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Service Marketing Gap Analysis

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The unique requirements of the additional 3P’sвЂ"people, physical evidence, and process are driven by the particular characteristics of serviceвЂ"intangibility, inseparability, variability, and perish ability. These characteristics also pose more marketing complexities which require different management activities.

All services are experiencesвЂ"some are long in duration and some are short; some are complex and others are simple; some are mundane, whereas others are exciting and unique. (Wilson, Zeithaml, and Bitner, 2008) The delivery process of the service has been entitled the Servuction System by Langeard and Eiglier. They argued that a bundle of benefits are delivered through both visible and invisible parts which create an experience for the consumer. The experience can be affected by the visible inanimate environment of the organization which is part of the physical evidence, the invisible process for delivering the service, and the people involved in, both the contact personnel from inside the organization and other customers from outside the organization. Each part interacts and may influence the level of customer satisfaction. For example, a clean theater with comfortable seats and a spacious, well-lit parking lot may make the journey of going for a movie more enjoyable though the customer doesn't take any of that back home. Still, the environment of retail stores can influence people’s willingness to stay and the background music can influence traffic flow and the degree consumers willing to spend. Moreover, a physically comfortable setting can accelerate an employee’s better performance and improve his or her emotional state. Undoubtedly, a friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful hotel staff can greatly affect one’s impression of the hotel. The interactive impact also exists in the service process. The process involves in all the activities when the service is produced and delivered. For example, the receptionist of a hotel taking the information to check the customer in and then the bell-boy taking the luggage to the room, these activities are seen directly by the customer as front stage activities. Other backstage activities that are unseen by the customer include a kitchen staff preparing meals and laundry staff washing the sheets. (McColl-Kennedy, 2002) A hotel stay experience is determined by the brief encounters with the front-desk staff, bellhops, housekeeping staff, restaurant wait staff and so on. (Rust, Zahorik and Keiningham, 1996) These people who play an interactive part in the production and delivery of the service may be management, service providers, support personnel or even other customers. As other customers can directly affect how the service is delivered, as well as the overall satisfaction level, it is important for management to train customers in terms of what is expected of them in a service establishment and, if necessary, remove customers who behave in an offensive way. In five-star resorts and upmarket restaurants, for example, management, staff and other customers have expectations about how staff and customers should behave-even what they should wear. Sometimes signs are provided in the establishment, detailing the dress code. For example, it is common to see signs saying “shirts must be worn in the restaurant” and “No thongs”. (McColl-Kennedy, 2002)Ill-mannered restaurant customers at the next table, crying children in a nearby seat on an airplane, and commercial bank customers whose lengthy transactions take up the tellers’ time are all examples of unpleasant service experience caused by other customers. (Rust, Zahorik and Keiningham, 1996) Therefore, a failure at any one point mentioned above may result in greater risk for dissatisfaction at each ensuing level.

It has been agreed that the success of service marketing depends more on the management of service quality through the monitoring of customer satisfaction. Providing services that consistently meet or exceed customers’ expectations is the key to overcoming most of the major problems unique to service. (Rust, Zahorik and Keiningham, 1996) Customer satisfaction is the customer’s evaluation of a product or service in terms of whether that product or service has met the customer’s needs and expectations. Customer expectations are standards or reference points that customers bring to the service experience whereas customer perceptions are subjective assessments of actual service experience. The difference between customer expectations and perceptions is referred as the customer gap which is the central focus of the gaps model. The customer gap identifies service performance problems but does not determine the causes of the problems; it is the four provider gaps that help management identify where service quality has failed. Service firms need to close the gap between customer expectations and perceptions of the actual service received if they want to satisfy their customers with quality service and build long term relationships. (Wilson, Zeithaml, and Bitner, 2008)

A recurring theme in service companies is the difficulty experienced in translating customer expectations into service quality specifications that employees can understand and execute. The difficulty can be interpreted as three difficulties: the difficulty for managers who are not in direct contact with customers in large organization to understand the customer needs; the difficulty in getting the right balance between imposing service standards and still allowing the staff to be natural; the difficulty managers faces in selecting and training all of the customer-contact employees to do their jobs well and motivating them to care about doing their jobs and to make an extra effort to deliver the service expected.

The gaps model serves as a useful diagnostic tool for evaluating why service quality is failing, and the four provider gaps are aimed at management, reflecting potential service failure as a result of management’s actions. The first three gaps fit here and provide a framework for management to understand the causes of this service difficulty and the discussion of factors identified by studies might facilitate the closing of the gaps and help solve the difficulty.


The gap between what consumers expect and what managers think they expect may be considerably larger in service firms than in firms which produce tangible goods due to the lack of clear definition and tangible cues for service. So it is necessary for service firm executives to follow marketing research orientation, conduct upward communication system and place less layers of management to receive more accurate information about



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