An examination of how gaps between customer expectations of service quality and actual service quality can arise
This post is my revision for the 2008-2009 past paper question:
- Gap 1 is the distance between what customers expect and what managers think they expect.
- Gap 2 is between management perception and the actual specification of the customer experience.
- Gap 3 is from the experience specification to the delivery of the experience.
- Gap 4 is the gap between the delivery of the customer experience and what is communicated to customers.
- Gap 5 is the gap between a customer’s perception of the experience and the customer’s expectation of the service.
This gap refers to how the service provided lives up to the organisation specification of that service. The organisation will need to internally audit staff performance against the outline specification of the service. For example, an airline may audit frontline staff, and look for service quality dimensions such as competence (how much do they know about the flights, or the destinations) courtesy (how polite are they in dealing with customer enquiries) tangibles (are they wearing the correct uniform, are they using branded stationary).
This gap places focus upon the promotional element of services, and is the gap between what the organisation says the service will do and how it communicates against the actual service delivered. For example, Ryan Air communicates very cheap flights, however they aren’t always cheap after administration charges have been applied, hampering their credibility. Another example is an advert that shows good customer service, with delighted customers and helpful staff is likely to generate a significant gap if the customer doesn’t share the same experience.
What customers expect from a service is very important, and is not only shaped by the organisations promotional efforts – word of mouth, personal needs and past experience are factors that will influence a customers expected service. The expected service and perceived service will influence these factors heavily and will make the difference between retention of a customer, and attrition. To manage this gap it is necessary to implement SERVQUAL style surveys at the point of service delivery. For example, an airline could offer customers a short feedback questionnaire at check-in. The best way to manage this gap, is by managing the other four first, which should help to reduce service heterogeneity.