The impression customers receive when they are paying for a service is very important. Rather than judging the quality of the goods, or the cost of the item, the customer can only base their opinion of a service on the way the service makes them feel and the effectiveness of the service. There are potentially 7 gaps where customer service quality can be affected within a service organization. It is therefore highly important that management of service industry employees are aware of these potential pitfalls and manage their employees to mitigate these problems.
There is a Knowledge Gap where management must understand the level of knowledge the customer has, and define this properly. Once management has this understanding, they must develop standards for employees to ensure a high level of service quality. The gap between management understanding and the translation to standards is called the Standards Gap. However, the creation of standards by management does not necessarily translate into the customer service reps communicating with the customer properly. This is called the Delivery Gap.
These gaps can all be linked together under a framework of Internal Communications gaps. At the end of these internal processes, the customer receives the service product. At this point in time, the perception of the customer can be different than the perception of the customer service representative. The representative may think they are offering high quality service, but the customer perceives it negatively. This is called the Perception Gap. Additionally, the customer will be presented with promotional materials and communications from the company.
The perception of these materials may not match what the company believes it is communicating. This is called the Interpretation Gap. These two culminating gaps ultimately link together to create the overall Service Gap. This gap is a culmination of potential differences throughout the process. If a company is experiencing low levels of customer satisfaction, it is imperative to work back through the gaps to find where the problem may be occurring. A good example is the car insurance service industry.
In the area of insurance, the typical consumer will not understand the finer details of insurance – what premiums are, what deductibles are, and the varying types of additional coverage that can be purchased. Management might assume that the customer knows more than they do, or less than they do. This would be part of the knowledge gap. The processes they develop for service representative would not meet customers’ needs very well. This would result in an overall service gap.
However, if management can understand the knowledge needs of the customer, they can potentially increase sales, as the customer may come to realize that they need more in an insurance package than just the basics they were first considering. If the customer service quality is excellent from the beginning, the insurance company is able to attract a new customer, as well as increasing profits for the company from that one customer. Additionally, the company may think that since they are following internal procedures, their customer service quality is excellent.
However, the company must watch its customer retention rates. If it finds that it is loosing customers, it must find out why. It is probably due to an interpretation or perception gap. Perhaps the printed material does not appeal to the target audience. Or perhaps the language the service representatives are using does not meet the customers’ expectations. In either case, the overall service quality will decrease. It is therefore very important that the company constantly evaluates its level of customer satisfaction and revises its internal processes to meet customers’ needs.