Mind the Customer Service Gap: Are You Falling In?

Posted by Jennifer Edwards on September 30, 2014

There are potholes forming between consumers and businesses. These gaps arise when the customer’s expectation of the service doesn’t quite match up with their actual experience of the service. However, we as service providers are not at a complete disadvantage; understanding the five "gaps" that can lead to unsuccessful delivery of service — and what factors affect them — will help prevent you from leaving your customers disappointed.

The 5 gaps

When the experience does not match the expectation, a gap arises. The Gap Model proposes five ways in which providers' and consumers' mismatched expectations can cause problems:

  1. Consumer expectation and management perception: the service provider did not correctly perceive what the customer wants or needs
  2. Management perception and service quality specification: the service provider may have correctly perceived what the customer wants, but did not set a performance standard
  3. Service quality specification and service delivery: the service provider did not provide adequate training or was incapable to meet the set service standard
  4. Service delivery and external communication: assumed expectations derived from company advertisements are not met at the time of service delivery
  5. Expected service and experienced service: the consumer misinterprets the service quality

Mind the gap

All of these gaps can hinder a company in some way; to ensure you and your customer are meeting eye to eye, there are a few factors to consider when preparing a service or product for the target audience.

Market research

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times: do your research. A company must conduct market research to understand their service or product’s actual demand in the market, desired features, and what the target audience’s expectations are.

Some of these research methods include comprehensive studies, customer panels and interviews, and even customer complaints.

Communication channels

When trying to reach (and understand) your target audience, the fewer communication channels between management and the customer the better.

With fewer channels, it is more likely for customer preferences to be incorporated into higher-level decision making when it comes to the product or service.

Are you sinking?

If you have found yourself with a disconnect between your customers and company, you might be sinking into one of these gaps. Thankfully this doesn’t mean you have to be ready to go down with the ship!

By identifying which gap your company is currently facing, you will be able to focus on reconnecting with your customer and providing a product or service that meets their expectations.

Whether you over-exaggerated how fast your delivery is or the product’s features are not exactly what your customer imagined, conducting the research and communicating with your customers can bring you back on track.

Strategy is key

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[Image Credit: Robert S. Donovan - license


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