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Revisiting the conceptualization and measurement of service quality

Yap, Zhi Wei (David) (2009) Revisiting the conceptualization and measurement of service quality. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Since the 1980s, industries and researchers have sought to better understand the quality of services due to the rise in their importance (Brogowicz, Delene and Lyth 1990). More recent developments with online services, coupled with growing recognition of service quality (SQ) as a key contributor to national economies and as an increasingly important competitive differentiator, amplify the need to revisit our understanding of SQ and its measurement. Although ‘SQ’ can be broadly defined as “a global overarching judgment or attitude relating to the overall excellence or superiority of a service” (Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml 1988), the term has many interpretations. There has been considerable progress on how to measure SQ perceptions, but little consensus has been achieved on what should be measured. There is agreement that SQ is multi-dimensional, but little agreement as to the nature or content of these dimensions (Brady and Cronin 2001). For example, within the banking sector, there exist multiple SQ models, each consisting of varying dimensions. The existence of multiple conceptions and the lack of a unifying theory bring the credibility of existing conceptions into question, and beg the question of whether it is possible at some higher level to define SQ broadly such that it spans all service types and industries. This research aims to explore the viability of a universal conception of SQ, primarily through a careful re-visitation of the services and SQ literature. The study analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the highly regarded and widely used global SQ model (SERVQUAL) which reflects a single-level approach to SQ measurement. The SERVQUAL model states that customers evaluate SQ (of each service encounter) based on five dimensions namely reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsibility. SERVQUAL, however, failed to address what needs to be reliable, assured, tangible, empathetic and responsible. This research also addresses a more recent global SQ model from Brady and Cronin (2001); the B&C (2001) model, that has potential to be the successor of SERVQUAL in that it encompasses other global SQ models and addresses the ‘what’ questions that SERVQUAL didn’t. The B&C (2001) model conceives SQ as being multidimensional and multi-level; this hierarchical approach to SQ measurement better reflecting human perceptions. In-line with the initial intention of SERVQUAL, which was developed to be generalizable across industries and service types, this research aims to develop a conceptual understanding of SQ, via literature and reflection, that encompasses the content/nature of factors related to SQ; and addresses the benefits and weaknesses of various SQ measurement approaches (i.e. disconfirmation versus perceptions-only). Such understanding of SQ seeks to transcend industries and service types with the intention of extending our knowledge of SQ and assisting practitioners in understanding and evaluating SQ. The candidate’s research has been conducted within, and seeks to contribute to, the ‘IS-Impact’ research track of the IT Professional Services (ITPS) Research Program at QUT. The vision of the track is “to develop the most widely employed model for benchmarking Information Systems in organizations for the joint benefit of research and practice.” The ‘IS-Impact’ research track has developed an Information Systems (IS) success measurement model, the IS-Impact Model (Gable, Sedera and Chan 2008), which seeks to fulfill the track’s vision. Results of this study will help future researchers in the ‘IS-Impact’ research track address questions such as: • Is SQ an antecedent or consequence of the IS-Impact model or both? • Has SQ already been addressed by existing measures of the IS-Impact model? • Is SQ a separate, new dimension of the IS-Impact model? • Is SQ an alternative conception of the IS? Results from the candidate’s research suggest that SQ dimensions can be classified at a higher level which is encompassed by the B&C (2001) model’s 3 primary dimensions (interaction, physical environment and outcome). The candidate also notes that it might be viable to re-word the ‘physical environment quality’ primary dimension to ‘environment quality’ so as to better encompass both physical and virtual scenarios (E.g: web sites). The candidate does not rule out the global feasibility of the B&C (2001) model’s nine sub-dimensions, however, acknowledges that more work has to be done to better define the sub-dimensions. The candidate observes that the ‘expertise’, ‘design’ and ‘valence’ sub-dimensions are supportive representations of the ‘interaction’, physical environment’ and ‘outcome’ primary dimensions respectively. The latter statement suggests that customers evaluate each primary dimension (or each higher level of SQ classification) namely ‘interaction’, physical environment’ and ‘outcome’ based on the ‘expertise’, ‘design’ and ‘valence’ sub-dimensions respectively. The ability to classify SQ dimensions at a higher level coupled with support for the measures that make up this higher level, leads the candidate to propose the B&C (2001) model as a unifying theory that acts as a starting point to measuring SQ and the SQ of IS. The candidate also notes, in parallel with the continuing validation and generalization of the IS-Impact model, that there is value in alternatively conceptualizing the IS as a ‘service’ and ultimately triangulating measures of IS SQ with the IS-Impact model. These further efforts are beyond the scope of the candidate’s study. Results from the candidate’s research also suggest that both the disconfirmation and perceptions-only approaches have their merits and the choice of approach would depend on the objective(s) of the study. Should the objective(s) be an overall evaluation of SQ, the perceptions-only approached is more appropriate as this approach is more straightforward and reduces administrative overheads in the process. However, should the objective(s) be to identify SQ gaps (shortfalls), the (measured) disconfirmation approach is more appropriate as this approach has the ability to identify areas that need improvement.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 28608
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Gable, Guy& Chan, Taizan
Keywords: service quality
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 12 Nov 2009 12:44
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:54

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