Research by Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml (1991) and re-enforced by many others established that customer expectations are generally fairly basic. They expect organisations to do what they are supposed to do. The more they pay the higher the level of service they expect, but they don’t expect poor service just because they may pay a low price. There is a basic level of service that is expected irrespective of price. An interesting finding is that customers expect organisations to ‘play fair’.
There are five dimensions to customer expectations. These include reliability, tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. Reliability is the outcome of the service. Tangibles usually relate to the appearance of the physical features of the service while the service is being experienced. Responsiveness is the willingness to assist and to provide prompt service when the service is being experienced. Assurance is the knowledge of employees and their level of courtesy while the service is being experienced. Empathy is the ‘care factor’ shown by employees. Do they genuinely care about their customers?
The reliability dimension is critical with regard to meeting customer expectations. The other four dimensions are critical in exceeding customer expectations.
Finally, customer expectations include a range from a desired level down to an adequate level. The range can vary from customer to customer and from service/product to service/product.
Let's look at a common internal service, salary processing. Let's assume that the system is set up for people to be paid on a Tuesday night. When people wake up on a Wednesday morning they expect their pay to be in their bank account. Assuming their has been a hiccup in the system, receiving their pay sometime on Wednesday morning may represent the adequate level of the service for most people. Wednesday afternoon may be too late for the majority of people and their focus may have shifted from performing their jobs to worrying about when they will be paid. Not a good scenario! The range of tolerance for the customer expectations associated with this service will have been exceeded.
The point here is that most services and products have a range of tolerance. This issue is, do you know the range for your products/services. If you go beyond this range of tolerance then you will have little if no chance of meeting the expectations of your customers.
|Copyright Gary Ryan 2011|
Quote from a research participant
Knowing the expectations of the people you serve is paramount if you want to be successful.