Service organizations may find it more difficult to measure and standardize customer service. Gaps exist between customer expectations, customer perceptions, and management perceptions of customer expectations. While these aspects of service quality may seem complex, however, using the Service Quality Model an organization can systematically break down the various facets of creating excellent customer service in order ferret internal problems. Appendix A illustrates visually how a company can be looked at on various levels to bridge the gap between customer expectations and perceived service quality. Gaps 1-4 increase and decrease based on operational decisions at various levels of management.
Such service quality gaps can be found in the “Case of the Complaining Customer” (Finkelman, Goland). Presto Cleaner, a local dry cleaning company, had an eye opening experience when a disgruntled customer sent a long and detailed letter describing poor customer service at a popular store location. The customer, George Shelton, appeared to be a regular, whose business accounted for roughly $30 of revenue per week. An analysis of the Shelton’s lifetime customer value can be found in Appendix B.
According to Shelton, the cleaner had at one point lost a batch of his clothing. After much trial and tribulation, many unreturned phone calls, and a good amount of “run-around,” George Shelton had had enough, and decided to alert the President, J.W. Sewickley, that Presto Cleaner would no longer be receiving his patronage unless proper retribution was paid. The letter to Sewickley details Shelton’s perceptions of service provided and his service quality expectations for the Adams and Broadway location of the Presto Cleaning Company.
Helpful and courteous staff
Efficient and favorable conflict resolution
Higher prices (due to exceptional service)
Perceptions of Actual Service Provided
Improperly functioning computerized systems
Poor efficiency due to new systems
Lack of staff training for new systems
Poor communication between contact personnel and upper management
Inefficient, inconvenient complaint claims process
Lack of concern from upper management
Upon investigation of Shelton’s complaint, Sewickley was surprised to find that his head of customer complaints, Paul Hoffner, offered a slightly different version of events. Hoffner explained that Shelton had been overbearing, with expectations much to high for the company to possibly meet. Hoffner believed that the customer was much too insistent on retribution, without allowing standard company procedure to run its course. The head of the complaints department expresses his belief that some customers are not worth retaining, and that George Shelton is one such customer. The cost of retaining Shelton would amount to more than $200 for shirts purchased to replace the lost order, $35 for a refund of the order, and other administrative costs. Over all, Hoffner explains, retaining this one customer would cost the company close to $600, without guarantee that the issue would not arise again, making Shelton a customer better lost than retained.
Zeithaml, Berry, and Parasuraman, detail several aspects of service quality that can be used to clearly determine the roots of the service quality problem in the Presto case.
The question remains, what events took place to lead to the eventual loss of a customer as well as the belief that the customer was not worth keeping? The problem here appears to be a combination of facets, which include: lack of upward and horizontal communication, inadequate employee training for new, hard technology, lack of appropriate standardization for complaints resolution, and the perception of management personnel that customer demands could not feasibly or economically be met.
The disconnect between the quality of service Shelton actually