Measuring Service Quality through Mystery Shopping

Service quality is the delivery of excellent or superior service relative to customer expectations. Due to the inherent characteristics of services like intangibility, inseparability and heterogeneity, the measurement of service quality perceptions have been one of the most debated topics.

A group of American authors namely Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry have done extensive work in the area of service quality deriving that customers consider five dimensions in their assessment of service quality, as follows:

  1. Reliability: Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately (Eg: flights depart and arrive on schedule).
  2. Responsiveness: Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service (Eg: no waiting at the hospital).
  3. Assurance: Employee’s knowledge and courtesy and their ability to inspire trust and confidence. (Eg: knowledgeable mechanics at auto service center).
  4. Empathy: Caring, individualized attention given to customers (Eg: specific type of room provided to the guest based on his previous stay, acknowledges customer by name).
  5. Tangibles: Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and written materials (Eg: seating and air conditioning in a theatre).

According to them Perceived Service Quality can be defined as ‘the extent of discrepancy between customers’ expectations and their perceptions i.e.

Perceived Service Quality = Perceived Service – Expected Service

 The variance in perceived & expected service quality can arise because of either of the following gaps:

  1. The Customers’ gap: This is the difference between a customer’s expectation of a service and a company’s ability to understand these expectations. A firm must know which features of a product or service will suffice consumer needs and deliver high quality service.
  1. The Knowledge Gap: This is not selecting right service standards or operating procedures. This gap may see consumers seek a similar product with better service elsewhere.
  1. The Delivery gap: This gap denotes the difference between Service quality standards and Service delivery. These can be:
    • Non-adherence to service TAT (turnaround time)
    • Lack of manpower motivation in service delivery
    • Inability to handle customer queries effectively
  1. The Communication gap: This gap arises when companies do not match their performance to Promises. Companies make promises through advertising media and communication and these become consumer’s expectations. But when this over promising in media does not match the actual service delivery it creates a communication Gap.
The above gaps can be assessed by way of a Mystery Shopping exercise where a genuine consumer can experience the service and report gaps and improvement areas. This would help a service brand to close these gaps, thereby resulting into better customer satisfaction, retention & loyalty.

Topics: Mystery Shopping & Audits

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