Service Quality and Customer Satisfaction – Marketing

Because of the distinct characteristics of customers in B2B environments, players need to comprehend their nature and circumstances. As customers complete business transactions involving large volumes of products and services, creating customer loyalty through proper management is of paramount importance.

It is generally accepted that customer loyalty leads to profitability and so the importance and benefits of maintaining them. Hutt and Speh (2002) observed how the economic value of customer loyalty had been explored in the literature. According to them, a complete understanding of customer loyalty presents the need to have harmony between customers and the businesses, as well as the benefit of creating a loyal customer base as a long-term investment.

As a crucial determinant of organizational performance, quality of the service or product remains at the forefront in the marketing literature. Hutt and Speh (2002) suggest that service provider perception of quality is of little relevance when compared with customer perceptions. Therefore, good service results when the service provider meets or exceeds customer expectations. Specifically, service quality in B2B businesses has been the key competing factor.

An article on the Wall Street Journal reported by Boulton (2012) describes how ComScore, a digital analytic firm, strives to improve its service quality, which forms the platform on which to develop competitive strengths. This effort has made the firm to acquire new and loyal clients such as Kimberly-Clark, Allstate, and Ford.

In that understanding, it is apparent that service firms should carefully position themselves so that their customers expect a little less than the company can deliver. Therefore, B2B business practitioners are enthusiastic about precisely measuring perceived quality as a way of understanding its important antecedents and effects and eventually techniques of enhancing quality to attain the competitive position and create customer satisfaction.

To fulfill customer needs, many B2B firms are engaging in relationships with customers and seem to understand the importance of managing customer-business relationships strategically. Many of them have virtually realized that the quality of service moves at par with the positive customer-business relationship. Therefore, quality has been used as the major instrument for managing and maintaining the desired relationship.

Some businesses view the quality of the relationship as a vital factor in bringing success in the marketplace. As noted earlier, retaining customers lead to higher profits. The creation of loyalty and its use in B2B environments have been extensively explored (Hutt & Speh, 2002). There is an actual picture of how the quality of the customer-business relationship influences customer loyalty in the B2B context. Indeed, this quality is an advanced construct involving trust, fulfillment, dedication, and service quality.

Because customer satisfaction is linked to customer loyalty, leading service companies cautiously measure and keep an eye on customer satisfaction. One of the common methods used to measure customer satisfaction is a survey. Hutt and Speh (2002) observed how Xerox surveyed more than 400,000 customers as regards to product and service satisfaction where they employed a 5-point scale.

The outcome of the survey revealed that satisfied customers were most likely to repurchase the firm’s products. Through market research, organizations have also been able to determine the extent to which their customers are satisfied with the services or products offered. For B2B businesses, the use of the internet as the tool for market research has particularly been effective especially when the websites are designed appropriately. This platform allows the firm to cover a wider customer base at the lowest cost possible.

Rationally, many contemporary businesses have also used models that are purposely designed to measure service quality. The most common and dominant model is called SERVQUAL that is designed to deal with the five gaps or barriers to maintaining high service quality.

This model uses several aspects to measure quality including tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. However, the development of separate models for B2B context has been considered as an important advancement. This is because the SERVQUAL model was developed for customer level service and is inadequate to measure business level service. Service relationships in B2B context are of longer-term and higher-intensity nature.

Therefore, service factors are very different from those pertaining to individual consumers. For instance, long-term fiscal invoicing and payment structures are paramount issues in a B2B context. However, SERVQUAL has proved to be insufficient in performance when such factors are considered.

One model that has proved to be sufficient in measuring B2B service quality is INDSERV which was developed by Gounaris and Venetis. This is because the model functions under the directive of the four dimensions of service process: potential quality, hard process quality, soft process quality, and output quality. The model is thus the only scale that demonstrates better psychometric properties as compared to SERVQUAL in the purposive B2B environment.

However, the application of these models has only been applied by B2B business when conceptualizing about the service strategies to adopt. Practically, most firms stick to normalized techniques such as on-work and internet surveys to measure service quality and customer satisfaction. In particular, surveys do not require prior knowledge in order to use them effectively and their results are easily interpreted and weighed against the desired measures.

References

Boulton, C. (2012). ComScore’s big data push wins it new clients. The Wall Street Journal.

Hutt, M. D. & Speh, T. W. (2002). Business Marketing Management: B2B. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.