Understanding Our Service Quality Gaps
Although we have a long standing reputation for high levels of student satisfaction we try not to become complacent about our service delivery. Over the years we have used the ‘Service Quality Model’ developed by Parasuraman et al (1988) to help us explore and discuss any potential shortfall of performance.
Gap 1: The Research
This gap arises is where our perceptions of student-customer expectations do not match the service they expected. That is, we have offered a service to a student which does not meet their needs or wants.
It is likely we have misunderstood what they want and expect from us. It could be that we have failed to undertake appropriate marketing research into student needs. It could also be a result that the understanding of the customer developed by front line services providers have not been fed back to management or other stakeholders who decide what the service offer should be. This could be too many levels between contact staff and management. Or that front line staff do not understand the importance or do not believe action would be taken on the feedback they are relaying.
Gap 2: Planning and Design
This is the difference between management perceptions of customer expectations and their service quality specifications. Here management have decided a level of service quality that does not meet customer expectations.
In the context of SSiD, it may be that students expect examination results two weeks after examinations and administrators take two months to process and publish results. This could be a result of poor service design, management indifference to result release or resource constraints.
Gap 3: Implementation
This is the difference between service quality specifications and the actual service delivery. That is what we say will be delivered and what is actually delivered. Although we have managed to identify, define and state specifications for service to meet customer needs but service delivery is not consistent with those specifications.
This could be caused by poor training of the customer service staff or inconsistency in their performance in delivering products and services.
Gap 4: Communication
This is the difference between what we deliver and the communications to students about what we will deliver. That is we have given the wrong impression of the level of service we will actually provide.
The service does not meet customer expectations which have been influenced by our communications to them. This is likely to be caused by developing and delivering a marketing message that is not consistent with actual service offered or provided. We may have inadvertently raised expectations through our advertising or failed to deliver what we have promised.
Gap 5: Service Performance
Students can expect certain things from certain us as service providers and judge quality based on what they perceive as the actual service delivered.
The likely cause is the gap is the size of the difference between student and expectations and perceived delivery. The challenge for us as service providers here is how can we influence something we do not have direct control: the expectations and perceptions of other people.
In conclusion, when thinking about possible gaps in service quality we should start by asking ourselves the following questions:
- Do your students perceive your offers as meeting or exceeding their expectations?
- Do you have an accurate understanding of students’ expectations?
- Are there specific standards I place to meet student customer expectations?
- Do your offers meet or exceed the standards?
- Is the information communicated to your students about your offers accurate?
by Scott Castle
9 October 2007
updated 11 July 2017