Aligning real estate services to the Gaps Model of Service Quality theory

This research paper on the Gaps Model of Service Quality (GMSQ) serves as an excellent framework by which real estate brokerages could begin analyzing their service value. As compared to tangible goods, there is little focus on service excellence, service research, and service innovation, say the authors. They posit that the GMSQ (introduced in 1985) is a perfect model to foster service quality assurance and quality control as well as service innovation because of the inherent cross-functional elements and voice of customer perspectives a company must adhere to in applying the GMSQ.

The research article delves into the impact technology has had on service delivery. Companies like Amazon, eBay, and Zappos obviously have leveraged technology to deliver superior service. Similarly, technology has enabled many customers to serve themselves more effectively and efficiently while giving companies a global reach. But as the expectations of customers and the pace of technological innovations increase, firms will encounter obstacles to delivering a superior customer service experience.

The GMSQ explores the gap between a customer’s expectations, their perceptions, and the reality of what they experience. Technology profoundly affect these relationships. To illustrate this, the authors focus on personal photography. In the past, individuals took photos, passed film off to be processed by a service provider, and then shared printed photos amongst family and friends. Now many individuals take digital photos, download those photos to their computer or upload those photos to a photo-sharing site, and digitally share their photos, albums, etc. An individual engaged in this process is a co-producer with the technology service provider. Thus, technology fundamentally affects a customer’s expectations and perceived value of the service provided and the GMSQ offers a way to ensure that firms leverage technology to meet customers’ expectations.

There are four gaps in the GMSQ: Listening, Design and Standards, Service Performance, Communication.

Listening Gap
What is the difference between a customer’s expectations and a firm’s understanding of those expectations? That is the gap. In other words, a customer could have a different set of expectations than what a firm understands those to be. Thus, firms need to engage in active and passive listening. Active listening can take the form of surveys, polls, etc, and passive can take the form of web data analytics. Close the gap by: (1) engaging in customer research, (2) focus on building relationships over time by meeting customer needs (i.e., CRM and relational database marketing), (3) when there is a service failure actively solicit input from customers on what went wrong and rectify this failure.

Design and Standards Gap
Focus on developing systems that meet customer needs while setting standards to measure your service operational environment against customer expectations. Close this gap by: (1) engaging in services R&D, (2) conduct 365 degree service mapping or blueprinting (i.e., map the customer lifecycle through all points of engagement), (3) measure operations against CUSTOMER-DEFINED rather than company-defined standards.

Service Performance Gap
Even though a firm may have closed the listening and design and standards gaps, if employees or independent contractors lack motivation or lack proper training and support, customers’ needs could remain unmet. Close this gap by: (1) aligning HR policies and practices around delivering superior service (Zappos’ core values are a great example of this tenet); similarly you should consider employee reward practices as articulated in the book Drive, (2) clearly tell customers what’s expected of them (oftentimes customers have no clear understanding of what they’re to do), (3) ensure that technology designed to support employees’ core functionality maps back to the listening and design and standards gap analysis (a good book to read in this regard is Rework)

Communication Gap
If your communications do not actually reflect what’s delivered to customers, there’s a gap. Close this gap by: (1) employing integrated messaging strategies, (2) actively manage customer expectations over time as their needs change (e.g., integrate social media messaging options in your drip marketing messaging platform), (3) ensure that you have consistent messaging before, during, and after a transaction, and make sure this messaging aligns with and reinforces customers’ expectations.

Photo: malias