The focus of this work in writing is the examination of the SERVQUAL model as it applies to a case study of Singapore Airlines in regards to service quality and the application of a conceptual model of service quality. This study will additionally explain the gap in service quality between firm and customer.
The work of Prayag and Dookhony-Ramphul (2010) report that the SERVQUAL model "is still the most widely used scale for measuring service quality. The SERVQUAL scale has been applied to airlines, hotels, financial services, health care, and the public sector." (p.3) Buttle (1995) reports that SERVQUAL makes provision of a technology "for measuring and managing service quality (SQ). Since 1985, when the technology was first published, its innovators Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, have further developed, promulgated and promoted the technology through a series of publications." (p.8) It is reported that the ABI/Inform database 'Global Edition' states that service quality is a keyword in approximately 1,447 articles published during the period beginning January 1992 and ending April 1994 and that these publications "incorporate both theoretical discussions and applications of SERVQUAL in a variety of industrial commercial and not-for-profit settings." (Buttle, 1995, p.8) The studies published include tire retailing, dental services, hotels, travel and tourism, car servicing, business schools, higher education, hospitality, business-to-business channel partners, accounting firms, architectural services, recreational services, hospitals, airline catering, banking, airline catering, banking, apparel retailing, and local government. Reported as well, there are a great many unpublished SERVQUAL studies.
II. Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is the use of the SERVQUAL instrument in evaluating customer service for Singapore Airlines.
The methodology of this study is qualitative in nature in that this study conducts a review of literature in order to determine the appropriateness of use of SERVQUAL for evaluation of Singapore Airlines.
III. Literature Review
Service quality (SQ) is reported to "have become an important research topic because of its apparent relationship to costs, customer retention, and positive word of mouth." (Buttle, 1995, p.8) In addition, Service Quality is reported to be regarded widely "as a drive of corporate marketing and financial performance." (p.1995, p.8) SERVQUAL is reported as founded "on the view that the customer's assessment of SQ is paramount. This assessment is conceptualized as a gap between what the customer expects by way of SQ from a class of service providers and their evaluations of the performance of a particular service provider." (Buttle, 1995, p.9) SQ is reported to be presented "as a multidimensional construct" and in the original formulation of Parasuraman et al. (1985) SQ was identified as having ten components:
(9) understanding/knowing the customer; and (10) Tangibles. (Buttle, 1995, p.9)
The instrument is reported to be administered twice in different forms stated to be "first to measure each dimension and second to measure perceptions. The dimension, definition and items in the scale are shown in the following illustration labeled Figure 1 in this study.
Source: Buttle (1995)
According to Buttle's 1995 report Parasuraman et al. (1991) published a follow-up study refining their previous work and changed were the wording of expectations items. Specifically stated is that the 1988 version had "attempted to capture respondents' normative expectations. For example, one 1988 expectations item read: 'Companies offering -- -- services should keep their records accurately'. The revised wording focused on what customers would expect from "excellent service companies." The sample item was revised thus: "Excellent companies offering -- -- services will insist on error-free records." Detailed wording of many perceptions items also changed. Two new items, one each for tangibles and assurance, were substituted for two original items. The tangibles item referred to the appearance of communication materials. The assurance item referred to the knowledge of employees. Both references had been omitted in the 1988 version." (Buttle, 1995, p.4) Buttle states that analysis of SERVQUAL data may take several forms including:
(2) dimension-by-dimension analysis (e.g. (P1 + P2 + P3 + P4/4) -- (E1 + E2 + E3 + E4/4), where P1 to P4, and E1 to E4, represent the four perception and expectation statements relating to a single dimension); and (3) Computation of the single measure of service quality ((P1 + P2 + P3 & #8230;+ P22/22) -- (E1 + E2 + E3 + & #8230; + E22/22)), the so-called SERVQUAL gap. (Buttle, 1995, p.4)
Buttle reports that SERVQUAL "without question has been widely applied and is highly valued." (1995, p.4) Buttle reports that SERVQUAL has been the object of various theoretical and operational criticisms including the following:
(1) Theoretical: This includes paradigmatic objections in that SERVQUAL is reported to be based on a "disconfirmation paradigm rather than an attitudinal paradigm; and SERVQUAL fails to draw on established economic, statistical and psychological theory. Also included is criticism of the Gaps model in that there is "little evidence that customers access service quality in terms of P -- E gaps." (Buttle, 1995, p.4) Criticism of process orientation in that SERVQUAL focuses on" the process of service delivery, not the outcomes of the service encounter." (Buttle, 1995, p.4) Criticism is leveled at dimensionality in that SERVQUAL's five dimensions "are not universals" and the number of dimensions that SQ is comprised by are "contextualized and items sometimes fail to load on to the factors that one would a priori expect and a high degree of intercorrelation exists between the five RATER dimensions." (Buttle, 1995, p.4)
(2) Operational: the term expectation is reported as "polysemic; consumers are standards other than expectations to evaluate SQ; and SERVQUAL fails to measure absolute SQ expectations." (Buttle, 1995, p.4) Criticism is leveled at item composition and four or five items are not able to capture the variability within each SQ dimension. Moments of truth (MOT) has also received criticism since the assessment of customers of SQ vary from MOT to MOT. Polarity is criticized in that the reversed polarity of items in the scale causes respondent error. The seven-point Likert scale is flawed. Two administrations of the instrument results in boredom and confusion and the variance extracted is criticized since the SERVQUAL score is reported to account for "a disappointing proportion of item variances." (Buttle, 1995, p.5)
There are five generic dimensions in the SERVQUAL instrument including those stated as follows:
(1) Tangibles -- physical facilities, equipment and personnel appearance;
(2) Reliability -- ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately;
(3) Responsiveness -- willingness to assist customers and make provision of prompt service;
(4) Assurance which includes competence, courtesy, credibility and security; and (5) Empathy including caring and individualized attention that the firm provides to its customers. (Shahin, nd, p.4)
The work of Shahin (nd) reports that there are even major gaps in the service quality concept including the following stated major gaps:
Gap 1: Customer expectations vs. management perceptions;
Gap 2: Management perceptions vs. service expectations;
Gap 3: Service specifications vs. service delivery;
Gap 4: Service specifications vs. service delivery;
Gap 5: The discrepancy between customer expectations and their perceptions of the service delivered;
Gap 6: The discrepancy between customer expectations and employees' perceptions:
Gap 7: The discrepancy between employee's perceptions and management perceptions. (Shahin, nd, p.2)
The model of service quality gaps is shown in the following illustration labeled Figure 2 in this study.
Figure 2. Model of Service Quality Gaps
Source: Shahin (nd)
The gap model is held as "one of the best received and most heuristically valuable contributions to the service literature. The model identifies seven key discrepancies or gaps relating to managerial perceptions of service quality and tasks associated with service delivery to customers." (Shahin, nd, p.3) The first six identified gaps or Gap 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 are reported as identified "as functions of the way in which service is delivered, whereas Gap 5 is reported to relate to the customer and therefore is considered as the "true measure of service quality." (Shahin, nd, p.3)
The findings of this study include that the SERVQUAL model is effective for use in ascertaining the opinions and attitudes of customers about the type of service and level of quality of service received by customers. SERVQUAL is found to be such that is based on the idea that the assessment of the customer of service quality is of primary importance. The assessment was conceptualized as a gap between the customer expectations and the customer's evaluation of the service provider's performance. SERVQUAL is reported to be multidimensional in nature and to contain ten components including those of: (1) reliability; (2) responsiveness; (3) competence; (4) access; (5) courtesy; (6) communication; (7) credibility; (8) security; (9) understanding/knowing the customer; and (10) tangibles. (Buttle, 1995, p.9) The instrument is available in two different forms including the measurement of each dimension and second the measurement of perceptions. The SERVQUAL model contains five generic dimensions including: (1)…