An examination of how gaps between customer expectations of service quality and actual service quality can arise

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This post is my revision for the 2008-2009 past paper question:

Critically examine how gaps between customer expectations of service quality and customer perceptions of actual service quality can arise. Discuss how marketing managers of services can address any ONE of those gaps.
Define service quality:
“Service quality is the ability of a service to consistently meet or exceed customer expectations.”
The best way to analyse service quality gaps is using Voici’s gap model of service quality:
This model clearly outlines gaps that can exist.
The model defines the gaps as follows, I will go on and apply these to real world marketing situations:

  • 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.
Before each gap is analysed Kotler’s dimensions of service quality must be introduced to aid examples that will be used. The dimensions of service quality are:
  • Access
  • Credibility
  • Knowledge
  • Reliability
  • Security
  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Courtesy
  • Responsiveness
  • Tangibles 
Gap 1
Managers are essentially misinformed, and maybe targeting/providing their service inaccurately. The service maybe positioned as too upmarket or downmarket – this isn’t necessarily communicated through price but every aspect of the service. For example, this may result in managers creating pushing frontline staff to be too formal, e.g. a service that stands mid market, trying to present itself a a luxury offering and vice versa. This may hamper the credibility of the service due to creating conflicting positioning and actual service messages. This gap will have to be minimised by SERQUAL style market research.
Gap 2
As managers aren’t on the frontline, they maybe misinformed by what they believe to be a correct service offering for the organisation’s clients. Management need to correctly understand the perceptions that consumers hold, and not guess based upon their own perceptions. Gap 2 is about combining management ideas into service specifications, and must be informed by reliable market research, and internal collaboration by staff upon all levels. For example, private medical organisation need to assess the exact amount of knowledge that a patient needs/wants before an operation, missing the right amount could lead to severe consequences for the organisation and the patient.
Gap 3
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).

Gap 4
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.

Gap 5
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.


  1. It makes sense, and you said it very clear. Good quality of blog. I totally agreed with your write ups regarding An examination of how gaps between customer expectations of service quality and actual service quality can arise. Yes it is very important for the customer to see some proves for that particular product! Thanks for the post!


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