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Service Quality Dimensions: A Conceptual Analysis

Mohammed Alamgir Assistant Professor of Marketing University of Chittagong Chitt


agong 4331, Bangladesh
& Mohammad Shamsuddoha Assistant Professor of Marketing University of Chittagong
Chittagong 4331, Bangladesh
Service Quality Dimensions: A Conceptual Analysis Abstract The study aims at exa
mining various literatures on service quality dimensions to adapt perfect strate
gy and policy for service oriented organizations, especially in the banking sect
or. It also aspires to identify the relative importance of service quality dimen
sions analysis as one of the most important factors which influence the organiza
tion directly. The future of any organization has its own roots to go forward an
d it can be shaped by identical changes by the top level management regarding se
rvice issues. It will not even become what most top level management thinks rath
er it must analyse all the related development and generate a hybrid service qua
lity dimension model s that the organizations are able to give their level best
to their target o customers. In this way, organizations will be more systematic,
innovative and rich in insight. This study, fully focused on service quality is
sues, will help to understand service dimensions issues for an organization. Key
words: Service, Service quality, Service dimensions Introduction Service quality
is determined by the differences between customers' expectations of service pro
vider's performance and their evaluation of the services they received. In this
way, the association between service quality and customer satisfaction has emerg
ed as a topic of significant and strategic concern (e.g. Bolton and Drew, 1991;
Cronin and Taylor, 1992). In general, research in this area suggests that servic
e quality is an important indicator of customer satisfaction. Service quality is
also attractive to retail banks as a competitive differentiator (Newman, 2001).
On the other hand, researchers also focused that there has been considerable de
bate regarding the basic dimensions of service quality as well as the measuremen
t of these dimensions. A number of researchers have provided lists of quality de
terminants. Johnston (1997, p 111) also mentioned: “Probably, the best-known det
erminants of service quality come from two groups of researchers, Parasuraman an
d colleagues in the USA and Johnston and colleagues in the UK”. In this paper, t
he researchers tried to identify various service quality dimensions proposed and
practised by various researchers and professionals. At the same time, the resea
rchers also wanted
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to develop a conceptual framework by considering the most common quality dimensi
ons in this regard. Objectives of the Study The principal objective is to evalua
te literature on service quality which has been developed by different researche
rs that is applicable to different kinds of organizations, especially in the ban
king sector. To accomplish this, the study has covered the following specific ob
jectives: 1. To evaluate different dimensions of service quality 2. To find out
possible approach to examine quality service dimensions 3. To propose an instrum
ent concerning dimensions of service quality Scope and Methodologies of the Stud
y The study has covered various literatures on service, service quality and serv
ice dimensions based on UK and other developed countries like the European Union
countries. A Library research method (Archive) has been used in this study. Dif
ferent books, journals, periodicals and online papers ha ve been observed by the
researchers to find out different issues in service quality dimensions in this
connection. Mostly secondary data has been compiled in this study and this data
has been collected from focused countries’ literatures, textbooks, e-journals, g
overnment publications etc. This study tried to focus service industry in genera
l and banking services in particular. Moreover, some of the banks (operating in
Bangladesh) have been observed by the researchers to have idea about the practic
e related to service quality dimensions. Service Quality In the service quality
literature, it is generally agreed that different people understand different th
ings regarding the service quality as a multidimensional notion. Bolton and Drew
(1991); and Oliver (1980) defined customers service quality as the difference
between the actual service performance and their expectations. Similar to Bolton
and Drew (1991); and Oliver (1980), Parasuraman et al. (1988: p19) characterise
d perceived service quality as "the degree and direction of discrepancy between
customers perceptions and expectations". The services marketing literature reve
als that "service quality has been variously defined as focusing on meeting need
s and requirements, and how well the service delivered matches customers expect
ations" (Lewis 1993: p 22). They also proposed that "service quality is a global
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consumer judgement or attitude, relating to service and results from comparisons
by consumers expectations of service with their perception of actual service pe
rformance" (Lewis, 1991; p 53). Service quality is the distinction between consu
mers expectations for service performance and their perceptions of the service
received. Zeithaml and Bitner (1996, p 45) defined perceived service quality as
the judgement of a customer about the overall excellence or superiority of a pro
duct or service. They also defined service quality as, "the delivery of excellen
t or superior service relative to customer expectations". The study in banking s
ector by Parasuraman et al. (1985, p44) stated that "customers perceptions of q
uality are influenced by various gaps which lead to service quality shortfalls a
nd, in particular, that the quality perceived in a service is a function of the
gap between customers desires/expectations and their perceptions of the service
that is actually received". Supporting this definition, Lewis (1991) proposed t
hat service quality is a measure of how well the service delivered meets custome
rs expectations of a product and service. For instance, the service provided by
the local commercial bank (Government and private) and multinational banks in B
angladesh can be compared. From the observation, it has been found that the gap
(perceived and delivered services) is very high in case of state-owned banks (su
ch as Sonali, Krishi Bank etc.) and some of the private commercial banks ( such
as United Commercial Bank, Agrani, Rupali etc.) compare to the multinational ban
ks (HSBC, CITI NA, SCB) in Bangladesh. According to the above definitions of ser
vice quality, it may therefore be concluded that service quality is an assessmen
t of the customers about how well the service fulfils their expectations in term
s of perceptions of the service. Dimensions of Service Quality This section aims
to identify the various dimensions of service quality proposed by different aut
hors in the services marketing literature and to discuss these dimensions in rel
ation to the banking sector.
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According to (Lewis, 1993) the dimensions of service quality focus on "interacti
ons between a service firm and its customers and typically relate to: @ Technica
l dimensions, i.e. the outcome of the service process to include systems and tec
hnology; for example; Link ATM machine of Dutch Bangla Bank Limited, Credit card
s of Standard Chartered Bank, online and Internet banking of Bank Asia, EBBL etc
. @ Functional dimensions, i.e. the way the service is delivered to include inte
r-personal interactions between employees and customers, appearance and personal
ity of service personnel and approachability of personnel; for example; customer
service department of HSBC, service complain department (rarely found in Bangla
deshi banks; very common in developed countries) and trade services department o
f HSBC, SCB etc., @ The corporate image dimensions which is the result of how cu
stomers perceive the firm, and can be expected to be built up mainly by the tech
nical and functional quality of its services, and will ultimately affect service
perceptions ; for example; HIV/AIDS assistance program, Smile Brighter program,
Support to Acid and Dowry victims, by DBBL. All of the above dimensions of serv
ice quality are applicable in other service oriented sectors along with banking
sector. Most of the services (withdrawal of cash, preparing statements etc.) of
a bank are now technology oriented. The quality of banking services also depends
on the inter-personal interactions (functional dimensions) between the customer
s and the employees of the bank. For example, when a cashier addresses a custome
r in a familiar way, speaks to him/her in a professional manner and his/her tran
saction is completed as efficiently and quickly as possible, the customer is gen
erally satisfied with the behaviour and services offered by the cashier. Service
quality of a bank sometimes depends on the corporate image dimensions, such as,
reputation as an employer, approach to social responsibility issues etc. Parasu
raman et al. (1985) identified ten dimensions of service quality (e.g. credibili
ty, security, accessibility, communication, understanding the consumer, tangible
s, reliability, responsiveness, competence and courtesy). In subsequent research
, however, Parasuraman et al. (1988) consolidated the above ten dimensions into
five broad dimensions that are shown along with their definitions in Table 1.
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Table 1: Five broad dimensions of service quality Dimension Tangibles Reliabilit
y Definition Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and written
materials. Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.
Responsiveness Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. Assuran
ce Employees’ knowledge and courtesy and their ability to inspire trust and conf
idence. Empathy Caring, easy access, good communication, customer understanding
and individualised attention given to cus tomers. Source: Adapted from Zeithaml
et al. (1990) All of the above dimensions are found relevant to banking sector (
Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996). For example, Credibility is important to demonstrate
the good reputation of the bank. Security is another important matter to articu
late the safety for the customers to use the bank s ATMs anytime and to protect
the credit card against unauthorised use. Empathy or accessibility is another ke
y related factor that enables customers to deal with their banks more easily (Le
vesque and McDougall, 1996). Communication is also most important in the banking
sector. When customers complaint, the bank manger should be interested to liste
n to the customer regarding their complaints through proper communication channe
ls. Understanding the customer is important for banks to make the efforts to kno
w customers and their needs. Tangibility is another important dimension for bank
s. For instance, "Customers make inferences about the service quality on the bas
is of tangibles of the bank (the buildings, the physical layout etc.), that surr
ound the service environment because these can have a significant impact on cust
omers affective responses" (Jamal and Naser, 2002). Besides, the customers are
happy when they can understand their bank statements easily. Reliability is also
important in banking sector. When a bank officer, for instance, says he/she wil
l call the customer back in 10 minutes to solve the problem, he/she should do so
accordingly. Responsiveness is an important dimension for bank to resolve the p
roblem of the customers quickly and which is rare in our banking sector. Compete
nce or assurance is also an important factor to transact through the bank teller
process without making any mistake. Courtesy is important for bank employees to
have a pleasant behaviour and to show the politeness consistently when answerin
g the various questions of their
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customers. Sureshchandar et al. (2002) suggested that service quality is based e
ssentially on five dimensions/factors critical from the customers’ point of view
. These dimensions/factors are:
@ Core service or service product; @ Human element of service delivery; @ System
atisation of service delivery - non-human element; @ Servicscape s (the environm
ent in which the service is delivered and where the
firm and the customer interact, that means tangible commodities that facilitate
performance or communication of the service; www.busfac32.cob.calpoly.edu); and
@ Social responsibility.
Sureshchandar et al. (2002) also suggested that these five dimensions are releva
nt to the banking sector. For example, banks now have diversified range of produ
ct and services which includes deposits; ATM facilities, telephonic banking, loa
ns for purchases of cars, houses etc., retirement accounts, issuing traveller s
cheques, safe deposit lockers, etc. and service quality depends on how well thes
e services/facilities delivered by the banks to their customers. The human eleme
nt of service delivery in the banking sector includes providing banking services
as promised by the bank staff, effectiveness of bank staff s skill and ability
for actions whenever a critical incident takes place, willingness of bank staff
to help customers and the readiness to respond to customers requests, making cu
stomers feel safe and secure in their transactions, giving caring and individual
attention to bank customers by having the customers best interests at heart et
c. The systematisation of service delivery (non-human element) in the banking se
ctor includes having a highly standardised and simplified delivery process so th
at banking services are delivered within a minimum time without any hassles or e
xcessive bureaucracy, enhancement of technological capability (e.g. telephone ba
nking, internet banking, wireless banking service, etc.) to provide superior qua
lity service to the customers more effectively, degree to which the banking proc
edures and processes are perfectly fool-proof, adequate and necessary bank perso
nnel and facilities for good customer service etc.
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Tangibles of service (servicescapes) in the banking sector includes the ambient
conditions such as temperature, ventilation, noise and odour prevailing in the b
ank s premises, extent of the physical layout of equipment and other furnishings
being comfortable for customers to interact with bank staff, visually appealing
signs, symbols, advertisement boards, pamphlets and other artefacts in the bank
, bank staff who have a neat and professional appearance, visually appealing mat
erials and facilities associated with the service etc. Social responsibility of
the bank includes equal treatment stemming from the belief that every customer s
hould be treated alike, having branch locations in most places convenient to all
sections (e.g. villages, down town areas, etc.), a social responsibility charac
terised by "deserving service" to people belonging to all strata of society, a s
ense of public responsibility among bank staff (in terms of being punctual, regu
lar, sincere and without going on strikes), extent to which the bank leads as a
corporate citizen, and the level to which it promotes ethical conduct in everyth
ing it does etc. Avkiran (1999) identified the following four discriminating fac
tors of service quality in the banking sector.
@ Staff Conduct: Responsiveness, civilised conduct and presentation of branch st
aff that
will project a professional image to the customers.
@ Credibility: Maintaining bank staff-customer trust by rectifying mistakes, and
keeping
customers informed.
@ Communication: Fulfilling banking needs to customers by successfully communica
ting
financial advice and serving notices timely.
@ Access to Teller Services: The adequacy of number of branch staff serving cust
omers
throughout business hours and during peak hours. According to the above discussi
on of various dimensions of service quality, it is found that different authors
have proposed different dimensions of service quality. For having a quick look,
all dimensions of service quality proposed by different authors mentioned above
are shown in the following table.
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Table 2: Possible approach to analysing quality dimensions Dimensions Tangibles
Specific elements Staff s neat dress Staff s professional appearance Buildings
Leaflets Credibility Timely service Accuracy of records Dependability Staff con
duct Willingness of staff to help customers To provide prompt of service Staff
s knowledge Politeness of staff Staff s courtesy Trustworthiness and confidence
Good communication Individual attention Customer understanding Access to teller
services L* × ü × × × × × × ü ü ü × ü × × × × × × ? Z† ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü
ü ü ü ü ü ü × × ? S‡ ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü × ü ü × ü ü A§ × ü × × ü ü ü ü
ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü ü
Reliability
Responsiveness
Assurance
Empathy
Social Good service at a reasonable cost responsibility Staff s sense of public
responsibility Source: Lewis (1993), Parasuraman et al. (1988), Sureshchandar e
t al. (2002), Avkiran (1999).
Table 2 indicates that all authors mentioned above do not have the same opinion
with every aforementioned specific element of quality dimensions. However, the a
uthors of this study propose that all of the specific elements of quality dimens
ions may be used to measure service quality in the banking sector because most o
f them were used in banking sector previously to measure service quality (Zeitha
ml and Bitner, 1996; Levesque and McDougall, 1996; Avkiran, 1999; Sureshchandar
et al., 2002; Jamal and Naser, 2002). In accordance with Table 2, almost all of
the specific elements of service quality of reliability, responsiveness, assuran
ce, empathy, and social respons ibility dimensions are included in the four dime
nsions of BANKSERV, an instrument that exclusively deals with the perceived serv
ice
* †
L stands for Lewis (1993). Z stands for Parasuraman et al. (1988). ‡ S stands fo
r Sureshchandar et al. (2002). § A stands for Avkiran (1999).
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quality within the special context of banks, proposed by Avkiran (1999) except f
or the specific elements of tangibles dimens ion. The author, therefore, propose
s that the BANKSERV instrument proposed by Avkiran (1999) should be modified by
adding tangibles dimension because it is now considered as an important dimensio
n in every country all over the world to measure service quality in all sectors
and thus this instrument will be an appropriate battery to measure the service q
uality in the banking sector. As a result, the author proposes five dimensions i
n the BANKSERV instrument, which are listed in Table 3 and are used in this stud
y to measure service quality in the banking sector because some problems are ide
ntified with SERVQUAL to measure service quality. The main problem with SERVQUAL
is to compare perceived performance with expectations in separate items (22-exp
ectations items and 22perceptions items), whereas the BANKSERV instrument captur
es the similar comparison of perceived performance with expectations in a batter
y of single statements (Avkiran, 1999). Table 3: dimensions of service quality i
n the BANKSERV instrument Dimensions Tangibles Specific elements Appearance of p
hysical facilities, availability of leaflets, bank employees neat dress and pro
fessional appearance etc. Staff Conduct Politeness, greeting, willingness to hel
p customers, providing prompt service, to apologise for any mistake, expression
of genuine concern always for any mistake etc. Credibility Rectifying mistake pr
operly, maintaining security for customers dealings, keeping customers informed
always about the matters of concern to them etc. Communication To communicate su
ccessfully to provide financial advice and timely service such as helping custom
ers learn how to keep down their banking costs, having adequate knowledge of ban
k s services and products, telling customers about the actual time to perform th
e services etc. Access to Teller Adequacy of number of open tellers and staff du
ring the busy Services hours of the day. Source: Adapted from Avkiran, N. K. (19
99) Considering the above literature the following model can be developed which
will encompass the most common quality instruments as well as widely used qualit
y dimensions.
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Table-4: Proposed service quality dimensions and their instruments. Dimensions R
eliability Quality instruments Credibility Timely service Accuracy of records De
pendability Assurance Staff s knowledge Courtesy and Politeness of staff Trustw
orthiness and confidence Tangibles Location Staff s professional appearance Emp
athy Individual attention Customer understanding Responsiveness Staff conduct Wi
llingness of staff to help customers To provide prompt of service Social respons
ibility Good service at a reasonable cost Source: Compiled from secondary litera
ture and observation Concluding Remarks This paper focused on service quality is
sues in the developed countries which can be a guideline for our fastest growing
service industry, especially banking sector, regarding assurance of service qua
lity, customer perception evaluation, minimizing the customer expectations gap,
social responsibilities and other related issues. As service industry is growing
very quickly, they have to give careful attention regarding discussed service q
uality dimensions in order to minimize the expectation-perception gap as well as
to ensure better and quality service. This paper analyses different literatures
on service quality dimensions of Lewis (1993), Parasuraman et al. (1988), Sures
hchandar et al. (2002) and Avkiran (1999). It is clear that those literatures ar
e based on some elements which are directly related to the service quality issue
s and these issues are equivalently important for an organization for sustainabl
e growth of their profitability. In this paper the researchers also propose a mo
del of service quality dimensions along with their instruments on the basis of t
he earlier research work, which can be followed by Bangladeshi service sectors,
especially in banking to promote true quality service. Moreover, this model can
be guideline for the top level managers to understand the different aspects of s
ervice qua lity dimensions so that they can be able to choose the right dimensio
ns and instruments to offer competitive service for the sake of holding sustaina
ble growth and profitability of the organizations.
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