Dimensions of Service Quality
There are 5 dimensions that customers use to evaluate the quality of service. These dimensions are generally used to establish levels of customer satisfaction; comparing their perception of the service they received with their expectations. While this may seem intuitive, when expectations are met, the quality of service is perceived as satisfactory; when expectations are not met, service quality is determined to be unacceptable. These five dimensions are used primarily in surveys to determine how a company is perceived by its’ customers and provides insight on where the company may need to make adjustments to fulfill the expectations of customers. The five dimensions of service quality are; 1) Reliability, 2) Responsiveness, 3) Assurance, 4) Empathy, and 5) Tangibles.
Reliability refers to the organizations ability to perform the service accurately and dependably. There are 3 basic components to this dimension, the ability to complete the service; 1) on time, 2) consistently (routine tasks should be completed in a consistent manner) and 3) error free, every time. An example of this is a public bus schedule. Many people rely on this service to get to work every day and they expect the schedule to be reliable, or they would file complaints and find alternative modes of transportation.
This characterization is based on the ability of the organization to be responsive to customer needs, with an emphasis on a willingness to respond promptly. Keeping a customer waiting, especially when there is no clear, obvious reason, generates a negative perception. For example, if you walk into a barbershop (or salon) and are asked to be seated when there is clearly a booth open, you may be inclined to walk out. However, if the person at the open booth notices you are getting anxious and they react quickly to what seems to be a service failure, by explaining that they taking an important call (ie. a relative was just put in the hospital), this can most likely fix the issue and create a positive perception (okay, considering the circumstances, this might be a bad example…!).
Assurance relies on the employee’s ability to establish trust, as well as their ability to instill confidence, with the customer. This aspect is heavily based upon the employee’s knowledge and their ability to maintain courteous communication. This dimension is characterized by 4 components; 1) competence (the ability to perform the service), 2) respect for the customer, 3) effective communication and 4) the basic attitude conveyed to the customer. If you were to establish a survey that aimed to evaluate your organizations assurance dimension, you would want to ask several questions specifically addressing these 4 components. Bear in mind that different industries have varying established expectations; the construction industry will be very different from the medical industry!
An employee’s ability to convey care and genuine concern for the customer establishes the dimension of empathy. There are 3 main components that a customer evaluates, even unconsciously, when gauging the level of empathy; 1) is the customer service representative approachable, 2) does s/he seem sensitive and 3) is the representative trying to understand my needs. An example of this dimension may be a customer that returns a faulty television to an electronics store. An empathetic customer service rep may take the responsibility for this issue and offer a store credit or replacement without questions asked.
This dimension refers to the company aesthetics. Does it physically appeal to the customer, at least in line with what the customer may expect for the specific industry; you wouldn’t expect a dentist office to look like the waiting room of a service station that changes oil. This area is broad and covers everything from the signage to cleanliness of the floor (and everything in between).