The Gap Model of Service Quality has been developed by Parasuraman and his colleagues which helps to identify the gaps between the perceived service qualities that customers receive and what they expect. The model identifies five gaps:
- Consumer expectation – management perception gap.
- Management perception – service quality expectation gap.
- Service quality specifications – service delivery gap.
- Service delivery – external communications to consumer’s gap.
- Expected service – perceived service gap.
Gap – 5 is the service quality shortfall as seen by the customers, and gaps 1-4 are shortfalls within the service organization. Thus gaps 1-4 contribute to gap – 5. These gaps are given in the following figure:
The first gap is the difference between consumer expectations and management perceptions of consumer expectations. Research shows that financial service organizations often treat issues of privacy as relatively unimportant, whilst consumers consider them very important.
The second gap is the difference between the management perceptions of consumer expectations and service quality specifications. Managers will set specifications for service quality based on what they believe the consumer requires. However, this is not necessarily accurate. Hence many service companies have put much emphasis on technical quality, when in fact the quality issues associated with service delivery are perceived by clients as more important.
The third gap is the difference between service quality specification and the service actually delivered. This is of great importance to service where the delivery system relies heavily on people. It is extremely hard to ensure that quality specifications are when a service involves immediate performance and delivery in the presence of the client. This is the case in many service industries: for example, a medical practice is depending on all the administrative, clerical and medical staff performing their tasks according to certain standards.
The fourth gap is the difference between service delivery intention and what is communicated about the service to customers. These established expectations within the customer may not be met. Often this is the result of inadequate communication by the service provider.
The fifth gap represents the difference between the actual performance and the customer perception of the service. Subjective judgement of service quality will be affected by many factors, all of which may change the perception of the service which has been delivered. Thus a guest in a hotel may receive excellent service throughout his stay, apart from poor checking out facilities. But this last experience may damage his entire perception of the service, changing his overall estimation of the quality of the total service provided from good to poor.
The gap model outlined above provides a framework for developing a deeper understanding of the causes of service quality problems, identifying shortfalls in service and determining the appropriate means to close the gaps.
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