THE GAPS MODEL OF SERVICE QUALITY
THE CUSTOMER GAP°:
The difference between customer perceptions and expectations
Customer perceptions are subjective assessments of actual service experiences. Customer expectations are the standards or reference points for performance against which service experiences are compared, and are often formulated in terms of what a customer believes should or will happen. For example, when you visit a fast-food restaurant you expect a certain level of services, one that is considerably different from the level you would expect in an expensive restaurant.
EXPECTED SERVICE |
PERCEIVED SERVICE |
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Provider gap 1 is the difference between customer expectations of services and company understanding of those expectations.
Why does this first provider gap occur°? Many reasons exist°: no direct interactions with customers, unwillingness to ask about expectations, unpreparedness in addressing them.
When people with the authority and responsibility for setting priorities do not fully understand customer’s service expectations, they may trigger a chain of bad decisions and suboptimal resource allocations that result in perceptions of poor service quality.
One example of misplaced priorities stemming from an inaccurate understanding of customer’s expectations is spending far too much money on buildings and the appearance of a company’s physical facilities when customers may be much more concerned with how convenient, comfortable, and functional the facilities are.
An inaccurate understanding of what customers expect and what really matters them leads to service performance that falls short of customer expectations. The necessary first step in improving quality of service is for management or empowered employees to acquire accurate information about customers’ expectations. Formal and informal methods to capture information about customer expectations can be developed through market research. Techniques involving a variety of traditional research approaches must be used to stay close to the customer, among them customer visits, survey research, complaint systems, and customer panels. More innovative techniques, such as quality function deployment, structured brainstorming and service quality gap analysis, are often needed.
Market segmentation is the grouping of customers sharing similar requirements, expectations, and demographic or psychographic profiles. While segmentation has been used by marketers for decades it may be more critical today than at any other time. Customers are no longer satisfied by homogeneous products and services for the mass market; now, more than ever before, they are seeking and buying services that fit their unique configuration of needs.
Thereby, service companies must manage the customer mix. Managing the customer mix, in a broad sense, means determining and choosing a mix of customers to target who are compatible or at least separated from each if incompatible.
Another trend related to provider gap 1 involves current company strategies to retain customers and strengthen relationships with them. When organizations have strong relationships with their customers, gap 1 is less likely to occur.
Relationship marketing is distinct from transactional marketing, the term used to describe the more conventional emphasis on acquiring new customers rather than on retaining them. When companies focus too much on attracting new customers, they may fail to understand the changing needs and expectations of their current customers.
Provider gap 2
NOT SELECTING THE RIGHT SERVICE DESIGNS STANDARDS