ServQual was/is a system model developed in the 80’s to look at how the quality of services (or lack of quality) could be better understood.  Unlike products that can be inspected, services are frequently produced at the point of consumption (literally for restaurants) and opportunities for inspection before the customer is served are limited.  However, much of it can also be applied to products as well.

ServQual is best known for its model questionnaire, an aspect that causes much discussion amongst academics, but it has a more fundamental idea to examine.  It identifies five potential gaps in the supply chain, each able to destroy the best intentions of an organisation, but gaps of which only one is regularly addressed.
  • Gap 1 is that between what customers want and what the organisations senior management understand as that need.
  • Gap 2 is the difference between senior management’s understanding of customer needs (policies) and the management system.
  • Gap 3 is the difference between what the formal management system directs and what is actually done.
  • Gap 4 is the difference between what is actually done and what the customer is told.
  • Gap 5 is the difference between what the customer expects and his/her perception of what he/she gets.
Internal audits look at gap 3 but how often does anyone look at the others.  Gap 2 should be covered during management reviews – but I wonder how effectively.  Gap 5 is open to analysis through customer feedback but, again, how effectively?  Do organisations compare expectations with perception or just look at their side, the deliveries.  Gaps 1 and 4 rarely get a look in, even a cursory glance.
That’s an overview – more detail on individual gaps later…
For further reading from the original source: Zeithaml, Z.A., Parasuraman, A. and Berry, L.L 1990 Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations, New York: The Free Press.