Image can be another base of differentiation in service marketing. This can be done specifically through branding.
Image differentiation though barding: Just as product marketers, services marketers too can differentiate the image through careful branding.
Example of AT&T: Points below shows how AT&T differentiates the image by branding the service.
AT&T differentiates their Image by branding the Service:
Telecom major AT&T offers products in long distance telephone services. It has successfully differentiated the image of its service through sensible branding. Different brands of service meet different requirements in terms of usage, country of origin, preferred language and mode of payment.
It has also employed attractive and meaningful brand names to its services such as,
Direct Home calling
Direct Home Calling serves US travelers in India and Indian citizens in the US: World Connect serves non-US international travelers and Indians living abroad in countries other than the US; and Namaskar Seva (bilingual) serves the Hindi speaking customers.
Example of Bharti Cellular: Bharti Cellular has successfully differentiated the image by branding It has created different brands for its cellular phone services and nurtured the brands well. It has also given them attractive and communicative brand names like Shah Rkh Khan and Karishma Kapoor. Through Magic it tries to reach out teenagers, while through Airtel it tries to reach adults with more complex communications needs.
Measuring and Monitoring Service Quality:
The importance of quality assurance in service marketing can never be overemphasized. A service must be performed right for the first time and every time. The damage done on any one occasion leaves a permanent scar and the effect of a badly tendered service cannot be mitigated by any sops.
Ironically, while quality assurance is of utmost importance in services, it is utmost difficult to assure quality here. Even measuring quality is difficult in services. In the first place, quality characteristics in respect of a service are more difficult to define. Second, quality here includes many subjective elements.
We can state that service quality is ensured when the service does what the customers expect of it. This means that quality assurance in services calls for: (1) a device for understanding customer expectations of quality in the service; (2) a mechanism for ensuring that the service is performed matching customers expectations, and (3) a device for measuring the service.
Since quality assurance in services becomes difficult mainly because of the difficulty in measuring service quality, the latter becomes the crux in managing service quality.
The ServQual Model: The ServQual model developed provides a reliable methodology for measuring customer satisfaction in a service situation. It seeks to measure perceived service quality on the basis of five parameters:
Tangibles: The appearance of firm’s physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication material.
Reliability: The firm’s ability to provide the service dependably and accurately.
Responsiveness: The firm’s willingness to help customers and its ability to provide prompt service.
Assurance: The employees’ knowledge, competence, courtesy and ability to inspire confidence in customers.
Empathy: The individual attention the firm provides to its customers including access, communication and caring.
The model propounds that there are five kinds of gaps, which together contribute to the problem relating to service quality:
Gap 1:The difference between customers’ expectations of the service and the firm’s perception of those expectations.
Gap 2: The difference between the firm’s perception about customer expectation and the specifications the firm actually adapts.
Gap 3: The difference between the adopted specifications and the service quality actually delivered.
Gap 4: The difference between the service delivered and the promise made to the customers through communication / promotion.
Gap 5: The difference between the service level expected by the customers and the service level perceived by him.
The extent of each of these gaps in the given case is measured, using structured questionnaires. They are measured in terms of scores generated on the five parameters explained earlier on a seven point scale.
These are combined to arrive at a final score, which denotes the index of customer satisfaction. The individual scores help pinpoint the firm’s shortcoming in specific parameters.
It can be seen that the parameters – except for reliability which represents an outcome deal with processes. Often, firms ignore process dimension and leading to big gaps in customers satisfaction.