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The Gap Model of Service Quality

    The Gap Model of Service Quality

    What you’ll learn to do: Discuss the gap model of service quality

    In the London Underground, “Mind the Gap” signage is ubiquitous, warning passengers of the gap between the platform and the train’s entry/exit stairs. In the retail environment, the danger zone is the gap between customer service expectations and customer perceptions of service. In order to effectively manage the customer experience, retailers need to have that same front and center focus on minding the gap. The framework used to identify and address potential service gaps is the Gap Model of Service Quality, also referred to as the 5 Gap Model. As the second reference indicates, the model involves 5 different gaps.

    Originally proposed in a 1985 Journal of Marketing article titled “A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and Its Implications for Further Research,” the Gap Model of Service Quality is framework for analyzing common customer satisfaction issues. In the following sections, we will drill down into each gap individually, identifying root causes and actions to address customer satisfaction issues and close the corresponding service gap.

    In the Gap Model of Service Quality, the first gap is the gap of knowledge, reflecting the difference between customer expectations and management’s understanding of those expectations. That is, management doesn’t know what customers expect. Common reasons for this disconnect include and ineffective transfer and analysis of available information. For example, this gap might occur if management fails to solicit and factor in information and insights from front-line employees, field personnel and customer surveys. In a big data world where customers have free access to rating platforms and the inclination to share their experiences, this gap is sometimes referred to as a “listening” rather than information gap. That is, in many cases, the information is there. The key challenge is prioritizing information sources, making sense of and acting on the available information.


    • Outline how a retailer can close the customer expectations and management perceptions gap
    • Outline how a retailer can close the management perceptions and quality specs gap
    • Outline how a retailer can close the quality specs and service delivery gap
    • Outline how a retailer can close the service delivery and communications gap
    • Outline how a retailer can close the actual performance and perceived service gap

    Gap 1: Customer Expectation vs. Management Perception

    Gap between consumer expectation and management perception: This gap arises when the management or service provider does not correctly perceive what the customer wants or needs. For instance – hotel administrators may think guests want better food or in-house restaurant facilities, but guests may be more concerned with the responsiveness of the staff or the cleanliness of their rooms.

    Factors that affect the size of the knowledge gap include:

    • Market research: Before introducing a new product or service into the market, a company must conduct market research to understand whether there would be any demand for the product, and what features should be incorporated. The better this process is conducted, the smaller the knowledge gap will be. There are methods of ensuring that customer desires are taken on board. These include comprehensive studies, gauging satisfaction after individual transactions (surveys immediately after a purchase is made), customer panels and interviews, and through customer complaints.
    • Communication channels: The fewer the layers between management and customer contact personnel, the more likely that customer preferences will be incorporated into higher-level decision making on the product.
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