SERVQUAL Model: A Multi-Item Tool for Comparing Customer Perceptions vs. Expectations

5 Dimensions

Looking for a tried and true model to understand your service quality?

The SERVQUAL model is an empiric model that has been around for nearly 30 years. While not new, it is a foundation of many of the service quality and customer experience concepts in use today. It is a gap model designed to measure gaps between customer perceptions relative to customer expectations.

SERQUAL describes the customer experience in terms of five dimensions:

1. TANGIBLES – Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials
2. RELIABILITY – Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
3. RESPONSIVENESS – Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service
4. ASSURANCE – Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence
5. EMPATHY – Caring, individualized attention the firm provides its customers

Each of these five dimensions is measured using a survey instrument consisting of individual attributes which role up into each dimension.

For example, each of the five dimensions may consist of the following individual attributes:

Tangibles
• Appearance/cleanliness of physical facilities
• Appearance/cleanliness of personnel
• Appearance/cleanliness of communication/marketing materials
• Appearance/cleanliness of equipment

Reliability
• Perform services as promised/right the first time
• Perform services on time
• Follow customer’s instructions
• Show interest in solving problems

Responsiveness
• Telephone calls/other inquiries answered promptly
• Willingness to help/answer questions
• Problems resolved quickly

Assurance
• Knowledgeable employees/job knowledge
• Employees instill confidence in customer
• Employee efficiency
• Employee recommendations
• Questioning to understand needs

Empathy
• Interest in helping
• Individualized/personal attention
• Ease of understanding/use understandable terms
• Understand my needs/recommending products to best fit my needs
• The employees have my best interests at heart

Call to Action

Research without a call to action may be informative, but not very useful. By measuring both customer perceptions and expectations, SERVQUAL gives managers the ability to prioritize investments in the customer experience based not only on their performance, but performance relative to customer expectations.

The first step in taking action on SERVQUAL results is to calculate a Gap Score by simply subtracting the expectation rating from the perception rating for each attribute (Gap Score = Perception – Expectation). This step alone will give you a basis for ranking each attribute based on its gap between customer perceptions and expectations.

Service Quality Score

In addition to ranking service attributes, the Gap Score can be used to calculate both a Service Quality Score based on the relative importance assigned by customers to each of the five service quality dimensions.

The first step in calculating a Service Quality Score is to average the Gap Score of each attribute within each dimension. This will give you the Gap Score for each dimension (GSD). Averaging the dimension Gap Scores will yield an Unweighted Service Quality Score.

From this unweighted score it is a three step process to calculate a Weighted Service Quality Score.

First, determine importance weights by asking customers to allocate a fixed number of points (typically 100) across each of the five dimensions based on how important the dimension is to them. This point allocation will yield a weight for each dimension based on its importance.

The second step is to multiply the Gap Score for each dimension (GSD) by its importance weight. The final step is to simply sum this product across all five dimensions; this will yield a Weighted Service Quality Score.

Click here for a more detailed step by step description of score calculation.

What does all this mean?  See the following post for discussion of the implications of SERVQUAL for customer experience managers: The 5 Service Dimensions All Customers Care About.

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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