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Dear Students,

Last year some students in your senior batch asked me these questions.
a. What constitutes a dimension in a service? For example, if I am looking for
empathy from a web based service, is it correct? If yes, then what constitutes
empathy in a web based service?
b. How do we differentiate between empathy of the outcome quality and
empathy of the process quality and then again, empathy of the physical
evidence quality?
c. Are we essentially nit picking? Is it worth to look at service quality so deeply?
Lets look at each of the issues one by one.
a. This perhaps is one of the most difficult issues. Are all dimensions of service
relevant to all services? On impulse, it is perhaps most natural to say no. But let
us look at each dimension more carefully
Reliability: Ability to perform the service dependably and accurately. This has
connotations to the expertise of the service provider. In a web based service
due to less variability expectations on this issue may be high, however,
whether it is actually so depends on your needs and the way the service is
designed! For example, I buy a lot of stuff on rediff shopping. In one such
purchase, I was supposed to get a product by courier. The product got
misplaced by the courier service and then the website people washed their
hands saying that they are not responsible for delivery! As far as they are
concerned, they have dispatched the product and that I need to follow up with
the courier to get the product safely delivered. So, what happened to
reliability? Let me give another example. I have taken up two policies from
ICICI Pru. When I shifted from BBI to JAM, I was tied up in other issues and
therefore, could not contact the guys in BBI and wanted to do it in JAM. I
looked up the website for details of the address and telephone number. When I
tried to contact them on this the guys had changed their address and nobody
knew where the new office was. So again the question of Reliability? So what
I want to say is that in these very two different situationsone where an
actual product was involved, and another where I sought information, the
reliability of the web based service was low. Reliability of services on human
platform is perhaps easier to understand.
Assurance: Ability to convey trust, credibility, courtesy and security: At a first
glance, it appears that assurance and reliability perhaps measure the same
thing. However, assurance is more a measure of the question how much can
you clear my doubts or rather how safe am I in your hands, while
reliability discusses the result of the service i.e. how accurate are you? A
waitress in a Fast Food Counter can perhaps be reliable, but I wonder whether
she can clear my doubts about the ingredients that go into making the dish? In
a web based service assurance (or the lack of it) is reflected in the fact that
two out of every 3 users abandon a site that asks for personal information. It
can also manifest it self in doubts about the security of the transaction and

when dissatisfaction sets in if everything is not available on the site. Again,

let us look at an example. I buy some cases from ICFAI website. The website
has several on-line payment gateways. I invariably choose the ICICI gateway
as against the ICFAI gateway, the reason is assurance! Can ICFAI actually do
anything about it?
Responsiveness: Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. I
call it DILLIGAD factor i.e. DO I LOOK LIKE I GIVE A DAMN? that
most employees put on when you ask them of a service. If you want to know
what it is, imagine some of your classmates faces in Services Marketing
Class! One can also visualize this in government services and some teachers
services perhaps? For a web based service, research shows that 10% leave a
website if the downloading time is less than 7 seconds, 30% leave when it
increases to 10 seconds and a staggering 70% leave when it is 12 seconds.
However, the tradeoff is when you want to make a website visually appealing
versus keeping it simple. A simple website would be responsive, but a visually
appealing website would take a long time to download and thereby reducing
the responsiveness factor.
Empathy: Caring, individualized attention the firm provides to customers
which includes access, communication, understanding the customer etc. Let
me give you an example of warmth that I look for from a website. This is to
contrast between two services. While I went to Dubai for the 1 st time, I wanted
to use my SBI card to make certain purchases. I was aware that I can use the
Gold card to make the purchases abroad. But I wanted to make sure, since I
did not want to be embarrassed in a foreign country, that I get to know that
cards would not be accepted after I had made the purchases, and like all males
I also did not want to ask before the purchase! I went on to the website and
sent in a question regarding this, and the reply I got was an automated one
saying that they thanked me for the query and would revert to me within 7
working days! As against that I sent a query regarding my flight details to
Kingfisher airlines, and I got an immediate reply where the outcome was not
what I wanted, but I was happy because they got back! And to be sure, SBI
cards never got back!
Tangibles: Physical facilities, equipment, appearance of personal,
tangiblised services, physical outcomes. Let me confess, often we are taken
in by the way a person dresses! Or even, a report which is neatly typed is
sometimes given more weight than what it tells! My daughter in her school
got 3 marks deducted because she did not leave lines between her answers. All
these are manifestations of tangibles in a service! We, in marketing, often
say, that appearance is more important than substance. In a web based service,
appearance of the website is a key determinant of a service quality. However,
this has to be traded off with responsiveness. Animations, sounds; ease of
navigation all contribute to the tangible aspect of the website.

I however, agree that all the factors will not be relevant in one moment of truth.
This is the reason I am asking you to see several moments of truth.

b. Now let us tackle the 2nd issue i.e. how do we differentiate between a dimension
that is relevant to outcome quality with the same dimension that is relevant to
process or transaction quality or for that matter with the physical evidence
First, let us look at the types of quality. Outcome quality deals mostly with the
core service. In case of a laundry, it is getting clean & ironed clothes.
Transaction Quality is to do with how the Dhobi behaves. Again refer to
DILLIGAD. How many times you have heard the guy is good, but it is
easier to get God than him. For instance, my father refused to go to the best
doctor in town, simply because the guy was rude. My father chose to die (and
he did!) but refused to go to him! Physical evidence quality again got to do
with Facilitating services. For example, in case of academics, how good are
the classroom facilities. In case of hotels, how impressive is the location, or
lobby design. Or in case of the Dhobi, how impressive is his outlet? Now let
us look at each individual dimension for each of the service quality parameter.
a. Reliability: This is perhaps the easiest. Let us take the dhobi example.
An outcome reliability would be does he give me clean and well
ironed clothes each time I ask? A process reliability would be does he
give the clothes on time every time? And a physical evidence
reliability, is does he use machines every time? Let me give another
personal example. I had got my dues from SPJAIN in two cheques. I
deposited the same in SBI, XLRI branch. For some reason, one cheque
was cleared in 2 days and the other got cleared in 21 days. They said
that one was a local cheque and the other was outstation. Both cheques
were drawn on the same bank and by the same person, only deposited
on two different dates. Therefore, while the outcome was reliable (i.e. I
got my money), the process was not reliable.
b. Assurance: This is a little more difficult. Assurance has to do with
expertise. Let us take the example of the Income Tax refunds. In this,
we do have the assurance of the outcome, but as to assurance of the
process is unknown. Similarly if you have ever purchased a book on, one way they try to take care of the process assurance is
by telling you when to expect your book! Similarly a physical
evidence assurance is perhaps getting the same table each time you
visit a restaurant. Another process based assurance is a grumpy
dhobi or even a grumpy shop assistant.
c. Empathy: This becomes more important in a Service Recovery
situation. However, even in a normal service encounter one can
visualize empathy. Do I treat students as morons or as human beings? I
may be an outstanding teacher, but do I come across as caring? So,
does it affect the outcome? Again, is the process such that it can accept
variability? Does the process deal with each student as a human being
or a roll number? And thirdly, is the aesthetics of the physical
environment such that it sends caring signals to the customer. Is the
dcor cheerful, does it go to increasing customer confidence? As an
example, I do not believe any person at XLRI would be biased against

physically challenged people. But the physical evidence suggests so!

Even the coffee lounge for faculty is upstairs which means it is out of
bounds for physically challenged people. Does the physical
environment exude warmth or does it intimidate customers?
d. Responsiveness: The responsiveness of outcome quality is how
quickly do I give feedback. Or perhaps, how quickly do I as a teacher
respond to student queries. In an insurance situation, how quickly are
the claims processed. For process quality, responsiveness would be
how quickly you set up appointments, or how hassle free is
complaining. For physical evidence quality, responsiveness would be a
question as to how does the physical environment respond to customer
need! Ever tried to get to meet an undersecretary to the government in
his office? To find the office itself is a big task! The physical evidence
itself is un responsive. It is especially important in those spheres where
IT has been introduced.
e. Tangibles: This is easy! In a restaurant, the tangible for the outcome
quality is the food quality. The tangible for process quality would be
the menu card or even the waiter clothes. The tangibles with respect to
physical evidence would be the chairs/tables/ crockery etc.
c. Now coming to the last issue! Are we nit picking, looking at details where none
exist. This is difficult! Perhaps it depends on where the company is investing. Is it
investing in the core service, is it investing in the process or is it investing in
physical evidence? It also depends on the moment of truth. Is the contact taking
place at the customers premises, how important is the service to the customer,
how expert is the customer at the service?
Have fun!