Gaps of Service Quality

Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using s e rv q ua l: A Case Study of the Croatian Hotel Industry ? s u z ana m ar k ovi c Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management Opatija, Croatia s an j a r as p o r Polytechnic of Rijeka, Croatia The purpose of the study is to examine customers’ perceptions of service quality in the Croatian hotel industry. The aim is to assess the perceived service quality of hotel attributes and to determine the factor structure of service quality perception. A modi? d s e rv q ua l scale was used to assess service quality perceptions from the perspective of domestic and international tourists. Data were collected in 15 hotels in the Opatija Riviera (Croatia), using a self-administered questionnaire. Descriptive statistical analysis, exploratory factor analysis and reliability analysis were conducted. The study results indicate the rather high expectations of hotel guests regarding service quality. ‘Reliability,’ ‘empathy and competence of staff,’ ‘accessibility’ and ‘tangibles’ are the key factors that best explained customers’ expectations of hotel service quality.

The results of the quantitative assessment of perceived service quality may provide some insights on how customers rate the service quality of a particular hotel. Thus, the ? ndings can be used as a guide for hotel managers to improve the crucial quality attributes and enhance service quality and business performance. Key words: service quality, servqual, factor analysis, reliability analysis, hotel industry Introduction In the highly competitive hotel industry, service becomes one of the most important elements for gaining a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Consequently, the efforts of service managers and academic researchers are directed towards understanding how customers perceive the quality of service. Customers are likely to view services as a variety of attributes that may, in different ways, contribute to their purchase intentions and perceptions of service quality. Although researchers (Gronroos 1984; Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml 1985, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry 1988; Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry 1990) have focused m anag e m e n t 5 ( 3 ) : 195–209 195 ?

Suzana Markovic and Sanja Raspor on different aspects of service quality, they all agree that the emphasis should be on customers. The most common de? nition of the concept is attitude, which results from a comparison of customers’ expectations with perceptions of performance (Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml 1985, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry 1988). What is more, customers perceive service quality as a multidimensional concept. The speci? c nature of services makes it dif? cult to provide, measure and maintain their quality.

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However, Parasuraman Berry and Zeithaml and Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985, 1988) presented the s e rvq ual scale, which became the most popular instrument for measuring service quality. The model has been applied in various service industries, including tourism and hospitality. In most of the researches the instrument was modi? ed to suit the features of a speci? c service. The study has several objectives. The ? rst objective is to determine the level of perceived service quality in Croatian hotels.

The second aim is to establish the number of dimensions of perceived service quality in the hospitality industry, using the modi? ed s e rvq ual model. Finally, the third objective is to test the reliability of the modi? ed s e rvq ual model. Conceptual Background p e r c e i ve d s e rvic e q ual i t y The service quality construct is mostly conceptualized in the context of service marketing literature (Lee, Lee and Yoo 2000). Therefore, it deals with the concept of perceived service quality. According to Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry (1990), perceived service quality is the extent to which a ? m successfully serves the purpose of customers. Customers determine the perceived or cognitive value of service based on their experience with the service delivered. Ghobadian, Speller and Jones (1994) stated that customers’ expectations, service delivery process and service outcome have an impact on perceived service quality. Yoo and Park (2007) found that employees, as an integral part of the service process, are a critical element in enhancing perceived service quality. Furthermore, Edvardsson (2005) pointed out that service quality perceptions are formed during the production, delivery and consumption process.

The author concluded that customers’ favorable and unfavorable experience, as well as their positive and negative emotions may have an important impact on 196 m anag e m e n t · vo lu m e 5 Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using servq ual perceived service quality. Similarly, O’Neill and Palmer (2003) have reported that customers’ perceptions of service quality may, to a large extent, be in? uenced by the degree of their prior experience with a particular service. In the hospitality industry, several studies have examined hotel attributes that guests may ? d important when evaluating the performed service quality. Literature review suggests that cleanliness (Atkinson 1988; Knutson 1988; Gundersen, Heide and Olsson 1996), security and safety (Atkinson, 1988; Knutson, 1988; Gundersen et al. 1996), employees’ empathy and competence (Atkinson 1988; Knutson 1988; Barsky and Labagh 1992; Gundersen, Heide ? and Olsson 1996; Choi and Chu 2001; Markovic 2004), convenient location (Knutson 1988; Barsky and Labagh 1992), value for money (Atkinson 1988; Gundersen, Heide and Olsson 1996; Choi and Chu ? 001) and physical facilities (Choi and Chu 2001; Markovic 2004) are attributes that hotel guests perceive as being important. It should be noted that according to some authors, perceived service quality has been accepted as an antecedent of customer satisfaction (Churchill and Suprenant 1982; Oliver 1997). What is more, Rowley (1998) argued that perceived service quality is an attitude related to, but not the same, as satisfaction. It is evident that the relationship between these two concepts is complex and that they have a causal ordering. e rvi c e q ual i t y m e as u r e m e n t One of the main research instruments for measuring quality in service industries is the s e rvq ual model, developed by Parasuraman Berry and Zeithaml and Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985; 1988). The model contains 22 items for assessing customer perceptions and expectations regarding the quality of service. A level of agreement or disagreement with a given item is rated on a sevenpoint Likert-type scale. The level of service quality is represented by the gap between perceived and expected service. The s e rvq ual model is based on ? e service quality dimensions, namely tangibles (physical facilities, equipment and personnel appearance), reliability (ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately), responsiveness (willingness to help customers and provide prompt service), assurance (knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to gain trust and con? dence) and empathy (providing individualized attention to the customers). During the last few years a variety of service quality studies have been conducted (Ladhari 2008). Among others, service quality was n u m b e r 3 · fal l 2 0 1 0 97 ? Suzana Markovic and Sanja Raspor measured in: accounting and audit ? rms (Ismail 2006), health spas ? (Snoj and Mumel 2002; Markovic, Horvat and Raspor 2004), higher ? ? education (Russel 2005; Markovic 2006), hotels (Markovic 2003, 2004; Juwaheer 2004; Wang, Wang and Zhao 2007; Raspor 2009), insurance (Tsoukatos, Marwa and Rand 2004), public-transport (Sanchez Perez 2007), restaurants (Andaleeb and Conway 2006; Namkung and Jang 2008), travel agencies (Martinez Caro and Martinez Garcia 2008), and web-sites (Parasuraman, Zethaml and Malhotra 2005; Nusair and Kandampully 2008).

Despite its wide usage, the model has been criticized by a number of academics (Carman 1990; Babakus and Boller 1992; Teas 1994). Criticism was directed at the conceptual and operational base of the model, mostly its validity, reliability, operationalization of expectations, and dimensional structure. However, there is general agreement that s e rvq ual items are reliable predictors of overall service quality (Khan 2003). As a result of these criticisms, alternative measures of service quality for speci? c service settings were developed.

In the tourism and hospitality industry, Knutson et al. (1991) developed l o d g s e rv, a model utilized to measure service quality in the lodging industry. The model is based on ? ve original s r evq ual dimensions and contains 26 items. Getty and Thompson (1994) introduced another speci? c model for hotel settings, called l o d g q ua l, as did Wong Ooi Mei, Dean and White (1999) who developed a h o l s e rv model. The l o d ge q ual model identi? ed three dimensions, namely tangibles, reliability and contact. On the other hand, the h o l s e rv model includes 27 items, grouped in ? e original s e rv q ua l dimensions. Furthermore, d i n e s e rv is a model used for measuring restaurant service quality (Stevens, Knutson and Patton 1995). It contains 29 items and ? ve s e rv q ua l dimensions. O’Neill et al. (2000) developed the d i ve p e r f model for assessing perceptions of diving services. The model consists of ? ve servqual dimensions and 27 items. e c o s e rv was introduced by Khan (2003). It was utilized to measure service quality expectations in eco-tourism, using 30 items and ? ve s e rvq ual dimensions. All of these models represent modi? ations of the s e rvq ual instrument, aiming to improve its original methodology. However, Cronin and Taylor (1992) argued that performance is the measure that best explains customers’ perceptions of service quality, so expectations should not be included in the service quality measurement instrument. They developed a performance-only scale called s e rvp e r f and tested it in four industries. Results indicated 198 m anag e m e n t · vo lu m e 5 Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using servq ual that the s e rvp e r f model explains more of the variation in service quality than s e rvq ual; it had an excellent ? in all four industries and it contains only half the number of items that must be measured. These results were interpreted as additional support for the superiority of the servperf approach to the measurement of service quality. Several authors used the performance-only approach to assess service quality in tourism and hospitality settings. Travelers’ perceptions of hotel attributes were measured in Hong Kong’s hotels (Choi and Chu 2001), hotels of Mauritius (Juwaheer 2004) and Malaysian hotels (Poon and Lock-Teng Low 2005).

The question of whether service quality should be measured as the difference between customers’ perceptions and expectations, or whether some alternative approach is more appropriate remains part of an extensive debate in service quality literature. Methodology Hotel guests’ perceptions were measured with a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was developed on the basis of a literature review and adopted to suit the speci? c features of a hotel setting (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry 1988; Zeithaml et al. 1990; ? Snoj and Ogorelc 1998; Pizam and Ellis 1999; Markovic 2003). As a foundation or questionnaire development, the s e rvq ual model was used. The original items were slightly modi? ed to suit the hospitality setting. For example, instead of ‘x y z Company has modernlooking equipment,’ the statement was modi? ed to the ‘Hotel has modern-looking equipment. ’ The original item ‘Guests feel safe in their transactions with employees’ was replaced by the item ‘Guests feel safe and secure in their stay. ’ The reason for this change is the confusing meaning of the word ‘transactions’ and the fact that safety and security are regarded as an important factor in a hotel stay. Moreover, in order to measure attributes speci? to the hotel environment, the following items were added: ‘parking area’ (Pizam and Ellis 1999), ‘appropriate location,’ ‘available and clear information,’ ‘variety of facilities’ (Snoj and Ogorelc 1998), ‘clean and tidy hotel,’ ‘feeling safe and secure,’ ‘ease of ? nding a way around the hotel’ ? and ‘typical service quality for hotel category’ (Markovic, 2003). All the statements in the questionnaire were positively worded. Finally, the modi? cation resulted in the deletion of one original s e rvq ual item and the inclusion of eight new items, leaving a total of 29 hotel attributes. These attributes represented seven dimensions: ? e original servqual dimensions (tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, as- n u m b e r 3 · fal l 2 0 1 0 199 ? Suzana Markovic and Sanja Raspor surance, empathy) and two new dimensions, named as accessibility and output quality. The questionnaire consisted of two parts. The ? rst part measured guests’ perceptions of hotel attributes using a modi? ed s e rv q ua l model. Service quality perceptions were measured on a seven-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 ‘strongly disagree’ to 7 ‘strongly agree. ’ The second part was designed to capture respondents’ demographic and traveling characteristics, hich included country of residence, age, gender, purpose of visit, duration of staying at a hotel, level of education, and hotel category. The target population of the survey was guests staying in hotels on the Opatija Riviera (Croatia) during the summer of 2007. Questionnaires were distributed in 15 (2-, 3- and 4-star) hotels, after hotel managers agreed to participate in the study. Reception desk employees were asked to administer the questionnaires to guests during their hotel stay, and to collect them after completion. In each hotel questionnaires were randomly distributed to the guests.

Of 265 returned questionnaires, 12 were not included in the analysis because of incompleteness. Thus, data analysis is based on a sample of 253 valid questionnaires. The response rate was 26 per cent. Descriptive statistical analysis was used to describe respondents’ demographic characteristics and to evaluate service quality perceptions of hotel guests. An exploratory factor analysis was performed on the 29 perception attributes included in the questionnaire in order to determine underlying dimensions of hotel service quality perceptions. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation was conducted.

Items with eigenvalues equal to or greater than 1, factor loadings above 0. 4, and factors which contain at least three items were retained (Hair et al. 2006). Furthermore, a reliability analysis was performed to test the reliability of the scale and inner consistency of extracted factors. For this purpose, Cronbach’s alpha coef? cients were calculated. Results In order to achieve the study’s goals, descriptive analysis, factor analysis, and reliability analysis were performed. The results are presented as follows. First, respondents’ demographic and traveling characteristics are provided.

Next, the results of descriptive analysis of guests’ perceptions are presented. Third, the results of factor and reliability analyses are interpreted. The statistical analysis was conducted on 253 valid questionnaires. The demographic and traveling characteristics of the respondents 200 m anag e m e n t · vo lu m e 5 Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using servq ual tab le 1 Demographic pro? le of the respondents Items Percentage Gender Items Percentage Age Male 51. 8 16–25 3. 6 Female 48. 2 26–35 15. 4 Purpose of visit Business Visit friends, relatives Vacation Others 36–45 26. 1 . 1 46–55 19. 4 4. 3 56–65 25. 7 86. 2 0. 4 Level of education Primary school 66 and above 9. 9 Country of residence Austria Croatia 16. 6 Secondary school 29. 2 Italy 20. 9 Higher education 24. 1 Germany 14. 6 University and above 36. 4 Others 36. 8 Others 3. 6 11. 1 6. 7 Duration of staying at a hotel Hotel category 4-star 53. 3 1–3 days 19. 0 3-star 33. 3 4–7 days 49. 8 2-star 13. 4 8–15 days 28. 1 are presented in table 1. The sample included domestic (16. 6 per cent) and international tourists (83. 4 per cent). There were slightly more males (51. 8 per cent) than females (48. per cent), and most of the respondents (55 per cent) were older than 46 years. More than 60 per cent of hotel guests in the sample had a university or college education. About 86 per cent of the respondents indicated that the main purpose of their visit was vacation. Most of them stayed at a 4-star hotel, for between four and seven days. The results of the descriptive statistical analysis of guests’ perceptions in the hotel industry are shown in table 2. The range of service quality perceptions items was from 1 (very low perceptions) to 7 (very high perceptions). The mean scores of guests’ perceptions ranged from 4. 7 to 6. 34. The lowest perception item was ‘offering a variety of facilities,’ which indicates that hotels do not provide enough suitable facilities that could enhance hotel quality. On the other hand, hotel guests’ highest perceptions were regarding the ‘ease of ? nding a way around the hotel,’ Furthermore, guests highly assessed the following hotel attributes: ‘feeling safe and secure,’ ‘willingness for helping guests’ and ‘courteous hotel staff. ’ These indicate that a hotel’s staff has one of the crucial roles in n u m b e r 3 · fal l 2 0 1 0 201 ? Suzana Markovic and Sanja Raspor tab le 2

Average scores of service quality perceptions in hotel settings Attributes Mean St. dev. v1 Modern-looking equipment 5. 31 1. 48 v2 Visually appealing physical facilities 5. 53 1. 23 v3 Neat hotel staff 6. 13 0. 90 v4 Visually appealing materials (pamphlets, web-sites) 5. 53 1. 23 v5 Clean and tidy hotel 6. 06 1. 05 v6 Appropriate location 6. 19 1. 00 v7 Parking area 4. 96 1. 87 v8 Performing service in the promised time 5. 98 0. 93 v9 Interest in solving guests’ problems 6. 09 1. 00 v10 Performing services right the ? rst time 5. 99 0. 89 v11 Service without delays 6. 02 0. 84 v12 Error-free service 5. 81 . 98 v13 Knowing the exact time when service will be performed 6. 00 0. 90 v14 Hotel staff provides prompt service 5. 98 0. 91 v15 Willingness to help guests 6. 25 0. 80 v16 Hotel staff has time to answer guests’ questions 6. 13 0. 94 v17 Hotel staff instills con? dence 6. 14 0. 92 v18 Courteous hotel staff 6. 25 0. 82 v19 Hotel staff has knowledge to answer questions 5. 99 0. 90 v20 Feeling safe and secure 6. 29 0. 81 v21 Providing individual attention 5. 81 1. 03 v22 Convenient opening hours 5. 94 1. 01 v23 Hotel staff provides personal attention 5. 86 0. 98 v24 Guests’ best interests at heart 6. 02 0. 87 25 Understanding guests’ speci? c needs 5. 86 1. 01 v26 Ease of ? nding one’s way around the hotel 6. 34 0. 85 v27 Available and clear information in the hotel 6. 17 0. 89 v28 Offering a variety of facilities 4. 77 1. 66 v29 Typical service quality for hotel category 6. 03 1. 09 Overall mean for 29 attributes 5. 92 performing high service quality. The overall mean score for service quality perceptions items was 5. 92. This score indicates rather high perceptions of hotel guests regarding service quality. The exploratory factor analysis extracted ? ve factors, which accounted for 65. 1 per cent of variance in the data. Since the ? th factor contained only two items, it could not be considered as a factor and is not interpreted. The results are presented in table 3. Most of the factor loadings were greater than 0. 60, implying a rea- 202 m anag e m e n t · vo lu m e 5 Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using servq ual Factor analysis and reliability analysis results of hotel guests’ perceptions (n = 253) Items (n = 29) Factors f1 f2 f3 f4 f5 Communalities v9 0. 751 0. 688 v12 0. 732 0. 703 v13 0. 671 0. 595 v11 0. 658 0. 675 v10 0. 648 0. 615 v14 0. 623 0. 664 v22 0. 623 0. 557 v8 0. 586 0. 584 v3 0. 505 0. 614 v25 0. 731 0. 793 v16 0. 725 0. 748 v23 . 723 0. 776 v21 0. 713 0. 711 v19 0. 688 0. 616 v17 0. 632 0. 688 v27 0. 622 0. 683 v6 0. 693 0. 580 v26 0. 686 0. 625 v20 0. 618 0. 679 v18 0. 554 0. 685 v5 0. 549 0. 509 v24 0. 537 0. 632 v29 0. 529 0. 447 v15 0. 482 0. 598 v2 0. 784 0. 778 v1 0. 748 0. 723 v4 0. 501 v28 % of Variance Cronbach alpha Number of items 0. 684 0. 675 0. 669 2. 577 1. 514 18. 879 14. 774 8. 887 5. 222 65. 104 0. 869 0. 785 — 0. 953 8 3 2 v7 Eigenvalue 0. 562 0. 771 5. 551 4. 953 4. 284 19. 142 17. 079 0. 916 0. 917 9 7 sonably high correlation between extracted factors and their individual items. The communalities of 29 items ranged from 0. 47 to 0. 793 indicating that a large amount of variance has been extracted by the factor solution. Only one item (‘typical service quality for hotel category’) was below the suggested value of 0. 50 (Hair et al. , 2006). n u m b e r 3 · fal l 2 0 1 0 203 ? Suzana Markovic and Sanja Raspor The four remaining factors are labeled as follows: f 1 – ‘reliability’ (solving guests’ problems and performing error-free service at promised time), f2 – ‘empathy and competence of staff’ (staff knowledge and ability to provide individual attention), f 3 – ‘accessibility’ (appropriate location of the hotel and ease of communication and ? ding the way around the hotel) and f 4 – ‘tangibles’ (appearance of the facilities, equipment and communication materials). The ? rst factor contains most of the items and explains most of the variance. Thus, hotel service reliability is an important determinant of perceived service quality. The results of the reliability analysis showed that Cronbach’s alpha coef? cients of the extracted factors ranged from 0. 785 to 0. 917. That is well above the minimum value of 0. 60, which is considered acceptable as an indication of scale reliability (Hair et al. 2006). Thus, these values suggest good internal consistency of the factors.

Finally, Cronbach’s alpha value for the overall perception scale is 0. 953 and indicates its high reliability. Discussion and Conclusion Perceptions of hotel service quality are the degree to which hotel guests ? nd various hotel attributes important in enhancing their satisfaction with the hotel stay. In the present study, it was revealed that the main dimensions of perceived service quality in hotels are ‘reliability,’ ‘empathy and competence of staff,’ ‘accessibility,’ and ‘tangibles. ’ Two of these are similar to the s e rvq ual model, while others overlap with the original s e rvq ual dimensions.

However, the studies conducted in the hotel sector identi? ed different outcomes with regard to the number and interpretation of dimensions guests use to assess perceived hotel service quality. Akan (1995) reported a seven-dimension structure, labeled as ‘courtesy and competence of the personnel,’ ‘communications and transactions,’ ‘tangibles,’ ‘knowing and understanding the customer,’ ‘accuracy and speed of service,’ ‘solutions to problems’ and ‘accuracy of hotel reservations. ’ Wong Ooi Mei et al. (1999) identi? ed ‘employees,’ ‘tangibles’ and ‘reliability’ as key dimensions of service quality in the hospitality industry.

Moreover, Choi and Chu (2001) reported the following seven dimensions: ‘staff service quality,’ ‘room qualities,’ ‘general amenities,’ ‘business services,’ ‘value,’ ‘security’ and ? ‘i d d facilities,’ Markovic (2003) identi? ed a three-dimension solution, interpreted as ‘empathy and assurance of hotel staff,’ ‘reliability,’ and ‘physical quality. ’ This implies that the number and de? nition of the dimensions depend on the measurement context. 204 m anag e m e n t · vo lu m e 5 Measuring Perceived Service Quality Using servq ual Furthermore, the ? ndings of this study reveal that among the four dimensions, reliability’ has emerged as the most important predictor of perceived service quality. In the hospitality industry, this dimension refers to solving guests’ problems, performing error-free service at the promised time, providing prompt service, convenient opening hours of hotel facilities. This ? nding is similar to Knutson et al. (1991) and Juwaheer’s (2004) research conducted in hotel settings. The indicators of factor and reliability analyses are also consistent with similar studies conducted in the hospitality industry. The proposed factor structure of the present study, as well as in the studies ? onducted by Choi and Chu (2001) and Markovic (2003) have explained the rather high percentage of variance in original data – 65. 1 per cent, 67. 2 per cent and 73. 9 per cent, respectively. The Cronbach alpha values are 0. 95 (this study), 0. 94 (Choi and Chu 2001) and 0. 92 ? (Markovic 2003) and indicate high reliability of the instruments. It can be concluded that the modi? ed version of the s e rv q ua l model is suitable for use by hotel managers in gaining easily interpretable and reliable data on hotel guests’ attitudes regarding perceived service quality.

The results of this study suggest that solving guests’ problems, performing error-free service, employees’ attitude, appropriate location, and the appearance of the facilities are the key attributes for a hotel’s success on the Opatija Riviera. Thus, the ? ndings can be used as a guide for hotel managers to improve crucial quality attributes and enhance service quality and business performance. There are several limitations that need to be acknowledged. The data were collected in a small although important tourist destination in Croatia. The questionnaires were distributed during the summer months.

Thus, the results’ interpretation should be limited to this group of hotel guests. It is possible that guests staying in hotels out of the main tourist season might have different perceptions of the service quality. Also, the measurement of hotel guests’ perceptions was limited to 29 hotel attributes. Even though these attributes were included in other studies as well, there could be other relevant hotel attributes that are likely to in? uence hotel guests’ perceptions. In order to be able to generalize the ? ndings, it is suggested that similar studies be conducted in other Croatian tourist destinations as well.

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