How to measure service quality
It’s imperative that you provide excellent service to your customers. With a wealth of competition, companies that don’t compete on customer experience will lose customers to those that are continually delighting and providing a high quality of service.
However, even companies that understand the need to provide exemplary experiences have a hard time measuring their service quality. Since it’s a qualitative measurement, rather than a quantitative measurement, it can be challenging to assess. Even some researchers have struggled with the issue of how to measure service quality and understand how you’re impacting your customers.
In this article, we’ll list ways to assess service quality and provide actionable insights on how to improve on your findings.
How to measure service quality
In a general sense, measuring service quality depends entirely on the context and brand promise, and service quality dimensions vary according to the industry. However, the industry standard and most widely-used metric is SERVQUAL.
SERVQUAL is based on a set of five dimensions which have been consistently ranked by customers to be most important for service quality, regardless of service industry. These dimensions defined by the SERVQUAL measurement instrument are as follows:
- Tangibles: appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.
- Reliability: ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.
- Responsiveness: willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
- Assurance: knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence.
- Empathy: the caring, individualized attention the firm provides its customers.
These five SERVQUAL dimensions are used to measure the gap between customers’ expectations for excellence and their perception of the actual service delivered. The SERVQUAL instrument, when applied over time, can help you understand both customer expectations, perceptions of specific services, and areas of needed quality improvements.
SERVQUAL has been used in many ways, such as identifying specific service elements that need improvement, and targeting training opportunities for service staff.
Proper development of items used in the SERVQUAL instrument provides rich item-level information that leads to practical implications for a service manager.
The service quality dimensions evaluated by SERVQUAL should be adjusted for optimal performance in different industries, including public and private sector applications.
SERVQUAL scores are highly reliable, but when used in different industries may fail to produce a clear delineation of the five basic dimensions. Other measures, such as the Six Sigma model should be considered for applicability in quantifying the gap between service expectations and perceptions.
Service quality questionnaires
In order to improve service, you must understand customer satisfaction and customer expectations. This can be done by asking for feedback from your customers using service quality questionnaires. These are typically completed after the service with a follow-up email or paper survey. Following up immediately is the best way to fix any mistakes or clear up misunderstandings before your customers become detractors.
Service quality questions
There are many types of questions that can be asked in a Service Quality Questionnaire. They should focus on the customer’s interaction with the customer service rep (positive and negative), the service and experience overall, and if the customer would use your service again. It’s also good to have a couple open text questions so your customers can write in their own feedback.
Sample questions include:
- The service rep was helpful (strongly agree to strongly disagree)
- Which of the qualities about the service did you like (include a list patient, friendly, attentive, willing to help, empathetic, etc)
- Was there anything about our service that stood out to you? (open-text response)
- Over the next 12 months, how likely are you to use our product or service again (strongly agree to strongly disagree)
As mentioned before, measuring service quality depends entirely on the context and brand promise, and that varies by industry. To understand if you’re providing good service, you must know exactly what your customers are looking for in terms of service quality.
Below are examples of how service quality is measured in different industries.
In restaurants, service quality tends to focus on timely service (not too rushed or too slow), server attentiveness, and friendliness.
In fine dining restaurants with a fairly engaging experience, an expected part of service quality is the ability to make relevant recommendations. This can be easily measured by a manager asking the customer questions at the end of the meal, such as “how satisfied were you with the server's recommendations?” The manager can also ask if the order placed was influenced by the recommendation(s).
However, this is clearly not a measure that would be relevant in a quick-service restaurant, showing the importance of context. In quick-service restaurants, things like order accuracy and speed of delivery are more accurate measurements. To gather this data, you can put a link to a survey on a receipt and giveaway a free menu item upon completion.
Service quality is especially important in automotive because the customer’s car must be fixed and completed on time. This is mostly focused on the service itself, and less about the interactions with the technician or front desk attendant, except when it comes to trust (because they must trust the professionals' recommendations).
You can ask questions like “how would you rate the quality of the service you received” or “is your car now running like you expected after it was serviced?” You can also ask an NPS question like, “how likely are you to recommend our service to a friend or colleague?”
In retail, you typically ask things about staff product knowledge (think Adidas and knowing what type of running shoe best suits your use) and recommendations. You can also assess merchandise knowledge (what goes with what), friendliness, and availability (were team members on the shop floor easy to engage).
While there are all very straightforward questions to ask, they can be conditional based on the text comments or score provided on that element.
These questions help to identify both the frequency with which it happens and the customer's satisfaction with the experience.
You can then regress that against the outcome measure and see how big an impact that makes on the overall experience. This provides direction on what to focus on in your store (or restaurant), and what action you should take. For example, if shoe recommendations are a significant part of the experience and guests are not satisfied - you can provide better merchandise training, and if they are knowledgeable but not making relevant suggestions, retrain to better read guests' interests.
How to take action on your findings
After you’ve defined and measured your service quality, it’s time to take action and create a better service experience. This can be done on an individual or team level.
Analyze team-wide data
By analyzing data across your team, you’ll get a big picture into where the knowledge gaps are as a whole. For instance, maybe the team lacks product knowledge or customers don’t find them friendly and helpful. Once you understand the collective feedback, you can implement training programs in those specific areas. This will also ensure new employees don’t make the same mistakes.
Analyze individual data
Every service rep has their weakness and developing an individualized service improvement plan can help strengthen every service rep. It’s important to go over the feedback in a positive way and emphasize the positive qualities, but you can also highlight areas of improvement. Individual service reps might be one quality away from exceptional, and it’s the manager's goal to get them there.
Creating great customer service takes time and effort. You must be intentional about collecting feedback, putting that feedback into action, and creating exceptional experiences for your customers.
Want to learn more about creating great customer experiences?
Qualtrics compiled a reading list based on recommendations from CX leaders, you can download that here.
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