How would you characterize customer (Lee’s) expectations and perceptions, and what factors have contributed to the formation of these?
Lee expected to save time from a convenient and cheaper bill paying system being offered by her bank. She is likely to have formed those expectations from at least two sources.
- i) her previous experience with her bank and
- ii) the recent bank advertisement that promoted the bill paying service by offering to save time and money.
Interestingly, although her expectations were for time savings, which she did not obtain, the new service did save her money and became a factor in deciding to continue patronage. Had Lee utilized the third method of forming expectations (word of mouth) she may have kept her cheque book and avoided the telephone bill paying service.
Using the Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman conceptual model of service quality as a framework of reference? Identify the apparent gaps in service quality from Lee’s perspective, and discuss ways in which these gaps may be closed?
A: The zone of indifference lies somewhere between desired and adequate levels of expectations. Providing the customer’s perceptions of performance lie within this zone, any minor variations (between what was expected and what was received) will be assimilated away.
However, any perceptions of service provider performance that happens to fall outside (either positive or negative) is likely to be exaggerated and result in considerable dissatisfaction if in the negative direction. The zone for new customer, where expectations are perhaps a bit unclear or ill formed may be wider (i.e., provide more latitude) than an experienced customer.
The five dimensions of service quality are:
- Tangibles – the appearance or physical elements of a service. For example, modern looking equipment, employees wearing neat appropriate uniforms, visually appealing servicescape.
- Reliability – how dependable the service provider is, and how accurate is their performance
- Responsiveness – the promptness and helpfulness of employees
- Assurance – the competence, courtesy and credibility of the service provider, and the feeling of security given to the customer.
- Empathy – customer understanding.
Gap 1 is the difference between management perceptions of consumer expectations, and consumer expectations. In this case, the bank believes that its consumers want to save time and money. While Lee expected to save time and use a convenient simple bill payment system.
Better consumer research and more direct customer contact would prepare the bank’s managers and perhaps alter their perceptions of consumer wants and close Gap 1.
Gap 4 is the difference between the promise of service delivery, and the delivery itself. In this case, Lee’s expectations were partly shaped by the bank’s communications. The bill payment system did not deliver the promised time savings due to operational inefficiencies.
A more specific advertising campaign that truly reflects the service delivered along with better consumer education as to how to maximize the benefits of the service would decrease Gap 4.