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Integrated Model Of Quality In The Service Sector

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February 27, 2014 by 8aL3Vw

Submitted by: Mairsh Jones

This research study proposed and tested an integrated model of quality in the service sector. We pointed out some limitations of the dominant SERVQUAL model (Parasuraman et al., 1988, 1991), which served to extend the definition and measurement of service quality.

The SERVQUAL scale focused on the functional interaction between customers and employees, and, for this reason, it has somewhat neglected the consideration of tangibles (see Richard & Sundaraman, 1994) and relational interaction (see Peiro et al., 2005; Price et al., 1995) in service encounters. However, an elaborated measurement of these two facets of services seemed to be required, given that the client usually uses and knows different types of physical spaces (e.g. room, bathroom) and maintains emotional bonds with employees. Our results are congruent with this idea. Comparing three hierarchical second-order models, goodness-of-fit indices and target coefficients confirmed the superiority of the second-order structure with three different general components corresponding to functional interaction, tangibles and relational interaction. Focusing the attention on tangibles, the SERVQUAL model considered only a general and secondary dimension. As described before, the pure services investigated by Parasuraman and colleagues probably influenced this decision. When customers use services such as banks and insurance companies, tangibles are probably secondary. In contrast, the physical presence of customers in different types of services (e.g. hospitals, education) emphasises the importance of tangibles.

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Accordingly, we proposed two additional dimensions (rooms and bathroom) in hotels that, in addition to a general evaluation of tangibles, described a second-order factor of quality that was supported by the findings. This result is congruent with previous research efforts that reinforced the role of technical aspects of services (Bitner, 1990; Dube & Menon, 1998; Marti nez-Tur et al., 2005). The consideration of relational benefits in service encounters was also confirmed as an independent second-order factor of service quality. These aspects were superficially assessed in the SERVQUAL scale, reflecting a traditional and instrumental view of consumer behaviour (see Babin et al., 1994), where the focus is on the efficiency of service delivery. From this instrumental point of view, customers are considered rational processors of information who are able to perceive and evaluate the efficiency of the service organisation. In contrast, the more relational aspects of services focus the attention on relational or emotional benefits (authentic understanding, extras, empathy) that go beyond the instrumental transactions involved in service encounters (see Bove & Johnson, 2000; Gwinner et al., 1998; Shemwell et al., 1998), assuming that employees are able to display emotional labour directed toward customers. Our findings are consistent with this emergent tradition in service quality, indicating that relational interaction between employees and customers can be considered as an additional general component in customer evaluations of services.

An additional contribution of this study is the hierarchical nature of the proposed model of service quality. This type of structure allows a distinction between general and specific factors of service quality. Each general component of service quality (second-order factors) is described by several specific factors (first-order factors). This hierarchical strategy offers a more systematic and well-organised portrait of a service quality definition and measurement than models restricted to first-order factors. Our study has practical implications related to the management of service quality in hotels. The proposed structure offers managers a map that describes the different components of service quality, with an integrated and hierarchical nature. At least two levels of analysis could be considered. The first involves differences in customer evaluations related to the general components of functional interaction, tangibles and relational interaction. Once this general analysis is carried out, a specific evaluation in more concrete dimensions could be made. Scores obtained with this model of service quality could be adapted to emphasise a specific problematic component in question. Also, these scores could be used in group discussion techniques (e.g. survey feedback) with employees, in order to inform them and propose and share actions to improve service quality. The differentiation between different components of service quality also provides orientation about practical interventions to be selected, such as increasing efficiency in service delivery (functional interaction), improving physical spaces and equipment (tangibles), or displaying a more adequate emotional labour (relational interaction).

About the Author: The above article is written my Mr. Mairsh J. Jones, who is quality control manager at Urgent Essays.

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