University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
Introduction There appear to be five major debates taking place in the service quality area. One debate concerns the similarities and differences between the constructs of service quality and satisfaction (see e.g. Anderson and Sullivan, 1993; Bolton and Drew, 1991; Cronin and Taylor, 1992, 1994; Oliver, 1993; Parasuraman et al., 1988; Taylor, 1993; Zeithaml et al., 1993). There appears to be a consensus emerging that satisfaction refers to the outcome of individual service transactions and the overall service encounter, whereas service quality is the customer’s overall impression of the relative inferiority/superiority of the organization and its services (Bitner and Hubbert, 1994). A second debate is about the efficacy of the expectation-perception gap view of service quality, which is similar to the disconfirmation theory found in the consumer behaviour literature (see, for example, Berry et al., 1985; Grönroos, 1984, 1990; Haywood-Farmer and Nollet, 1991; Parasuraman et al., 1994). Some researchers now believe that there is strong empirical evidence that service quality should be measured using performance-based measures (see for example Babakus and Boller, 1992; Cronin and Taylor, 1994). A third debate is concerned with the development of models that help our understanding of how the perception gap arises and how managers can minimize or manage its effect (see, for example, Brogowicz et al., 1990; Grönroos, 1990; Gummesson and Grönroos, 1987; Parasuraman et al., 1985). A fourth debate concerns the definition and use of the zone of tolerance. Berry and Parasuraman (1991) suggested that “the zone of tolerance is a range of service performance that a customer considers satisfactory”. The importance of the zone of tolerance is that customers may accept variation within a range of performance and any increase in performance within this area will only have a marginal effect on perceptions (Strandvik, 1994). Only when performance moves outside of this range will it have any real effect on perceived service quality (see also Johnston, 1995; Liljander and Strandvik, 1993). A fifth debate, and the area of interest for this article, concerns the identification of the determinants of service quality. This should be a central concern for service management academics and practitioners, as the identification of the determinants of service quality is necessary in order to be able to specify, measure, control and improve customer perceived service quality. The next section provides an overview of the literature on service quality determinants.
Determinants of service quality
Received September 1994 Revised June 1995
International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 6 No. 5, 1995, pp. 53-71. © MCB University Press, 0956-4233
The objective of this article is to explore the link between the determinants of service quality and outcomes either side of the zone of tolerance; that is are there some determinants which tend to be primarily a source of dissatisfaction and others that tend to be primarily a source of satisfaction. If these can be identified, service managers should be able to improve the delivery of customer perceived quality during the service process and have greater control over the overall outcome. The determinants of service quality Most writers agree that customers’ expectations are rarely concerned with a single aspect of the service package but rather with many aspects (see, for example, Berry et al., 1985; Johnston and Lyth, 1991; Sasser et al., 1978). Parasuraman et al. (1985) provided a list of ten determinants of service quality as a result of their focus group studies with service providers and customers: access, communication, competence, courtesy, credibility, reliability, responsiveness, security, understanding and tangibles. In a later article that...