Since its inception, ServQual has become a popular method for measuring service quality. Service quality is defined as the result of the comparison that customers make between their expectations about service and their perceptions of the manner in which service has been performed. It involves measuring both customer perceptions and expectations of service along key service quality dimensions. Examining differences or gaps between the desired level of service and that actually delivered reveals where improvements in the service mix are required.
The best method for gaining a better understanding of your customers’ needs and expectations is to ask them. However, before you do this, it is usful to put some work into obtaining a view of your services from your customers’ perspective. The RATER Model can be used to do this. It defines five dimensions that customers are believed to consider in their assessments of service quality:
- Reliability – ability to perform the service dependably and accurately;
- Assurance – employees’ knowledge and courtesy and their ability to inspire trust and confidence;
- Tangibles – appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials;
- Empathy – caring, individualised attention given to customers;
- Responsiveness – willingness to help customers, provide prompt service and solve problems.
These five dimensions have been found to be relevant for a wide range of organizations and sectors, although the importance of each dimension will vary from industry to industry and you must evaluate it for your own organisation. You can use this model to identify and assess customer expectations, to plan and improve services, and to measure customer satisfaction.