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ASCI Journal of Management 40(2): 6072 Copyright 2011 Administrative Staff College of India

TRUPTI DANDEKAR HUMNEKAR* and MILIND PHADTARE**

Reliability of SERVQUAL in the Hotel Sector of Pune City: An Empirical Investigation

Introduction Since the last few decades, services have become a very important and dominant part of trhe Indian economy. While the services sector has grown, service providers have become competitive and service quality has become a focal point of their attention. The key to achieving sustainable advantage lies in delivering high-quality service that results in satisfied customers (Shemwell, Yavas and Bilgin, 1998). Measuring and improving service quality has become an important task for many organizations. Service quality has been described as a form of attitude, related but not equivalent to satisfaction, which stems from a comparison of customer expectations with the providers performance (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1988). Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985, 1988) developed an instrument called SERVQUAL to measure service quality in service organizations. The instrument was subsequently refined (Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml, 1991; Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1994a, 1994b) by them. It is a 22-item scale, which measures the gap between the consumers expectation and their perception regarding service quality. The initial study (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1985) identified 10 dimensions for assessing the quality of service given by the service providers. These dimensions were as follows: 1. Reliability: Consistency of performance, doing it right the first time. 2. Responsiveness: Willingness or readiness of employees to provide the service. 3. Competence: Possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the task.
* Lecturer, Vishwakarma Institute of Mangement, Pune (e-mail: truptidandekar@yahoo.com **

).

ONGC Chair Professor and Chairperson, Marketing Area, Centre for Management Studies, Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad (e-mail: milind@asci.org.in).

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4. Access: Approachability and eye contact. 5. Courtesy: Politeness, respect, consideration and friendliness of contact personnel. 6. Communication: Keeping customers informed in a language they can understand. 7. Credibility: Trustworthiness, believability, honesty, and maintaining the customers best interests at heart. 8. Security: Freedom from risk, danger or doubt. 9. Understanding/knowing the customer: Making an effort to know the customers needs. 10. Tangibles: Physical evidence of service, such as the appearance of the personnel. This scale was refined as some of the dimensions were found to be overlapping. The refined scale (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1988) featured five dimensions to assess the quality of service, which are as below: 1. Tangibles: The physical surroundings (for example, facilities, equipment and appearance of employees). 2. Reliability: The service providers ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. 3. Responsiveness: Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. 4. Assurance: Knowledge and courtesy of the organizations employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence. 5. Empathy: The service organizations caring, individualized attention to its customers. According to Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985) and Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml (1991), consumer expectations on the afore-mentioned five dimensions are the comparison standards for the measurement of service quality. Customers judge the quality of service by comparing their expected level of service performance with the perceived performance of service providers. The SERVQUAL scale, however, is not free from criticism. Some researchers (Carman, 1990; Cronin and Taylor, 1992, 1994; Teas, 1994; Brady, Cronin and Brand, 2002) have criticized the SERVQUAL scale for using expectations as a comparison standard for analyzing the quality of service. According to them, expectations are dynamic and can change over time with a change in the

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environment and situation. Hence, they proposed service performance as the only criteria for assessing service quality instead of the difference between expectations and perception. Zeithmal, Berry and Parasuraman (1993) responded to the initial criticism by proposing that customer expectations can be viewed from two approaches, namely, narrow and broad. In the narrow approach, expectation is a belief that assumes future performance of a service. According to the broad approach, expectations are multi-dimensional and can be associated with different levels of performance. Subsequently, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1994b) modified SERVQUAL by proposing two levels of expectationdesired and adequate. Desired service is defined as the level of service representing a blend of what customers believe can be and should be provided. Adequate service is the minimum level of service customers are willing to accept. The region between these two is known as the Zone of Tolerance, which shows a range of performance given by the service provider that can be considered satisfactory by customers. Review of Literature Although, other toolssuch as SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992), FAIRSERV (Carr, 2007), BANKSERV (Avkiran, 1994), REFERQUAL (Cock et al., 2006), TOPSIS (Pal and Choudhury, 2009), Direct Questioning and Policy Capturing Method (Crosby and Lemay, 1998)are also used, SERVQUAL still remains the most popular scale for measuring the quality of service. SERVQUAL enjoys wide application in sectors such as retail (Carman, 1990; Finn and Lamb, 1991; Genestree and Hersbig, 1996), airlines (Elliott, 1994), hospitals (Babakus and Mangold, 1992; Pakdil and Harwood, 2005; Cock et al., 2006), tourism (Lopez-Toro, Munoz and Moreno, 2010), travel agents (Ruiqi and Adrian, 2009), shipping (Crosby and Lemay, 1998; Ugboma et al., 2007), libraries (Cook and Thompson, 2000), websites (Iwaarden and Wiele, 2002), information services (Carr, 2007), banking (Pal and Choudhury, 2009; Ladhari, 2008; Bick, Abratt and Moller, 2010), education (Chatterjee, Ghosh and Bandyopadhyay, 2009); apart from hotels (Fick and Ritchie, 1991; Akan, 1995; Armstrong et al., 1997; Mei, Dean and White, 1999; Ekinci, Prokopaki and Cobanoglu, 2003; Juwaheer, 2004; Nadiri and Hussain, 2005; Rayka, Anneke and Ross, 2005; Akbaba, 2006; Sohail, 2007; and Yilmaz, 2009). Many researchers have modified the SERVQUAL scale and used it to study sectors such as postal services (De Carvalho and Leite, 1999), business schools

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(Caruana, Ewing and Ramaseshan, 2000), health club services (Walker and Baker, 2000), travel agencies (Gilbert and Gao, 2005), passenger rail (Cavana, Corbett and Lo, 2007), electronic services (Van Riel, Semeijn and Janssen, 2003), life insurance and stock brokerage industries (Durvasula et al., 2005), information services (Kettinger and Lee, 2005), health care (Lam, 1997), public services (Orwig, Pearson and Cochran, 1997) and tourism (Kvist and Klefsj, 2006). Lau et al. (2005) examined the relationship between the overall satisfaction level and five dimensions of SERVQUAL for four- and five-star hotels in Malaysia. They concluded that for four-star hotels, three dimensions, i.e., tangibility, empathy and assurance, constitute overall satisfaction; however, the other two dimensions, that is, responsiveness and reliability, do not significantly contribute to the overall satisfaction level of customers. For fivestar hotels, three slightly different dimensions, i.e., tangibility, reliability and assurance, constitute overall satisfaction; however, two other dimensions, that is, empathy and responsiveness, do not significantly contribute to the overall satisfaction level of customers. Patrick (1996) used the scale for measuring the airline, hotel and amusement industries and found that the zone of tolerance varied depending on the industry; he concluded that the zone of tolerance in the hotel industry is higher than in the other sectors. Many authors (Carman, 1990; Babakus and Boller, 1992; Finn and Lamb, 1991; Pitt, Watson and Cavan, 1995, Lewis, 1991) have also examined and disputed the reliability and validity of the SERVQUAL instrument in different sectors. Lam (1997) suggested that the conceptual construct and dimensionality of SERVQUAL need to be checked before applying it to any specific sector. Finn and Lamb (1991) argued that retailers and consumer researchers should not treat SERVQUAL as an off-the-shelf measure of perceived service quality. Much refinement is needed for specific companies and industries. Orwig, Pearson and Cochran (1997) tested SERVQUAL in public sector companies and recommended that pre-testing of the instrument was necessary before using it with such companies. Some researchers (Lewis and Mitchell, 1990; Brown, Churchill and Peter, 1993) have raised questions about the appropriateness of using a discrete 7-point scale. Brown, Churchill and Peter (1993) argue that the gap between the expected and the perceived quality measure will display poor reliability as performance and expectations are positively correlated. Akan (1995) examined the applicability of SERVQUAL in Turkey. He conducted a study in Istanbul for the four- and five-star hotel sectors with the help of a well-administered questionnaire. Akan concluded that SERVQUAL is a valuable tool but not a generic or universal tool; it needs to be modified as per the specific service situation and environmental context.

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However, little research has been done to assess the quality of service in the hotel sector in India. This paper attempts to fill this research gap. Purpose of the Study In view of the criticism of SERVQUAL scale from some quarters, it is necessary to test its validity for measuring the service quality of any service provider. This paper attempts to test the reliability of the SERVQUAL model in the context of the hotel industry in Pune. Research Method Two budget hotels located in Pune city were dentified. The city attracts both leisure as well as business travellers from different parts of the country as was observed during the preliminary visits of the authors to various hotels. The second reason for the choice of the city is its proximity to both the authors. The two hotels are comparable on factors such as room tariffs, food and beverage pricing, availability of number of rooms, infrastructure, occupancy rate, and location. Moreover, the two hotels also permitted the authors to conduct the study on their premises. Their management supported the study by designating staff to distribute the questionnaire (scale), request the guests to take out some time and fill it up, and lastly collect the filled-up questionnaires. The guests were provided with the questionnaire after they checked out of the hotel, enabling them to account for the quality of the service received by them during their stay in terms of the attributes mentioned in the questionnaire. For purposes of confidentiality, the names of the hotels have not been mentioned in the study. The data collection was spread over one week at each hotel. The respondents were selected by the systematic random sampling technique. The first respondent was selected at random, i.e., a guest who approached the check-out counter exactly at 8.00 a.m. was requested to fill up the questionnaire. (It was observed during the preliminary visits to the hotels that a large number of guests checked out at around 8.00 a.m. even though the check-out time was spread over 24 hours.) Thereafter, every fifth guest who checked out was requested to fill up the questionnaire. One research associate was assigned the job of supervising the selection of respondents. A total of 46 questionnaires were filled up. The sample included guests who were single as well as those who stayed with their families. Guests who were single were mostly business travellers, while those who were with their families were leisure travellers. (It is likely that those guests who had come with families would hesitate giving the purpose of their visit, i.e., business or leisure). In the case of guests who

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had stayed with their families, the person whose name was entered in the register was requested to fill up the questionnaire. The age group of the respondents was 2455 years. SPSS 13.0 version was used to analyze the data collected. Cronbachs alpha value was used as the test of reliability. A scale that has Cronbachs alpha value above 0.7 is said to be reliable (Nunnally, 1978). Cronbachs alpha value was determined for the overall scale, and also for each of the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale for desired, adequate and perceived service quality. Results and Discussion Reliability indicates the stability and consistency with which the instrument measures the concepts and helps to assess the goodness of a measure (Sekaran, 2003). Cronbachs alpha for the overall scale for the desired service level was 0.452; for the adequate service level, it was 0.343; and for the perceived service level, the value was 0.529. Cronbachs alpha for the tangibles dimension was 0.646, 0.471 and 0.32 for the desired, adequate and perceived service quality, respectively. Cronbachs alpha for the reliability dimension was 0.453, 0.426 and 0.316 for the desired, adequate and perceived service quality, respectively. Cronbachs alpha for the responsiveness dimension was 0.32, 0.32 and 0.646 for the desired, adequate and perceived service quality, respectively. Cronbachs alpha for the assurance dimension was 0.3, 0.319 and 0.32 for the desired, adequate and perceived service quality, respectively. Cronbachs alpha for the empathy dimension was 0.316, 0.312 and 0.453 for the desired, adequate and perceived service quality, respectively. Thus, the findings signify that both the overall scale as well as each of the five dimensions of SERVQUAL are not reliable. Since the scale has failed the reliability test, it is futile to test it for validity. Conclusion and Future Scope The possible reason why the SERVQUAL scale failed the reliability test is that it fails to take in to account the local context (Cook and Thomson, 2000; Carman, 1990) of the sector to which it is applied (Akan, 1995; Finn and Lamb, 1991), pointing to the inappropriateness of using a discrete 7-point scale (Lewis and Mitchell, 1990; Brown, Churchill and Peter, 1993). In any case, a separate exercise to develop and validate a suitable scale for measuring service quality in the context of hotels in India should be explored. The current study included only guests staying in either of the two budget hotels in Pune city. Subsequent studies may include different types of star hotels as well as luxury hotels located

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in various cities within the country with a larger sample size. Once the scale is developed, it may be used to compare the quality of service of different hotels.
Table 1: Parameters Used for Measuring Desired and Adequate Expectation S. No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Statement Excellent hotels will have modern-looking equipment. The physical facilities at excellent hotels will be visually appealing. Employees at excellent hotels will be neat in their appearance. Materials associated with the service (forms, bills, seating arrangement) will be visually appealing at excellent hotels When excellent hotels promise to do something by a certain time, they do so. When a customer has a problem, excellent hotels will show a sincere interest in solving it. Excellent hotels will perform the service right the first time. Excellent hotels will provide the service at the time they promise to do so. Excellent hotels will insist on error-free records. Employees of excellent hotels will tell customers exactly when the services will be performed. Employees of excellent hotels will give prompt service to customers. Employees of excellent hotels will always be willing to help customers. Employees of excellent hotels will never be too busy to respond to customers requests. The behaviour of employees in excellent hotels will instil confidence in customers. Customers of excellent hotels will feel safe in transactions. Employees of excellent hotels will be consistently courteous with customers. Employees of excellent hotels will have the knowledge to answer customers questions. Excellent hotels will give customers individual attention. Excellent hotels will have operating hours convenient to all their customers. Excellent hotels will have employees who give customers personal service. Excellent hotels will have their customers best interests at heart. The employees of excellent hotels will understand the specific needs of their customers.

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Table 2: Parameters Used for Measuring Perception S. No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Statement The hotel has modern-looking equipment. The physical facilities at the hotel are visually appealing. Employees at the hotel are neat in their appearance. Materials associated with the service (forms, bills, seating arrangement) are visually appealing at this hotel. When the hotel promises to do something by a certain time, it does so. When a customer has a problem, the hotel shows a sincere interest in solving it. The hotel performs the service right the first time. The hotel provides the service at the time it promises to do so. The hotel insists on error-free records. Employees of the hotel tell the customers exactly when services will be performed. Employees of the hotel give prompt service to the customers. Employees of the hotel are always willing to help the customers. Employees of the hotel are never too busy to respond to customers requests. The behaviour of the employees in the hotel instils confidence in the customers. Customers of the hotel feel safe in transactions. Employees of the hotel are consistently courteous with the customers. Employees of the hotel have the knowledge to answer the customers questions. The hotel gives the customers individual attention. The hotel has operating hours convenient to all its customers. The hotel has employees who give the customers personal service. The hotel has its customers best interest at heart. The employees of the hotel understand the specific needs of their customers. Table 3: Value of Cronbachs Alpha Dimension Desired Overall Tangibles Reliability Responsiveness Assurance Empathy 0.452 0.646 0.453 0.320 0.300 0.316 Cronbachs Alpha Adequate 0.343 0.471 0.426 0.320 0.319 0.312

Perceived 0.529 0.320 0.316 0.646 0.320 0.453

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