Mind the Gap

Felix Thomson

Content Executive

The Financial Services Forum

The service delivery chain is longer and more complex than most companies imagine, and any conflicts between the links will lead to customer dissatisfaction. Malcolm Oliver analyses the gaps.
GAP 1, between customer expectations and management perceptions of those expectations arises because companies often do not have an accurate picture of what customers expect and want from them, nor of the yardsticks against which customers will judge the firm’s offering. Frequently, managers align their assumptions on general customer expectation too closely with their own requirements as a customer.
GAP 2 reflects the fact that management policies and intentions on customer service are often not implemented effectively. The policies may be unclear, or poorly communicated to employees, or not consistently enforced.
GAP 3 recognizes that accurate specifications in themselves do not produce high quality service without consistent management input to provide the necessary resources to deliver what is required. Sometimes, irreconcilable conflicts of resources are “delegated” for staff to attempt to resolve, rather than being tackled as a top management issue. As with customers, it is also important that there is a fair (and “felt-fair”) sharing of added value between the company and its staff, reflecting both the effort that they put in and the wealth that they generate for the firm.
GAP 4 demonstrates the critical need to align the company’s promises with the actual experience of its customers. Even totally focused service delivery may be poorly received if it does not match up to the expectation generated by previous experience or by marketing communications. Disappointment is caused as much by non-fulfilment of expectation as by non-fulfilment of need.
GAP 5, between the perceived service and the expected service, is caused by the failure to close any of gaps 1–4. This is a prime source of customer dissatisfaction, and in most markets it is the principal source.
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