I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the term SERVQUAL . It is a measuring scale used to gage the quality of the service provided by an organization, from the customer’s perspective. It is based on the concept that high quality service has a positive impact on customer satisfaction. The question which occurred to me was to what extent SERVQUAL really suffices as a practical tool with which to measure service quality from the customer’s point of view.
There have already been many surveys which prove the importance of service quality in order to create satisfied customers, and SERVQUAL has been one of the most popular measuring scales for many years. But is it truly a practical tool which organizations can use to continuously monitor their service and improve it from the customer’s perspective?
Not entirely. My research has shown there to be a total of seven dimensions which play a role in creating satisfied customers:
- Reliability (think in terms of first time fixes, confidence in the answers provided, etc.)
- Empathy (think in terms of friendliness, the employee listening well, etc.)
- Accessibility (think in terms of easily finding the customer service telephone number)
- Waiting cost (think in terms of telephone waiting time)
- Voice response unit (think in terms of simple and logical selection menus)
- Knowing the customer (think in terms of contact history, product history)
- Customer focus (think in terms of follow-up, learning from signals, proactive advice)
The first five can indeed be said to be fully or partially covered by the SERVQUAL dimensions. Obviously, the voice response unit is very specific to each contact center. However, there are two new dimensions which are interesting, “ Knowing the customer” and “Customer focus”.
“Knowing the customer” concerns the fact that, as a customer, I feel that the organization recognizes me. Think in terms of them knowing my contact history, and the products and services I have already purchased. This can be relatively simply achieved, certainly in the contact center setting. After all, most organizations use a CRM system, which contains both the contact history and the product data of customers. It gives the customer a really nice feeling if an employee indicates that he can see that the customer also called a week ago, even if it was about something else. Acknowledge the customer and give him the feeling that he is not simply a number, but is recognized within the organization.
“Customer focus” is more about the degree of customer centricity, as it were. It covers a number of issues which can be simply implemented and a number which are more complex. The simple issues concern the conversation itself. The employee asks whether the answer is clear, whether my question has been answered and whether I am satisfied at the end of the conversation. Such matters can quite simply be included as a standard part of dialogs, though you must of course guard against overkill and it must remain natural, rather than feeling like a script which needs to be worked through. The more complex issues concern learning from customer signals, conducting a follow-up on the effectiveness of the contact, providing proactive advice and keeping promises.
When it comes to providing proactive advice, this might also include advising a product which is slightly cheaper but more in keeping with the customer’s needs. More long-term perspective therefore. The final point, keeping promises, is possibly the most complex of all, as it affects the end-to-end customer experience and not just the contact center. Let’s imagine for example, that the contact center has promised me a new contract at a discount price, the back office must actually make this happen within the period of time promised by the contact center. In other words, if these elements are to be effectively applied, this will require us to look at the end-to-end customer experience journey rather than the individual departments.
All in all, the total CCCQUAL tool comprises 46 statements divided among the 7 factors named earlier. I would conduct the full questionnaire with all 46 statements for an initial check of how an organization scores for all factors. Once the improvement points have been clearly identified, a pragmatic selection from the questionnaire will suffice in order to regularly check whether the improvements have had the required effect, namely to meet and eventually exceed customer expectations.