Gap Model of Service Marketing

Category: Tourism
Last Updated: 25 Mar 2023
Essay type: Process
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Table of contents


In a competitive market, a business’s main purpose is to create value for customers, because it is basically the consumer who essentially determines what a business is, even the future success of a business (Karl, 2009). For service marketing, which is the form of marketing focuses on processes deeds and performances, service quality is only way for customers to evaluate their experiences (Susamoo, 2012). Hence, the service quality is one of the most important factors that any service organisation should face.

Service quality can be defined as ‘a customers' perception of how well a service meets or exceeds their expectations’ (Seth, Deshmukh ; Vrat, 2005). However, many consumers are short of the knowledge to evaluate the service they receive, meanwhile, the providers also lack skills to meet customer’s needs. When the experience does not match the expectation, a gap arises. The gap model of service quality identifies five major gaps that organizations seeking to meet customer's expectations in service delivery process (Turner, Bienstock & Reed, 2010).

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The purpose of this paper is discussing the gaps can occur in delivery of service quality. Besides, this essay will describe the feasible approaches for closing these service quality gaps, and put forward the examples to support.

Customer Gap

Customer gap is the difference between customer expectations and perceptions (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2006). This gap arises when the customers misinterpret the service quality.

The customer expectation is the standards or reference points that customer bring into the service experience, sometimes influenced by their cultural background, lifestyle, personality and so forth. Customer perception is based on the customers’ interaction with service. In ideal world, customer’s expectation world be almost identical to customer’s perception (Talebzade, 2009). However, actually, even some great companies like Apple seem to be increasing significantly their customer gap. Customers complained that they were squeezed by Apple’s service platform, iTunes, because of the high cost of Apps.

The App customers expect was high quality and cost-saving service, but the spending was far outstripped their expectation. It caused customers dissatisfied with iTunes services (Sullivan, 2011). Therefore, the results of customer gap are quite predictable, the higher the customer gap, the higher the risk of generating customer dissatisfaction and losing loyalty. In order to close the customer gaps, managers should educate customer to see reality of service delivery and clearly understand the customer expectation.

IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer used to collect the information about customers’ ideal shopping experience so as to meet customers’ needs before opened its Chicago store. In basis of those feedbacks, IKEA redesigned the store, and made it more appropriate for shopping. Local customers were so satisfied with this store, and rated 85 per cents ‘excellent’ for this store (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2006). Hence, clearly understanding customers’ expectation and perception in advance can help managers to narrow the gap.

Knowledge Gap

Knowledge gap is the difference between customer expectation of service and company understanding of those expectation (Webb, 2000). Service providers who result in knowledge gap sometimes apply inadequate marketing research orientation and lack of communication with employees and customers. Moreover, the factors of lacking company strategies to strengthen customer relationships and inadequate service recoveries are also the critical reasons to cause knowledge gap. Boeing has been the leader of airplane manufacturing and service providing.

However, in 2006, Boeing declared that their cabin broadband access service was suspended, because this service was badly received by passengers. In actual, for passengers, what they want was flights to be on time. Boeing assessed customer expectation in wrong way, and made failure of the service innovation (BBC, 2006). In a customer-orientated business, it is important to have a clear understanding of the customer’s need for service.

To close the gap between the customer’s expectation and business’s perception of service delivery, anagers require a set of comprehensive marketing research and adequate upward communication with their customers and employees. For solving this problem, Ritz-Carlton Hotel establishes its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for improving service quality. The information of registered customers in CRM can help Ritz-Carlton Hotel to customize client’s accommodation experience based on customer’s lifestyle and preference (Delio, 2000). Therefore, for closing knowledge gap and improving service quality, manager should know what customer really want.

Design and Standard Gap

Design and Standard Gap is the gap between provider’s perception and customer-driven service designs and standards. It may arise when companies are difficultly translating customer expectation into service quality specification. The reasons of this gap occurs can include poor service design, lack of quality specification and failure of maintaining and updating servicescape (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2006). Presently in Taiwan, the tourism sector encourages local farmers to develop their rural tourism in order to attract mainland visitors.

Therefore, the number of agents were founded in the last two years. Nevertheless, many agents are not registered with Taiwanese tourism sector, and do not get the appropriate insurances for taking care of tourists (Siow, 2012). The tourist’s expectation is the safe and pleasant journey experience, but the tourism sector cannot supervise this market well. It causes negative impact among visitors. In order to close design and standard gap, managers need make sure that they are defining the level of service quality they believe.

For example, Amazon has set standards for specifying the shipping time when a products is unavailable, out of product in local warehouse and other different conditions (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2006). These sets of specifications can improve the efficiency of daily operation, and enhance service quality for customers. Therefore, managers should specify service quality standards that reflect expectation so as to narrow the design and standard gap.

Performance Gap

Performance Gap is the gap between the service quality specification and service delivery. This gap exposes when service providers fail to deliver service quality according to their goals and standards. Sometimes, service providers who leading this gap have poor human resource policies, or staffs lack of knowledge and skills to delivery service to customers (Chenet, Tynan & Money, 2000). Motorola is famous for its performance management. Motorola’s managers believe that the human resource strategy is identical to their performance management. Motorola focuses on the skills of individual employee to improve the process of delivering value to customers.

Motorola‘s service performance objectives consist of two parts, business goals and behaviour standards. These two parts work together to improve employee performance and service quality (Ahire, Waller & Golhar, 1996). Therefore, for narrowing the performance gap, managers need to audit the customer experience that providers currently deliver, in order to make sure the level of service delivery can live up to the specification (Rajagopal, n. d. ). Besides, managers also should consider the role of employee and customer in delivery process.

For Motorola, except for improve staff training and education, managing and analysing the customers’ different requirements are also important. Hence, so as to close the performance gap, managers should coordinate the interaction between employees and customers in delivery process, and make service experiences meet the specification.

Communication Gap

Communication gap is the gap between the delivery of customer experience and what is communicated with customers (Hudson, 2011). Sometimes, customer expectations are highly influenced by the promises made by service providers.

Therefore, this gap arises when service providers are over-promised, and do not match the actual service quality to customers. In 2009, Google launched its music service in mainland China, and cooperated with local music website, Top100 to provide free and legal music. Google promised that customers can create their own online songs list, and easily access to that in any time. However, with the failure of the cooperation with partner, and shut down the mainland division, Google's music service became unstable. Customers often cannot accesse to their online music list as Google promised.

Google over-promised their service and finally cannot perform that (Tejada, 2012). Clearly, Google’s failure is the result of communication gap between customers’ perceptions and Google’s promises. Therefore, so as to narrow the communication gap, managers should ensure service performance quality matches to their promises. Besides, they also need avoid ineffective management of customer expectation and inadequate horizontal communication among different service providers (Zeithaml, Bitner ; Gremler, 2006).

As an electronics retail giant, BestBuy have 1150 stores around the world. In each BestBuy store, staffs will clearly and directly promise the returns commitments of goods to customers, and faithfully perform their promises (BestBuy, 2013). Hence, managers need avoid exaggerating what will provide to customer so that finally harming customer’s perceptions.


This paper has described the five gaps that occur in the process of service delivery. Moreover, a set of approaches so as to close these service quality gaps is explained following each gap model.

Today’s consumer has become increasingly demanding. Customers often look at the service quality of both the process and outcomes of service delivery. The delivery of high quality service is one of the most complicated and important tasks for each service provider. The gap model of service quality is a measure of how service supplied by providers meet or surpass customer’s expectation (Ahmed et al, n. d. ). In order to close these gaps, managers should clearly understand customer expectation, set quality specification, manage employee performance and communication channel.

To narrow the service quality gap is not only for improving the service quality, but also for delivering value well to customers.


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