Service Management – Quality Implications

Some of the insights provided by the above and other researchers, into the managerial implications for service quality are as follows:

Assurance of providing basic service:

A hotel should provide a clean and secure room and treat you like a guest. This is the principal expectation of any customer from the hotel. Ostentations like a thick carpet, fancy lamps, colorful wall paper, etc. cannot compensate for a soiled bed sheet or a cockroach found in the corner of the bathroom.

Similarly, an airline should transport you to the desired destination punctually and safety. No amount of treatment like a so-called ‘Maharaja’ can compensate for a delayed or cancelled flight and missed appointments.

Reliability of what you promise to deliver:

Reliability is extremely important, particularly in services because services have a large component of intangibility and probable variability attached to them. Service is not a product; it is performance. Service operations are less of ‘physical’ operations; they are more of ‘social interaction’. Therefore, trust and credibility are very important.

A physical product is described by dimensions of length and diameter, etc. However, a service product consists of sensual and psychological benefits also. Since the latter two aspects cannot be exactly described in measurable terms, it is possible for a careless or unethical salesperson to over promise the service bundle. A beautiful brochure with more beautiful drawings of a hotel should not end up as an empty promise. The actual décor, aesthetics, comforts and conveniences should be the same as what the customer has been led to believe and expect. Let there not be a gap between customer’s expectations and perceived service.

In many service situations the expectations are pretty simple. For instance, a prompt settlement of the insurance claim in an accident goes a long way in building the ‘quality’ of the automobile insurance company.

A service product includes who delivers and how he delivers the service. It is an accumulation of all the ‘moments of truth’ as the customer interacts with service personnel. If this service product is to be good, it goes without saying that all the contact personnel should be seen as honest and trustworthy besides being competent.

The customer should know what to expect. This can only come about through communication. Even if there is a defect in service or if there is a limitation on the part of the service-provider, these should be communicated to the customer. This helps in building trust and, therefore, even better quality of communication between the service company and its customer.

For example, if a surgery is going to involve a probable complication, the same needs to be explained to the patient and his family prior to the surgery.

Needless to say, without good communication, the service company would never get to know its customer’s needs and changing expectations. This knowledge is crucial to continue to retain its customers and to add on more customers. Half of a service company’s market research information can be generated through communication with the existing customers.

Customer Relationship:

Service quality is, after all, in the perception of the customer. An Indian rice meal cooked with a homely taste could be several times superior to a dinner in a 5-star hotel. This is not just a question of habit. It has that relationship component to it. The taste of homely meal is not just in the food.

Customer goodwill is very important in services. It makes the customer more tolerant when service problems occur. A service as mentioned earlier is a social interaction. Relationships are the foundation stones on which the edifice of service is built. The more personalized a particular service, the more important it is to build this relationship. However less personal certain services may sound, they cannot be devoid of the emotional content. Even an ATM, which apparently involves no human interface, is used by the customers on trust and dependability of the people in the Bank if anything were to go wrong. The customer operates it backed by the trust he places on the Bank i.e. its people.

The past quarter of a century has seen an upsurge in work related to quality. As business started getting global and competition increased rapidly, companies started paying increased attention to product and service quality. Several quality related programs were initiated.