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In business and marketing products marketed by a company may be classified broadly as goods and services. The quality of goods is generally defined in terms of the physical characteristics of the product or the goods marketed. However, it is not possible to define quality of services in terms of physical characteristics alone. Quality of service is judged by the customers on many different dimensions in addition to the physical characteristics associated with the service. There are five aspects or dimensions of service which are found to be very important in determining customer perception of service quality. These are:
Reliability: The extent to which the service performed matches implicit or explicit promises made by the service provider regarding the nature of service. For example, the basic quality of room decor, food, and facilities provided in a hotel.
Responsiveness: The willingness to help the customer promptly in case of special and unforeseen requirements. For example helping a customer who fall sick when staying in the hotel.
Assurance: The extent to which the service provider and the staff is able to inspire trust and confidence. For example the customer dining in a restaurant may not be able to directly judge the level of hygiene maintained by the restaurants. Here it is not only important to actually provide hygienic food but also to inspire confidence that the food is hygienic. The assurance is regarding giving the customer peace of mind that everything will be taken care of as required, rather than just actually taking care when the need arises. For example a doctor with MD degree may inspire more assurance than a doctor with just an MBBS degree, although the basic treatment provided by them may be of same quality.
Empathy: This is being able to understand the needs of the customer as an individual and meet the special requirements of the customer. This is more about customizing the service and the general service provider behavior for each customer, rather than providing a uniform high quality treatment to all. Many companies try to create this sense of empathy by employing tactics like addressing each customer by name. However, true empathy means understanding the special characterises and needs of individual customer, and modifying service to them accordingly.
Tangibles: This is the parallel of physical characteristics of quality of goods. This refers to the physical characteristics of facilities, equipments, consumable goods and personnel used in or associated with the service provided. However here also the quality is judged not by some uniform specifications in terms of physical characteristic, but by the impact these physical characteristics have on customer assessment of the service quality.
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