Having satisfied clients is a key concern for pretty much all business regardless whether they’re offering products or services, or perhaps both. We are using the term ‘services’ more often, but the same principles apply if you’re providing products. If the clients are satisfied with your services, you will be able to form a relationship of trust and in turn positions yourself on the market. If your clients are satisfied it means that your company is reliable.
For most companies satisfying their clients simply means providing the best possible service, trying to meet their needs, but the service doesn’t always entail complete satisfaction. This is where the so-called ‘service gaps’ appear.
We live in a globalized world, the markets are very competitive, and the customers are better-informed, so achieving and maintaining a high degree of customer satisfaction is more challenging than ever. The struggle to close the so-called ‘service gaps’ is all too real for many companies. Let us try to define ‘service gaps’ in simple and straightforward terms. A service gap is a deviation, a discrepancy between what was planned and what is done in the end, or between what was expected and what is perceived. Service marketing gurus Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry recognize five service gaps – SERVQUAL and divide them into two categories – client and company.
Service gap is the only gap that falls into the first group. In order to avoid any misunderstandings – we are talking of service gaps or the service gap model as a whole, but the service gap is also a sub-category that’s often referred to as ‘customer gap’ since it is the only one that refers to the client or customer.
This gap represents the difference between the delivered service(s) and the client’s expectations regarding that/those service(s). The client’s expectations can be influenced by past experiences and knowledge, as well as previous communication with the providers of the service(s) and third-party references. The company only controls its own marketing communications, that’s why it has to ensure that these communications are clear and not misguided.
In addition to being, the only one that refers to the client, it is also the only gap that can be measured directly. The company gaps cannot be measured directly. Let us have a closer look at these gaps:
Knowledge gap. This gap occurs when the company doesn’t know what clients expect. It may be due to lack of upward communications, inadequate market research, insufficient focus on customer relationships and too much hierarchy within its management pyramid, i.e. too many layers of management.
Standards gap. It occurs when the organization knows what customers want but can’t provide it. This gap is also called ‘policy gap’ when referring to specific types of organizations (governments etc). There are several reasons for this gap to occur: poor service design, absence of client-oriented standards, an inadequate task standardization, inadequate goal setting, and inappropriate physical evidence and service environment.
Delivery gap. When the service doesn’t meet the service standards already defined in the service quality specification. The desired service wasn’t delivered, hence the delivery gap. The most probable causes for this gap are technical breakdowns or malfunctions, poor employee/job fit, poor technology fit, poor supervision or lack of adequate training.
Communication gap. When the service that is provided doesn’t match the service that has been promised by the company initially. If a company promises something it can’t provide, i.e. it provides something else in the end, then we’re talking of a communication gap. It occurs due to inadequate communications between sales and operations, lack of horizontal communication, propensity to overpromise.
If we know about these gaps and we’re able to detect them, what can we do to close them? Here are some of the techniques that we at iborn.net use:
- Investigate and discover what customers expect, we see how they respond and if we can’t provide the desired service, we make sure to offer them something very similar, and more importantly, something that will match their requirements.
- We set simple, yet creative service standards based on what we’ve learned about our client and we aim to set realistic goals that can be easily understood by every employee.
- We also develop endomarketing programs. Our staff very important, we train them and motivate them. The functions of Human Resources Management (hiring, training, supervision of working conditions and development of reward systems) are important and help reduce errors.
- Communicate what we can actually offer; we don’t just promise our clients anything, we offer only what we can achieve and has a perceived value for our client.
On the other hand, it is necessary to keep in mind the importance of service measurement. In other words, we should measure the distance from the expectation to the perception – i.e. whether our client thinks/feels that they got what they wanted in the first place. This is the standard of real performance and this has a great impact on customer satisfaction. To put things simply, if our customers feel that we delivered the service that they were looking for, they will be satisfied with us and they will be very likely to work with us again in the future and recommend us to their friends and business partners.
At iborn.net, we generally include both qualitative and quantitative approaches to better identify these gaps, in terms of magnitude, as well as the motivations, perceptions, and experiences of the client.
As we mentioned at the beginning there are no fixed rules or precise methods to close the gaps but if you follow the previous recommendations you will be more likely to provide a better service experience to your customer and in turn, achieve greater customer satisfaction.