Service quality – and how to measure it?
The 5 gaps of service quality
The gap model for service quality is independent from the business branch and can be applied to any kind of service. Service quality deficiency occurs due to a mismatch between the expectation of the customer and the reality of the service execution. Due to the higher complexity of service offerings and unclear specifications, it has become more difficult to measure and estimate the level of service quality.
So how can we measure service quality?
The gap model provides five gaps, which have certain influence factors that usually are the cause of the discrepancy between perception and expectation.
Gap 1 - Knowledge gap: A factor, which leads to gap 1 is that the customers’ needs have not been understood properly. The employees, who work in close proximity to the customers and speak with them often, have a better understanding about the customer expectations and their opinions regarding the service. This knowledge however, is not communicated to the management and leads to wrong decisions about the service specifications
Gap 2 - Policy gap: Gap 2 exposed the weakness between the customer expectation, the service quality and the way it was executed. It occurs, when the management does not properly specify the extent of the service quality, the quality goals and also occurs, when there is a lack of standardized instruments and methods to perform the service
Gap 3 - Delivery gap: Gap 3 describes the discrepancy between the specification of the service and the actual performance of the service. This means that the service employees or the service providers were not able to perform in the way that it was defined by the management.
Gap 4 - Communication gap: The differences between the value proposition and the customer expectation regarding service specifications and quality is defined in the fourth gap. The customer receives the information about the service through different channels, such as through the sales employees, the marketing efforts and advertisements. The information he receives, influences his expectation of the service, and if it is not met, the customer will be disappointed
Gap 5 - Expectation gap: The fifth gap, is the core gap which is dependent on the four first gaps. It is the difference between expectation and perception and can only be resolved by diminishing the remaining gaps. This is the key to good service but also very difficult to achieve, as the perception depends on many factors, which are elaborated in the gaps 1 to 4
Market research is an important tool in order to understand the needs and expectations of the customer better. This means, that primary and secondary data has to be evaluated, in order to understand the customer and the market fully. A thorough market research can be made by the full range of service tests, company image studies, customer frequency research, customer structure analyses, customer opinion research, competitive intelligence, competitor and trend analyses, and also through customer complaints and suggestions.