SERVICE QUALITY DIMENSIONS. The literature review illustrated that the most common model used in hotel industry is SERVQUAL, even though it is also most criticized. Using comparing method, this study examines the differences found between the number of s
SERVICE QUALITY DIMENSIONS
The article reviews the issues on measuring service quality, on defining the dimensions of service quality and the way in which the measuring models applies to hotel industry. The literature review illustrated that the most common model used in hotel industry is SERVQUAL, even though it is also most criticized. Using comparing method, this study examines the differences found between the number of service quality dimensions, the service quality dimensions content and the rank of each dimension. This paper also gather the recommendations made by researchers for improving the future studies on service quality in hotel industry.
SERVQUAL, service quality dimensions, hotel industry, literature review
The relationship between service quality and organizational performance in service industry has often been emphasized and demonstrated by an large amount of examples. In 1980 Jan Carlson, the president of Scandinavian Airlines System, managed to turnaround a loss year into a profitable business, by managing "moments of truth". This is the reason that strongly supports the significant impact of service quality on the business performance of those who adopt customer orientation approach. The same opinion is embraced by Juran and Gryna (1993), which claimed that in a log-term view, the most important factor affecting business performance is the quality of goods and services offered by organization compared to its competitors. 
Thus, since 1978, when one of the first service quality models was developed, a variety of other models tried to explain the factors that determine the quality of services and to measure the service quality dimensions in order to satisfy its customers. So far, studies show that there is no universally valid definition of the concept of service quality, as there is no single model to capture all the attributes that determine quality. This is primarily due to the subjectivity of customers and their needs and expectations in continuous development. As long as service quality will be considered to be qualitative only if it meets the expectations required, then the only way to measure this quality is only in terms of customers. Some of these models applied in hotel industry will be reviewed in this work using an exploratory approach and comparing method.
Studies in the field of service quality in hotel industry have not reached yet a general conclusion for defining and measuring the service quality, but there are some research studies that underline the significance of cultural background, segmentation in hotel market, the type of service industry that should be taken in consideration in research (Akbaba, 2006). Although SERVQUAL model (Parasuraman et el., 1988, 1991, 1994) proposed five universal dimensions, this has not been empirical demonstrated by subsequent studies. In hotel industry, SERVQUAL was very frequently used, but the results always significantly differ from the basic proposal.
Authors such as, Carman (1990), Babakus and Boller (1992), Asubonteng et al. (1996), Butte (1996) addressed critical issues on measuring service quality, with reference to the methodology used, the coherence of proposed solutions and theoretical and operational aspects. Some of these issues will be reviewed in this paper in order to suggest some recommendation that may improve the quality of future research in this field.
- WHY IS QUALITY IN SERVICES SO DIFFERENT FROM MANUFACTORY QUALITY
Evaluation of service quality is more complex than the products quality due to the intrinsic nature of services. Most of the time the service was characterized by four dominant features: intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishable. These characteristics lead to different customer perceptions than those formed in the manufacturing industry and require greater attention on customer satisfaction and quality services strategies. The "product" of the service is essentially an activity governed by people, for people and with people.  A brief description of the four main features of service concept will be underlined above.
Intangibility is the critical feature of the service which involves a global approach to service quality. Even if the service needs also tangible items to be realized, in the hospitality industry clients are interested in the outcome and service, and intangible components are the key of customer’ expectations.
Inseparability requires production and consumption of service, simultaneous (Kurtz & Clow, 1998). This means that contact staff and the interaction between client and service provider are very important for the client and that the staff members have to be prepared to handle being simultaneously involved in producing, marketing and quality control service. Client role and the extent to which he is involved in making service is critically important in providing quality services.
Heterogeneity of service in the hospitality industry is determined more by the fact that industry relies on people, and they are heterogeneous by nature. That is why standardization and uniformity of results or outputs is difficult to achieve. Thus, the performance variability occurs in the service at different levels , therefore the quality of service performance varies from one organization to another, from a producer of service to another within the same organization and for the same service provider on various occasions and contexts.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Perishable is another feature of the service which influences service quality, because if the service is not consumed brings losses that are almost impossible to recover. If a hotel room will not be occupied in one night, the loss can not be recovered later, because the service is no longer valid. In the hotel industry, also other attributes, such as imprecise standards, short distribution channel, reliability and consistency, face to face interaction and information exchange, and fluctuating demand have been identified and further complicate the task of defining, delivering and measuring service quality. Moreover, demand for service in the hotel industry is generally clustered around peak periods of the day, week or year, such as check-in, check-out times or holiday season and these peak periods create an environment which makes it difficult to provide consistent service quality (Barrington and Olsen, 1987; Mei et al., 1999).
- SERVICE QUALITY MEASUREMENT MODELS
Over the time, many authors have shown interest for setting attributes that determine the quality of services. One of the first models of the quality service was proposed by Sasser, Olsen and Wyckoff, in 1978 and had referring to the three dimensions of performance in services: materials, facilities and personnel. If it is considered that performance represents quality, these three dimensions relate to: quality of materials (part of providing service), quality of facilities (expanding the service) and quality of staff (receptionist friendly and pleasant). 
In this idea, the authors like Gronroos' (1982, 1984), Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1983), Parasuraman et. al. (1985, 1988, 1994), Cronin and Taylor (1992), Rust and Oliver (1994), Brady and Cronin (2001) have proposed different ways for measuring quality in services (Table 1). Although there are six major models proposed, SERVQUAL model is one of the most used in the studies conducted in hospitality industry. Therefore, a short presentation will be considered in the following.
Table 1. Service quality measurement models
Parasuraman A., Zeithaml V.A., Berry L.L. (1985, 1988, 1991, 1996)
Researchers Parasuman.A., Zeithaml V.A., Berry L.L. (1985) defined the model Z.P.B. which suggested the existence of ten dimensions for assessing quality services (Bergery, 2002, Nita, 2005, Parasuraman, 2005). These dimensions were defined following a qualitative study, due to the focus groups and interviews techniques applied in five service sectors: retail banks, long-distance telephone company, a securities broker, an appliance repair and maintenance firm and credit card companies . These dimensions refer to: reliability; responsiveness; competence; access; courtesy; communication; credibility; security; understanding/knowing the customer; tangibles. In their 1988 work these components were collapsed into five dimensions: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness. Reliability, tangibles and responsiveness remained distinct, but the remaining seven components collapsed into two aggregate dimensions, assurance and empathy. 
In 1991, five dimensions are ranked according to importance, and in 1996, these dimensions of service quality led to the discovery of gaps between customer expectances and perceived quality service. GAP model (Zeithaml and Parasuraman, 1996) is such model that is designed to minimize the gaps between customer perceptions of quality and the provider perception on customer expectations, between expected and perceived service quality and so on. This model represents a detailed explanation of what happens during the relationship between a business firm and consumer in providing services.
- SERVICE QUALITY DIMENSIONS IN HOTEL INDUSTRY
Hotel service quality research emphasized the importance of customer satisfaction and they create dimensions for measuring customer service quality expectations, but they proposed fewer dimensions for measuring the hotel performance. In analyzing service quality, the researchers focused on expectation and on the difference between expected and perceived service quality and less on performance. Although SERVQUAL model was one of the most criticized models, most researchers have made them research based on it, but some output differences appeared in the number of dimensions proposed for defining quality, (Garvin, 1987, Knutson et al., 1990, Saleh and Ryan, 1992, Getty and Thompson, 1994, Akan, 1995; Mei et al., 1999; Akbaba, 2006). (Table 2)Other research started to structure and operational SERVQUAL model, using different methodologies instead. (Oberoi and Hales, 1990, Webster and Hung, 1994, Ekinci and Riley, 2001, Tsaur et al., 2002, Juwaheer, 2003, Wilkins et al., 2007). (Table 2)
A brief description of the most important contributions of these researchers will be presented in the following. For a better analysis of research the models were classified in three distinct areas: the application of SERVQUAL model exactly how it was proposed by Parasuraman et al., application of SERVQUAL model with little changes on some items and application of SERVQUAL model by using a different methodology.
Table 2. Summary of service quality dimensions proposed in hotel industry
4.1. Application of SERVQUAL model exactly how it was proposed
A contribution to service quality and gaps (between what is offered and what is perceived) measurement it is proposed by researchers Tsang and Qu (2000). They started their research due to the desire to increase the international competitiveness of China’s hotels using the SERVQUAL model. They studied four gaps, two of them were from the traditional model: gaps between customer expectations on quality and perception of service quality received (gap 5); between managers' perceptions and expectations about actual customer expectations (gap 1) and proposed to examine two other gaps: gap 6 which refers to the difference between what customers perceive they receive and what managers believe they offer; gap 7 which represents the difference between management perception on customer expectations and management perception on customer expectations achievement.
Although this research has not proposed to test existing theories or develop new field and research tools, it contribution is due to recommendations made on service quality analyses from more points of view (firstly customers, than management, employees), so that to reduce existing disparities and to increase service quality.
A case study conducted by Antony et al., (2004) in six hotels from a UK hotel chain, identified the same five attributes proposed by Parasuraman et al. (1985). The only significant difference consisted in the importance given to each dimension. Service quality dimensions ranking differences were found even in the six hotels, even if they are part of the same hotel group. The causes of these differences were related to: default on standardized procedures, self managers, recruitment process is not standardized, inadequate training for front-line staff.
Also, some researchers (Kwist and Klefsjӧ, 2006), appreciated the value of SERVQUAL model and used the ten dimensions first proposed, due to the fact that courtesy, security are more relevant to the hospitality industry. The results of the study led in hotels from peripheral area of Sweden on Italian and British tourists, concluded that only the reliability dimension is on the same position (the first one), as in the initial study, while other dimensions have different importance. A special contribution of the study is on showing the importance of service quality dimensions, which is relative, namely: before the clients arrival at destination, the communication have increased importance, but after the stay, the communication dimension have no longer the same importance, so that means that first that customer perceptions of quality change as a result of experience. Another conclusion of the study underscores the importance of different dimensions depending on tourist nationality.
4.2. Application of SERVQUAL model with little changes on some items.
In Turkey’s hotels, Akan (1995) studied whether SERVQUAL scale applies in an international environment (the questionnaire was applied in an airport). Research carried out the aimed of verifying the applicability of SERVQUAL model dimensions in four or five stars hotels. Reached conclusions were:
• Dimensions of service quality suitable for hotels in order of their importance are:
- courtesy and competence of the personnel (21%)
- communication and transactions (11%)
- tangibilles (9%)
- knowing and understanding the customer (6%)
- accuracy and speed of service (5%)
- solutions of the problems (5%)
- accuracy of hotel reservations (3%)
• Attributes that determine the greatest satisfaction and dissatisfaction are: characteristics and behavior of employees, cleanliness (so far never found in other dimensional studies), pricing / value, timeliness.
These two results have led to a general conclusion, that the staff in the hotel industry should be friendly, respectful, understanding and should have experience, knowledge, training and knowledge in foreign languages. If the first satisfier element is characteristics and behavior of hotel personnel, the second satisfier are the products offered to use, like: quality of towels, the bed sheets, soap or shampoo.
Conducting a study in the three to five stars hotels in Australia, Mei et al. (1999) developed a new scale for measuring quality of hospitality services, called HOLSERV. The researcher concluded that there are three dimensions that determine the quality service, of which only two dimensions are proposed by SERVQUAL model: employees (behavior and appearance), tangibles and reliability. The first dimension - the employees - is the most powerful predictor of overall quality of services.
4.3. Application of SERVQUAL model using a different methodology.
Oberoi and Hales (1990) were the first researchers who have taken into account assessing the quality service the hotel market segmentation and have used a different methodology then SERVQUAL model. The researchers originally proposed 54 items referring to features, price, catering, activities, hotel conference offers and then they picked 23 items and divided them into two major dimensions: functional components and technical attributes (functional components are more important in the global perception of service quality).
Following a study on hotels in Mauritius, Juwaheer (2003) concluded that there are actually nine dimensions to determine the quality of services in hotels. The consistent contribution of this researcher was the research techniques developed in building a construct with 39 relevant attributes for hospitality industry: studying the literature on service quality dimensions, interviewing ten hotel managers, interviewing 25 tourists from 25 different nationalities.
Structural model proposed by Wilkins et al. (2007) suggests that the quality of hotel services is determined by the quality of each of the three sectors below: physical product, (stylish comfort, room quality - comfortable bed, fluffy towels - and other extra added), service experience, quality food and beverage. Each of these components of quality must be developed - not isolated one to another- in an integrated way, due to the fact that guest o perceive service quality as a whole and if one piece is missing the overall quality service is poor.
- CRITICAL VIEWS ON SERVICE QUALITY MEASUREMENT IN HOTEL INDUTRY
The most critical issues were brought to SERVQUAL model and in 1996, Buttle make a summary and grouped them into two areas: theoretical and operational. The operational definition include improper definition of "expectations" term, insufficient items to describe the variety of each dimension, the importance of "moments of truth" that influences evaluation of serviceswhich were neglected, the scale used, the administration of the questionnaire - in two stages.
Carman (1990) studied different types of services and stated that SERVQUAL does not apply to all these service industries. The researcher also stated that there are different dimensions to determine the quality of services, like costs and convenience, but they are not discussed in the model of Parasuraman et al. Babakus and Boller (1992) confirm that the dimensionality of service quality may depend on the type of services under study. Also Carman (1990) and Finn and Lamb (1991) argue that for measuring the quality of one service, in a particular field, it is needed more than an adaptation of SERVQUAL model based on the perceptions of researchers on certain situations.
Asubonteng et al. (1996) studied reliability and validity of the SERVQUAL service quality measurement and concluded there are some problems that occur when measuring the gap between expectations and perceptions. Asubonteng also stressed the importance of improving of constructs and scales and of using common definitions so that could be made some comparisons between studies. 
Researchers Martinez J.A. and Martinez L. (2010) made a critical study on the conceptualization and measurement of service quality, treating the most important service quality models in terms of types - reflective or formative. They classified the using this criteria and SERVQUAL model is framed in the category of formative multidimensional models. First weakness of these models is the fact that the service quality construct is formed by its dimension and this does not exist separatly from its dimensions. For this reason it all relevant dimensioins should be included in the model. Secondly, there is absolutly necesarry to distinguish the attribute-level performance from global judgements about the service as disparate entities, with divergent meaning, antecedents and consequences. 
Likewise, Martinez and Martinez recommended to develope more creative models, multidimensional and hierarchical, based on phenomenological research, which consider existing processes depending on context.
Literature clearly shows that there is still much work to be done in this area, that of measuring the quality services, considering that many of these conceptual models and their empirical testing leads to a limited way to use them in practice due to differences arising on the number of dimensions, their definition and importance.
SERVQUAL model limitations refer specifically to the fact that this is not universally valid (Carman, 1990), dimensionality of the service quality may depend on the type of service studied (Babakus and Boller, 1992), involves a difficulty in analyzing the differences between expectations and perceptions (Asubonteng et al., 1996) and cultural background influence customer perceptions on service quality (Akbaba, 2006).
However, in the hospitality industry, SERVQUAL is most often used for determining the level of service quality, whether it was applied as proposed by Parasuraman et al., whether it was applied with small changes in creating the items (LODGQUAL, HOLSERV) or was used only as a logical framework, applying different methodologies from those originally proposed.
A significant recommendation in order to improve research in this area is that of methods using both qualitative and quantitative, using phenomenological techniques that lead to creative models in quality services.
- Amy Wong Ooi Mei, Alison M. Dean, Christopher J. White, 1999, “Analysing service quality in the hospitality industry”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp.136-143.
- Andersson, T.D. (1992), "Another model of service quality: a model of causes and effects of service quality tested on a case within the restaurant industry", in Kunst, P., Lemmink, J. (Eds), Quality Management in Service.
- Anna-Karin Jonsson Kvist, Bengt Klefsjӧ, (2006), “Which service quality dimensions are important in inbound tourism? A case study in a peripheral location”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 520-537.
- Atilla Akbaba, (2006), “Measuring service quality in the hotel industry: A study in a business hotelin Turkey”, Hospitality Management, Vol. 25, pp. 170-192.
- Emin Babakus, Gregory W Boller, (2002), “An empirical assessment of the SERVQUAL scale”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 23, pp.253 – 268.
- Francis Buttle, (1996), “SERVQUAL: review, critique, research agenda”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 8-32.
- Hugh Wilkins, Bill Merrilees, Carmel Herington, 2007, “Towards an understanding of total service quality in hotels”, Hospitality Management, 26, pp. 840-853.
- Jiju Antony, Frenie Jiju Antony, Sid Ghosh, (2004), “Evaluating service quality in a UK hotel chain: a case study”, International Journal of Contemporany Hospitality Management, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 380-384.
- Jose A. Martinez, Laura Martinez, (2010), “Some insights on conceptualizing and measuring service quality”, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Vol. 17, pp. 29-42
- Juran J.M., Gryna F.M., 1993, Quality Planning and Analysis from Product Development through Use, Ed. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York.
- Kandampully J.A., (2007), Services management. The New Paradigm in Hospitality, Ed. Pearson Prentence Hall, New Jersey.
- Nelson Tsang, Hailin Qu, (2000), “Service quality in China’s hotel industry: a perspective from tourists and hotel managers”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 12 No. 5, pp. 316-326.
- Senga Briggs, Jean Sutherland, Siobhan Drummond, (2007), “Are hotels serving quality? An exploratory study of service quality in the Scottish hotel sector”, Tourism Management, Vol.28, pp. 1006-1019.
- Perran Akan, (1995), “Dimensions of service quality: a study in Isanbul”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 5 No. 6, pp.39-43.
- Robert H. Woods, Judy Z. King, (2002), Leadership and Management in the Hospitality Industry, second edition, Ed. Educational Institute, Michigan.
- Patrick Asubonteng, Karl J. McCleary, John E. Swan, (1996), “SERVQUAL revisited: a critical review of service quality”, Journal of Service Marketing, Vol. 10 No. 6, pp.62-81.
- Thanika Devi Juwaheer, Darren Lee Ross, (2003), “A study of hotel guest perceptions in Mauritius”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 105-115.