PZB Gap Model
The PZB Model was first developed by Parasurarman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) to attempt to define and model service quality at a time when there was little focus on the construct. As part of their exploration they concluded that quality involves a comparison of expectations with performance, and thus satisfaction with services is related to fulfilling expectations. Through in-depth interviews with executives, a comprehensive case study and an exploratory study consisting of interviews with an extended number of executives, the researchers were able to reveal five ‘gaps’ regarding executives perceptions of service quality delivery and the tasks associated with service delivery to customers. The first four gaps are related to the firm itself and the fifth to consumers.
Gap I: Knowledge gap: The difference between consumer expectations and management perceptions of consumer expectations.
Gap 2: Standard gap: The difference between management perceptions of consumer expectations and service specifications.
Gap 3: Behaviour gap: The difference between service specifications and the service actually delivered.
Gap 4: Communication gap: The difference between service delivered and what is communicated about the service to stakeholders.
Gap 5: Gap between service and expectations: The discrepancy between consumers’ expectations of the service and perceptions of the actual service performance.
Gap 1, the knowledge gap, occurs because the organization does not know what consumers expect. Organizations are ignorant of consumer expectations or they have erroneous perceptions of their expectations. This can be the result of inadequate research on consumers, lack of upward communication in the organization, not having a focus on relationships with key consumers, excess levels of management that inhibit communication and understanding. A knowledge gap can also be a result of organizations not monitoring the behavior of consumers.
The standard gap, gap 2, is a result of not specifying service that satisfies consumers’ expectations of the organization. It does not exhibit the expected correct service or it may have poor standards of service well below those expected of them by consumers. This can be compounded by the absence of service quality that is actively demanded of organizations by their consumers. This is easily evident in customer relationships but may also include ethical guidelines. The lack of emphasis on building relationships that can lead to dialogue is also an issue here.
Gap 3, a mismatch between actual delivered service and service specifications can occur because there are no human resource policies regarding what standards should be in place and followed. However, it may be that the consumers themselves have not been clear on what sort of standards they expect from the organization. Another issue is – who does what? Who is in charge of mapping and keeping track of these expectations and seeing to it that they are fulfilled? Performance that does not deliver on promises, sometimes referred to as not walking the talk, leads to gap 4, the communications gap, the difference between delivered service and what is communicated.
Gap 4, Organizations may exaggerate promises or perhaps not even provide information in their external communications. This gap can occur due to the lack of integration of communication within the organization – not knowing what one element or unit is saying to whom externally. It can also come from over promising. The organization basically makes promises they can’t keep thus setting themselves up for failure by communicating a too rosy picture of what they can deliver.
Gap 5 occurs when the perception of the organization’s service does not match the service that is expected of the organization. Expected service is influenced by the organization’s external communication, word of mouth, the personal needs of the consumers, and consumers’ past experience with the organization. Arguably this is the ‘ultimate’ test for the organization as this gap depends on the size and direction of the other four gaps, i.e. on how well the organization listens to its consumers, how it interprets their desires and wishes, how well it delivers what it promises and lastly how credible its communications are. Consumers expect certain service from an organization, often because they are promised this through the organization’s communication. They also have a perception (image) of how the organization performs this service. The organization, for its part, delivers service based on, at the worst, no knowledge of what their customers expect or how they perceive the organization.