Of Customer Service, Product Parameters, and Service Quality: Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers

By Genestre, Alain; Herbig, Paul | Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Of Customer Service, Product Parameters, and Service Quality: Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers


Genestre, Alain, Herbig, Paul, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal


INTRODUCTION

Quality has many definitions. Ask an engineering or manufacturing type and the answer you would most likely get is performance to specifications. In this vein, McDonalds is a quality operation. Ask a marketer and the definition you would most likely get is having "Superior Value Added" or "exceeding customer expectations". A Five Star Restaurant would then be considered high quality even though its operation would in all likelihood not approach the same consistency as seen in the average McDonalds Franchise. They are both right in their own frame of reference. The average consumer prefers more quality to less quality, wants the result to be defect free, reliability and safety but beyond that usually can not define explicitly the concept.

Quality has been talked about a lot but very few seem to do much on the subject. Ask anyone over the age of fifty and they will quite candidly admit that the level of quality of the typical American good or service has severely degraded from what they remember in the fifties. The search for quality is arguably the most important consumer trend of the 1980s and the decade of the 90's; consumers are now demanding higher quality in products than ever before. According to a Whirlpool Corporation study, nearly four out of five American consumers claim to be more demanding about quality now than in prior years. One major reason for the inroads the Japanese auto companies have made in the United States has been quality. It may be only fit and exteriors as some Detroit executives say, but whatever it is customers want it and as a result are threatening Detroit's own survival. In an alarming admission, Buick in their 1990 ads proudly indicate that they are the only American car manufacturer in the top ten ratings of quality models, fifth place anywhere else would not get that level of boastful activity. In this day and age of the LBO and Junk bonds, if it can not be readily quantified in the short term, it is eliminated for cost savings. The result is short term profit that erodes a company's quality reputation so painstakingly built up for decades. A reputation is not a constant, it can as too many companies have learned the hard way vanish if not maintained. So Quality has been decreasing and to many consumers it has vanished.

There is little disagreement that quality (or more accurately the lack of it) is a major problem in our country today. However, unless it is more readily defined, quantified, understood, it can not be improved. In this paper, we discuss the concept of perceived quality, examine it from the customer's perspective, from the provider's perspective, and from the perspective of the manager. We propose that perceived quality differs significantly between all three entities. We propose that quality is indeed in the eye of the beholder and if a company wishes to prosper, it must first identify those elements its client base believes is important, create a quality product based upon those elements 0and then train his providers to meet the customer orientation of quality and not that of their own or management's.

QUALITY

Few academic researchers have attempted to define and model quality because of the difficulties involved in delimiting and measuring the construct. There are simply too many definitions of quality. To many quality means a condition of excellence implying fine quality as distinct from poor quality...Quality is achieving or reaching for the highest standard as against being satisfied with the sloppy or fraudulent. To others, differences in quality amount to differences in the quality of some desired ingredient or attribute. To many academics, Quality refers to the amounts of the unpriced attributes contained in each unit of the priced attribute (Garvin, 1988).

Crosby (1979, 1986) defines Quality as "conformance to requirements." and means a product should be built according to formally-stated specifications and Quality is achieved when a product is produced the way it's supposed to be. …

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