is said to be of high quality. Likewise, when expectation is higher than perception, the service is said to be of low quality. Realising that there was not enough literature to produce a rigorous understanding of service quality and its determinants, PZB (1985) conducted an exploratory investigation to formally delineate service quality. Their investigation was composed of interviews with executives from four types of service businesses (i.e. retail banking, credit card, securities brokerage, and production repair and maintenance) as well as a number of focus groups composed of individuals who have recently received services from those businesses. One of the results of this investigation was the identification of ten determinants of service process quality. PZB (1985) listed them as follows: • • RELIABILITY involves consistency of performance and dependability. RESPONSIVENESS concerns the willingness or readiness of employees to provide service. • COMPETENCE means possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service. • • ACCESS involves approachability and ease of contact. COURTESY involves politeness, respect,...
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