In their recent, ground-breaking book, "Delivering Quality Service," professors Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry offer new insights for improving service quality.
* Only customers judge. Regardless of managers' or employees' tastes, standards, or insight, "Only customers judge quality; all other judgments are essentially irrelevant." If the customer thinks that service is too slow, the service is too slow.
* Outcome plus delivery. Customers evaluate both the outcome and the delivery of service. Hospital patients, for example, may appreciate the quality of care, but they also desire courteous and empathetic delivery of the care.
* Expectations. People perceive service quality to be high when the service meets or exceeds expectations. A bank that advertised itself as providing "fast and friendly service," refused to cash a payroll check because it was postdated by one day. No one bothered to explain that legal restraints guided the bank's policy. The customer changed banks because of "poor service."
Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and a management consultant. Send questions to The Wichita Eagle, P.O. Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201. He will answer representative questions in the newspaper but cannot respond to every request.
Delivering on service
Check all of the following that typically apply to your regular meeting.
During the past six months, management has:
* Reinforced the idea that customers are the sole judges of quality.
* Led meetings on the importance of being courteous to customers.
* Kept track of all customer complaints.
* Set goals of obtaining unsolicited customer praise.
* Made financial guarantees regarding service quality.
* Met with a group of 10 to 20 customers for feedback.
* Called by phone some customers who have recently bought your service.
* Visited competitors.
* Conducted a comprehensive study of customer expectations.
* Held several meetings on service quality.
Seven or more checks suggests a very good effort regarding service quality.