Some companies have more than just a competitive advantage in customer service, they have unwavering customer loyalty. How do they do it? The authors argue that the key to providing superior service is understanding and responding to customer expectations. Through their research, two different kinds of expectations emerged, both of which can change over time and from one service encounter to the next for the same customer. By responding appropriately to these expectations, managers can be on their way to developing a “customer franchise.”
1. R.C. Lewis and B.H. Booms, “The Marketing Aspects of Service Quality,” in Emerging Perspectives on Services Marketing, eds. L.L. Berry, G.L. Shostack, and G. Upah (Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1983), pp. 99–107; and
A. Parasuraman, V.A. Zeithaml, and L.L. Berry, “A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and Its Implications for Future Research,” Journal of Marketing, Fall 1985, pp. 41–50.
2. See, for example:
E.R. Cadotte, R.B. Woodruff, and R.L. Jenkins, “Expectations and Norms in Models of Consumer Satisfaction,” Journal of Marketing Research, August 1987, pp. 305-314.
3. A. Parasuraman, V.A. Zeithaml, and L.L. Berry, “SERVQUAL: A Multiple-Item Scale for Measuring Consumer Perceptions of Service Quality,” Journal of Retailing, Spring 1988.
4. V.A. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and L.L. Berry, Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations (New York: The Free Press, 1990), ch. 2.
5. L.L. Berry, V.A. Zeithaml, and A. Parasuraman, “Five Imperatives for Improving Service Quality,” Shan Management Review, Summer 1990, pp. 29–38.
6. W.H. Davidow and B. Uttal, “Service Companies: Focus or Falter,” Harvard Business Review, July-August 1989, pp. 77–85.
7. Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry (1990), ch. 7.
8. M.J. Bitner, B.M. Booms, and M.S. Tetreault, “The Service Encounter: Diagnosing Favorable and Unfavorable Incidents,” Journal of Marketing, January 1990, pp. 71–84.
9. For more detail on these issues, see:
Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry (1990);
Berry, Zeithaml, and Parasuraman (1990); and
L.L. Berry, A. Parasuraman, and V.A. Zeithaml, “The Service-Quality Puzzle,” Business Horizons, September-October 1988, pp. 35-43.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support and cooperation provided by the Marketing Science Institute and eight of its corporate sponsors.