Measuring expectation

15th of November 2016
Measuring expectation

Continuing his look at service management, Dutch reporter Nico Lemmens focuses on perception.

In our previous discussion of Christian Grönroos’s important contribution to the field of service management and marketing we raised the questions of how quality is perceived and how to measure and compare expectations and experiences. Here is his analysis in short.

We saw that good perceived quality is obtained when the experience quality meets the expectations of the customer: the expected quality. If expectations are unrealistic, the total perceived quality would be low, even if the experienced quality, measured in an objective way, were good.

One way is to ask customers what they expected from the service they have consumed, so the expectations and experiences measurements relate to the same service. Another way is to ask customers what they expect from an excellent or ideal service in the same category as the one they have consumed. However, independent of what one wants to know about a given service, different kinds of expectations could be measured.

If one wants to assess how good a given service is considered to be, compared with the best in its category, expectations of the best-in-the-category service or an ideal service should be measured. But if one wants to find out how customers perceive the quality of a given service, both expectations and experiences regarding this service should be measured.

And there is another problem with measurement methods that are based on comparisons between expectations and experiences over a number of attributes: the validity problem related to the measurement of expectations.

If expectations are measured after the service experience or at the same time as the experiences occur, what is measured is not really expectation but something that has been biased by experience. It does not necessarily make sense to measure expectations prior to the service experience either, because the expectations customers have beforehand are perhaps not the expectations with which they will compare their experience.

The customer’s experience of the service process may change his expectations, and altered expectations are the ones with which the experiences should be compared to determine the actual quality perception.

Finally, measuring expectations is not a sound way of proceeding in any case, because experiences are perceptions of reality, and inherent in these perceptions are prior expectations. Consequently, if first, one way or the other, expectations are measured and then experiences are measured, then the expectations are measured twice. The problems described here are not easy to solve.

In her study of the restaurant industry, Liljander compared a number of different standards to relate experiences to, expectations being one of them. Her conclusion was that making no comparisons at all seems to be a good approach to measuring perceived service quality, ie, by measuring experiences only over a set of attributes, one can get a good approximation of the perceived quality.

This finding concludes this contribution, however, it does by no means so as far as Grönroos’s analysis of service management and marketing is concerned.


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