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A project report on service quality gap model and quality dimensions The subject of service quality has aroused considerable recent interest among business people and academics. Of course, buyers have always been concerned with quality, but the increasing competitive market for many services has led consumers to become more selective in the services they choose. Conceptualizing the quality for services is more complex than for goods. Because of the absence of tangible manifestations, measuring
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  A project report on service quality gap model and quality dimensions The subject of service quality has aroused considerable recent interest among business people and academics. Of course, buyers have always been concerned with quality, but the increasing competitive market for many services has led consumers to become more selective in the services they choose. Conceptualizing the quality for services is more complex than for goods. Because of the absence of tangible manifestations, measuring service quality can be difficult but there are possible research approaches. Comprehensive models of service quality and there limitations can be studied. Understanding just what dimensions of quality are of importance to customers is not always easy in their evaluation process. It is not sufficient for companies to set quality standard s in accordance with misguided assumptions of customers‘ expectations. A further problem in defining service quality lies in the importance which customers often attach to the quality if the service provider is distinct from its service offers  –  the two cannot be separated as readily as in the case of goods. Finally, issues relating to the setting of quality standards and implementation of quality management should be studied.<br />INTRODUCTION TO SERVICE QUALITY-<br />Quality improvement and adherence to accepted norms of quality are central to the modern concept of marketing of services. The quality of service delivery results in customer satisfaction and their retention as it reinforces the perception that the value of the service received is greater than the price paid for it. Some important concepts are:<br />Modern quality concepts result in better profitability, which is the main goal of all the business.<br />Quality control has much to do with changing the frame of mind and psychology of the service provider and particularly the front-end and back-end employees actually providing the services. We need to know how this fundamental change in attitude can be brought about.<br />Traditionally, most service providers have felt that they know all there is to know about the customers and their requirements. This smug or self-satisfied approach needs to be changed.<br />Development of feedback systems is very essential part of the quality improvement.<br />How this can be used to develop better quality standards is an issue of immense importance.<br />Goal setting and adherence to the goals are both essential to ensure continuous improvement in the quality standards.<br />CUSTOMER RETENTION THROUGH QUALITY IMPROVEMENT<br />The focus of the modern marketers has shifted away from a one-time sale to making repeated sales to the same customer. Increasing attention is being paid to medium and long term perspectives, rather than just the short-term perspective. This has been a major revolution in thinking in the field of marketing. Customer retention usually pays dividends by way of:<br />Lifetime value of the customer if the customer remains loyal to the company, naturally, the repeated purchases represents a cumulative value which is quitesubstantial compared to any single transaction.<br  />Reduced costs it costs much more to acquire a new customer than to retain an oldcustomer.  Therefore, the focus of marketing has shifted away from the goal of merecustomer acquisition to customer retention in order to substantially reducemarketing costs.<br />Benefit from wider opportunities to market more products and services tocustomers who are already loyal to you. The key differentiator between customerretention is customer satisfaction.<br />Satisfaction results when the customer feels that the value of a service received byhim is substantially higher than the price he paid for acquiring the service.<br />Customer satisfaction can be largely attributed to the quality of the service orproduct. Thus, delivery of high quality service is crucial to the high service valueperception. When the major marketing goal of a company is customer retention, thequality of service delivery is, undeniably, the key differentiator.<br />LINK BETWEEN SERVICE QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY<br />The approach towards quality has changed quite drastically during the past fewyears. Previously people thought in terms of quality control. Quality is defined asthe ability of the service provider to satisfy customer needs. Customer perception,service quality, and profitability are interdependent values. The idea of control wasthat the manufacturer decided to find the reasonable number of defects that acustomer would accept without demur. The goal of the exercise was to restrict thenumber of defects in order to be called a high-quality producer. This approach wasbased on two assumptions:<br />Other producers under similar marketing conditions would adhere to similar normsof non-compliance or transgression of quality. Thus the issue of competition drivingup the quality was not taken seriously. Live and let live was the motto that mostlarge producers adhere to. The lack of serious quality improvement translates intosavings in production costs as elaborate effort for improvement was not done.<br />Almost every customer assumed that the service or product received by them willnot be perfect in every respect. Customers took it for granted that luck was involvedin receiving high-quality goods and services. Thus, people would avoid carsassembled on Fridays or Mondays. It was assumed that during the pre-weekendphase, when the employees where focused on the forth coming weekend, and thepost-weekend phase , when the employees were physically and mentally tired fromtheir weekend exploits, they paid less attention to work. It was thus assumed thaton Fridays and Mondays, nobody would stop the assembly line for just a bolt notfitted at the appropriate place. People preferred cars which were driven from thefactory to the dealer‘s premises rather than carried by trucks to the delivery points.<br />Customers believed that inherent defects were bound to be uncovered during thispre-delivery phase, and, therefore they would be duly identified and rectified beforecustomer delivery.<br />The total service quality management [TSQM] emphasizes different policies.<br />Statements such as the following demonstrate the approach:<br />Quality is free. It is the non-quality that costs money. Non-quality means thateverything is not done right from the beginning. About 35% of the company‘s costs are due to faults and their corrections.<br />Quality enhancement usually improves profitability by 5 to 10%. This is a sizablejump in the overall profitability. To get a similar increase in profitability with qualityimprovement, the company will need to increase the turnover by 20 to 25%, whichis quite a sizable task.<br />The costs of the quality improvement are roughly divided into two groups:  cost ofconformance and cost of non-conformance.<br />Cost of Conformance:<br />This includes costs incurred to adhere or stick to the existing established standardsor norms. This is the maintenance and improvement of the quality.<br />ã Preventive costs: these include staff training cost and costs of the robust design orrobustness built into the service.<br />ã Cost of Control: to continuously maintain the high quality, it is necessary to carryout surveys and obtain feedback from the customers to ensure that the delivery isas per the planned level of service and quality standards.<br />Cost of non-conformance:<br />The non-conformance to the established standards results in additional cost ofcustomer dissatisfaction, complaints and warranty claims. The costs are forreplacement, correction or compensation of the faulty delivery of services or goods.<br />DEFINING SERVICE QUALITY<br />Quality is an extremely difficult concept to define in a few words. At its most basic,quality has been defined as conforming to requirements .This implies thatorganizations must establish requirements and specifications; once established, thequality goal of the various function of an organization is to comply strictly withthese specifications. Many analyses of service quality have attempted to distinguishbetween objective measures of quality and measures which are based on the moresubjective perceptio ns of customers.<br />A development of this idea by Gronroos identified ‗technical‘ and ‗functional‘ qualityas being the two principle components of quality. Technical quality refers to therelatively quantifiable aspects of a service which consumers receive in theirinteractions with a service firm. Because it can easily be measured by bothcustomer and supplier, it forms an important basis for judging service quality.<br />Examples of technical quality include the waiting time at a supermarket checkoutand the reliability of train services. This, however, is not the only element thatmakes up perceived service quality. Because services involve direct consumerproducerinteraction, consumers are also influenced by how the technical quality isdelivered to them. This is what Gronroos describes as functional quality and cannotbe measured as objectively as the elements of technical quality. In the case of thequeue at a supermarket checkout, functional quality is influenced by such factors asthe environment in which queuing takes place and consumers perceptions of themanner in which queues are handled by the supermarket‘s staff. Gronroos also seesan important role for a service firm‘s corporate image in defining customers‘perception of quality, with corporate image being  based on both technical andfunctional quality.<br />Service quality is a highly abstract construct, in contrast to goods where technicalaspects of quality predominate. Many conceptualizations of service quality thereforebegin by addressing the abstract expectations that consumers hold in respect ofquality. Consumers subsequently judge service quality as the extent to whichperceived service delivery matches up to these initial expectations. In this way, aservice which is perceived as being of mediocre standard may be considered of highquality when compared against low expectations, but of low quality when assessedagainst high expectations. Analysis of service quality is complicated by the fact thatproduction and consumption of a service generally occur simultaneously, with theprocess of service production often being just as important as the service outcomes.<br />Gronroos pointed out that a buyer of manufactured  goods only encounters thetraditional marketing mix variables of a manufacturer, i.e. the product, its price, itsdistribution and how these are communicated to him or her. Usually productionprocess are unseen by consumers and therefore cannot be used as a basis forquality assessment. By contrast, service inseparability results in the productionprocess being an important basis for assessing quality.<br />A further problem in understanding and managing service quality flows from theintangibility, variability and inseparability of most services which results in a seriesof unique buyer-seller exchanges with no two services being provided in exactly thesame way. It has been noted that intangibility and perceived risk ness affectsexpectations, and in one study of a long-distance phone service, a bookstore and apizza shop service, it was concluded that intangibility had some role in servicequality expectations. Managing customers‘ expectations can be facilitated bymeans of managing the risks a consumer perceives when buying a particularservice.<br />SERVICE QUALITY DIMENSIONS<br />Service quality is a perception of the customer. Customers, however, form opinionsabout service quality not just from a single reference but from a host of contributingfactors. Service marketers need to understand all the dimensions used bycustomers to evaluate service quality.<br />Dav id Garvin in the article ‗Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality‘ identifiedthe following eight dimensions of quality applicable to both goods and services.<br />These include: Performance, Features, Reliability, Conformance, Durability, Serviceability, Aesthetics, Perceived quality or prestige.<br />In a further refinement of their earlier factor identification, Parasuram, Zeithmal and<br />Berry has identified the following five dimensions of service quality as crucial.<br />These are:<br /> 1.   Reliability:   This dimension is shown to have the highest influence on the customer perceptionof quality. It is the ability to perform the promised service dependably andaccurately. Sahara Airlines, an upcoming domestic air carrier within India, has beenstriving to protect itself as a reliable airline. It hopes to differentiate itself from otherairlines Indian Airlines. To p[protect this reliability, Sahara Airways has a scheme offull refund plus a coupon of Rs3,000 to every passenger on delay of flights by morethan 59 minutes.<br />When service delivery fails the first time, a service provider may get a secondchance to provide the same service in the phase called ‗Recovery‘. Theexpectations of the customer are usually higher during the recovery phase thanbefore because of the initial failure. Thus, the service provider is likely to comeunder greater scrutiny, thereby increasing the possibility of customerdissatisfaction. The reliability dimension, which ensures timely delivery time aftertime, helps the service provider to meet the customer expectations fully at thelowest level of service expectation.<br />  1.   Responsiveness :   It is the willingness of the service firm‘s staff to help customers and to provide themwith prompt service. The customers may have queries, special requests,complaints, etc. In fact, each customer may have problems of his or her own. Whilethe front-end employee may have been
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