Using the SERVQUAL Model

Understanding the Servqual Model

In the simplest terms, the Servqual Model is a measuring scale for service quality. It was developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in the late 1980s as a tool to assess the discrepancy between consumers’ expectations and their perceptions of a service experience. This tool operates based on five tangible dimensions, namely:

  1. Reliability: This measures the ability of the company to deliver the promised service dependably and accurately.
  2. Assurance: This encompasses the knowledge of the staff and their capability to instill confidence and trust.
  3. Tangibles: This refers to the physical evidence of the service – including employees’ appearance, facilities, or equipment associated with the service.
  4. Empathy: This is about caring, individualized attention given to customers.
  5. Responsiveness: It’s about the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.

Tip: Use the word RATER to easily recall the five dimensions of SERVQUAL.

How the Servqual Model Operates

Think of SERVQUAL as a measuring scale with a customer’s expectations on one side and their perceptions on the other side. The goal of any business using the Servqual Model should be to narrow the gap between expectation and actual perceptions.

This is accomplished in the following manner:

  1. Determine Customer Expectations: First, businesses need to understand what customers expect from their service. This could be determined via surveys, interviews, or observations.
  2. Measure Service Quality: Next, businesses use the five dimensions mentioned above to rate their service delivery. Each dimension can be rated on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 represents low service quality and 7 signifies high service quality.
  3. Assess the Gap: After customer expectations and the actual quality of service delivery have been measured, businesses then determine where the discrepancies lie. This gap between customer expectations and perceptions provides businesses with the areas they need to improve.
  4. Develop Improvement Strategies: Based on the discovered gaps, plans are created and executed to bridge the gap and improve customer satisfaction.

The Importance of Servqual Model in Improving Service Quality

Here are the key benefits of using the SERVQUAL model:

Identifies Service Gaps: SERVQUAL effectively identifies gaps between customer expectations and their perceptions of the actual service provided.

Improves Customer Satisfaction: By understanding and addressing these gaps, businesses can improve overall customer satisfaction.

Enhances Service Quality: It provides a structured framework to enhance the quality of service based on customer feedback.

Focuses on Customer Perspective: SERVQUAL is customer-centric, focusing on what customers actually think and feel about the service.

Customizable to Industry Needs: The model can be tailored to suit specific industry requirements, making it versatile across various service sectors.

Helps in Competitive Benchmarking: Companies can use it to compare their service quality against that of competitors.

Facilitates Continuous Improvement: Regular use of SERVQUAL encourages continuous improvement in service delivery.

Aids in Strategic Planning: Insights from SERVQUAL can inform strategic decisions in service management and development.

Improves Customer Retention: By enhancing service quality, businesses can improve customer loyalty and retention.

Assists in Employee Training: Identifying service gaps can guide the focus areas for employee training and development.

Increases Profitability: Improved service quality and customer satisfaction can lead to increased sales and profitability.

Enhances Brand Image: Consistently high service quality strengthens the brand image and reputation.

Facilitates Clear Communication: SERVQUAL helps in communicating expectations and perceptions clearly between the service provider and customers.

Supports Service Innovation: Insights gained can inspire innovation in service offerings.

Helps in Resource Allocation: By highlighting key areas of improvement, it assists managers in making informed decisions about where to allocate resources for maximum impact.

VIDEO Overview of the SERVQUAL Model and its Questionnaire

List of 22 SERVQUAL Questions


Identifying Gaps Using the Servqual Model

The SERVQUAL model will identify different gaps between customer expectations and the actual service delivered. These gaps highlight various areas where service delivery can fall short of customer expectations.

Here are the names and brief descriptions of these gaps:

  1. Gap 1 – Knowledge Gap: This is the gap between customer expectations and the service provider’s perception of those expectations. It occurs when there is a difference between what customers expect and what the service provider thinks they expect.
  2. Gap 2 – Policy Gap (Standards Gap): This gap exists between the service provider’s perception of customer expectations and the service quality specifications that the provider sets. It highlights the difference between understanding customer expectations and translating them into service quality standards.
  3. Gap 3 – Delivery Gap: This is the gap between service quality specifications and the service actually delivered. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between the standards set by the company and the actual service delivered to customers.
  4. Gap 4 – Communication Gap: This gap is between the service delivery and what is communicated to customers about the service. It involves discrepancies between the promises made through marketing and advertising and the actual service delivery.
  5. Gap 5 – Perception Gap: This is the gap between the service expected by customers and their perception of the service received. It’s influenced by the size and direction of the four previous gaps and represents the overall discrepancy between customer expectations and their perception of the service delivered.

The SERVQUAL model suggests that for a service to be considered quality, all these gaps must be minimized.

Image illustrating the Servqual Model in action, with a business team working together to improve service quality and customer satisfaction.

Potential Challenges of the Servqual Model

Cultural Bias

The Servqual Model largely assumes a western perspective of service quality. This is vital to understand as it could generate skewed results when applied in markets with divergent cultural norms and customer expectations. For example, expectations of an American customer could wildly differ from that of a customer in Japan or South Africa.

Subjective Nature of Service Quality

Service quality is often subjective and may vary greatly from customer to customer, making it challenging for businesses to set universal standards. A customer’s perception and judgment of service quality are influenced by numerous factors such as personal values, previous experiences, and comparison to other services.

Limitations in Identifying Specific Problem Areas

Despite the Servqual Model’s five-dimensional approach to measuring customer expectations and perceptions, it might not precisely pinpoint specific areas of service that need improvement, often leading to broad, generalized findings. For example, low scores in “reliability” could result from a variety of underlying issues, making it tricky to devise targeted improvement strategies.

Difficulty in Cross-Industry Application

Although the Servqual Model is adaptable, it may not be suitable for all service industries. For instance, assessing tangibles in an online retailing business may not offer robust results, as there are no physical facilities or goods to evaluate.

Dealing with Ever-Changing Customer Expectations

Customers’ expectations are dynamic and constantly changing in response to trends, technological advancements, market competition and personal experiences. This constant shift can make it difficult for businesses to keep up and adjust their services accordingly.

Time and Resource Intensity

Implementing the Servqual Model can be a lengthy and resource-intensive process, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Gathering qualitative data, conducting surveys, and making continuous improvements can demand significant resources both in terms of time and finances.

The SERVQUAL Model in Action

Let’s consider a hypothetical example of a restaurant chain, “Gourmet Bites,” using the SERVQUAL model to improve its service quality. The chain is known for its high-quality food but has recently received customer feedback suggesting that the overall dining experience could be improved.

Here’s how Gourmet Bites could apply the SERVQUAL model:

Identifying the SERVQUAL Gaps

  1. Knowledge Gap (Understanding Customer Expectations):
    • Issue: Gourmet Bites assumes customers value gourmet food over quick service, but some customers are actually looking for faster meal options.
    • Action: Conduct customer surveys and focus groups to better understand customer expectations regarding meal speed and overall dining experience.
  2. Policy Gap (Service Design and Standards):
    • Issue: The restaurant’s policy focuses on food quality, with less emphasis on service speed and staff interaction.
    • Action: Redesign service standards to include specific guidelines for service speed and staff-customer interactions.
  3. Delivery Gap (Service Performance):
    • Issue: Some staff members are not consistently following the new service speed guidelines.
    • Action: Implement regular training programs for staff to ensure they understand and adhere to the new service standards.
  4. Communication Gap (External Communication):
    • Issue: Marketing materials emphasize the gourmet aspect of the restaurant but do not mention the improved service speed.
    • Action: Update marketing materials and advertisements to include messages about the quicker service options and enhanced dining experience.
  5. Perception Gap (Customer Experience vs. Expectations):
    • Issue: Despite improvements, some customers still perceive the service as slower than expected.
    • Action: Gather customer feedback regularly to assess changes in perception and make continuous improvements.

Implementing Improvements

  • Training and Development: Gourmet Bites invests in employee training focusing on customer engagement and efficiency to enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Menu Adjustments: The restaurant introduces a “Quick Bites” section in the menu for customers seeking faster meal options.
  • Customer Feedback System: Implementing a real-time feedback system in the restaurant, allowing customers to provide immediate feedback on their dining experience.
  • Marketing Campaign: Launching a new marketing campaign that highlights both the gourmet aspect of the food and the improved, more efficient service.
  • Regular Assessments: Conducting regular assessments using the SERVQUAL model to measure the gaps and continuously improve service quality.


Over time, Gourmet Bites notices an improvement in customer satisfaction ratings, particularly in areas concerning service speed and staff interactions. The marketing efforts successfully attract customers who are looking for a quick yet quality dining experience. Regular use of SERVQUAL helps the chain maintain a high standard of service quality, keeping it aligned with customer expectations.

Real Examples of the Servqual Model in Action

Banking on Quality with Servqual

Chase Bank used the Servqual Model to measure banking service quality. By utilizing the five dimensions, they were able to identify gaps in their service delivery, particularly in the responsiveness aspect. This led to the development and implementation of a new customer support strategy, which involved enhanced personnel training and increased contact center accessibility. The result? Higher customer satisfaction and improved competitiveness in the market.

Servqual Adds Value to Healthcare

Mayo Clinic, a renowned healthcare entity, also turned to Servqual. The clinic used the model to gauge its patient services and found reliability to be a significant factor. By focusing on consistent, dependable service delivery, Mayo Clinic was able to increase patient trust, resulting in increased patient retention and more referral business.

Bringing Hospitality to a New Level

In the hospitality industry, Hilton Hotels & Resorts used the Servqual Model to elevate their service standards. They concentrated on the tangibles dimension, upgrading their amenities and modernizing their establishments. Doing so not only met but exceeded customer expectations, proving pivotal in solidifying Hilton’s brand reputation as a leader in luxury accommodation.

How Non-profits benefit from Servqual

Even non-profit organizations have reaped the benefits of Servqual, as demonstrated by the American Red Cross. They used the model as a tool to boost their donor management. By focusing on empathy, they improved their interaction with donors, creating a more engaging and personalized communication strategy that enhanced donor satisfaction and commitment.


What is the SERVQUAL Model?

SERVQUAL is a model developed to assess service quality by measuring the gap between customer expectations and their perception of the actual service received.

What Does SERVQUAL Stand For?

SERVQUAL stands for Service Quality and is a framework for measuring the quality of service provided by a company compared to customer expectations.

How Many Dimensions Does SERVQUAL Have?

SERVQUAL is based on five dimensions: Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, and Responsiveness.

What Types of Businesses Can Use SERVQUAL?

SERVQUAL can be used by a wide range of service-oriented businesses, including hospitality, retail, healthcare, and financial services.

How Does SERVQUAL Benefit a Business?

It helps businesses identify gaps in service delivery, understand customer expectations, and implement improvements to enhance service quality.

Can SERVQUAL Be Customized for Different Industries?

Yes, while SERVQUAL has a standard structure, it can be tailored to fit the specific needs and contexts of different service industries.

How Is Data Collected Using the SERVQUAL Model?

Data is typically collected through customer surveys that include questions based on the five dimensions of service quality.

What Is the Difference Between SERVQUAL and Traditional Customer Satisfaction Surveys?

SERVQUAL focuses specifically on the quality of service based on predefined dimensions, whereas traditional customer satisfaction surveys might be more general or varied in focus.

How Often Should a Business Conduct a SERVQUAL Analysis?

Regular intervals are recommended, such as annually or biannually, to track service quality over time and identify ongoing improvement areas.

Are There Any Limitations to the SERVQUAL Model?

Some limitations include the subjective nature of customer perceptions and the potential for customer expectations to change over time, requiring ongoing adjustments to the model.

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