servqual-model

What Is the SERVQUAL Model? SERVQUAL Model In A Nutshell

The SERVQUAL model was created by researchers A. Parasuraman, Valarie Zeithaml, and Leonard L. Berry in 1985 to measure and drive quality in the service and retail sector. The SERVQUAL model is a framework for measuring service quality and customer satisfaction through five dimensions: reliability, responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, and empathy.

Understanding the SERVQUAL model

Irrespective of the industry, however, most businesses need to provide some degree of customer service. This requires an understanding of how the customer’s mind works and what drives their decisions or actions. 

The SERVQUAL model helps bridge the gap in perception between what the company believes it is delivering to customers and what those customers expect, want, or need during customer service. 

Although developed before the digital age, the SERVQUAL model is still relevant today. With customers now using the internet to share their thoughts with a vast and captive audience, perception management has never been more important.

The five dimensions of service quality

The SERVQUAL model considers five dimensions customers use to evaluate the quality of service they receive from a business.

These dimensions include:

  1. Reliability – how consistently does the organization deliver a product or service on time, as described, and without error? For the customer, reliability means the organization respects commitments and honors promises.
  2. Responsiveness – how quickly can the organization respond to customer needs? Despite the negative perception it creates, some businesses ignore or evade customer service requests for no apparent reason.
  3. Assurance – does the organization inspire trust and confidence in customers with professional service, great communication skills, technical knowledge, and the right attitude?
  4. Tangibles – or the visual aesthetic of a company derived from its logo, physical store, or the look and feel of its website. Tangibles also encompass equipment, with hand sanitizing and contactless payment devices influencing the consumers of today. Furthermore, the fourth dimension also includes the physical appearance of customer service staff. How well are they dressed? Do they practice good personal hygiene? 
  5. Empathy – or the ability for employees to show genuine care and concern during customer service. In other words, are those tasked with providing customer service friendly and approachable? Do they actively listen to consumer needs? Indeed, are they sensitive to consumer needs?

The five gaps of service quality in the SERVQUAL model

The SERVQUAL model defines five scenarios where businesses often fall short of customer expectations.

As mentioned in the introduction, gaps emerge when there is a discrepancy between the needs or wants of the consumer and the services the organization provides.

Each of the five gaps is summarised below:

  1. Knowledge gap – a knowledge gap occurs when an organization has not done its due diligence on the target audience. Whether through insufficient or careless research, knowledge gaps reflect a lack of market understanding.
  2. Policy gap – these gaps occur because of a conflict between what the customer wants and what the organization provides. Policy gaps may be caused by an insufficient commitment to service quality, lack of task standardization, or inadequately described service levels.
  3. Delivery gap – or dissimilarity between the standards of customer service set out in policies and the actual delivery standard. This is a common problem in many businesses and may be the result of poor technology, poor management, low employee engagement, and role ambiguity or conflict.
  4. Communication gap – this gap describes a difference between what the company chooses to advertise about a product and what the customer actually receives. Communication gaps occur because of over-commitment or a lack of cohesion between the advertising and product development departments.
  5. Customer gap – simply, the difference between customer expectations and the experience created for them by the business. Customer gaps can be explained by revisiting the five service quality dimensions of reliability, responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, and empathy.

Key takeaways:

  • The SERVQUAL model is a framework for measuring service quality and customer satisfaction. It was created by researchers in 1985 to measure and drive quality in the service and retail sector
  • The SERVQUAL model assesses five dimensions of service quality: reliability, responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, and empathy.
  • The SERVQUAL model also defines five knowledge gaps that help explain how and why a business falls short of customer expectations. These include gaps in knowledge, policy, delivery, communication, and general customer experience.

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