Diagnosing Service Quality in Retailing

Singapore is a country whose economy is growing at a fast rate. The country has many sectors that are vital for its prosperity. Retail activities have risen up in the recent past due to economic prosperity; there is an explosive growth of urban and suburban shopping centers which have resulted in a situation of the retail environment, this phenomenon has led to intense competition among the retailers. The economy has been opened up to allow investors from various parts of the world to come in and invest in the retail sector; the retail sector has experienced dramatic changes since 1960s.

The government has been on the fore front in promoting the retailing activities in Singapore, it usually helps the sector to become modern and attractive to both the domestic and the foreign investors. The main point of concern for this paper is to come up with ways of ensuring that the retail sector improves the services delivered to consumers. The economy has recently registered quite a large number of retailers and this has increased the level of competition where various retailers have to come up with ways than shall make their businesses more competitive so as to retain a substantial market share. The market has become saturated with many retailers offering duplication of products and similar retailing formats. There is a need for differentiation because this is the only way that firms can remain relevant to their potential customers. With the increased number, of retailers, the power of the consumers Hs been increased substantially because they have4 a wider variety of products to choose from and for this matter retailers have the obligation to improve the service delivery or risk losing their potential customers.

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One of the main challenges that the retailers face is coming with quality service delivery techniques which results into differentiated offering. Retailers have to adapt to new changes by in the retail environment by developing strategies that will ensure the delivery of quality services to consumers. Globalization is a key issue that has boosted the opening of the borders and new markets that have seen the multinational retailers moving to Singapore to establish their business activities there. The government has always supported free trade and private ownership of property; this good will of the government is one of the main reasons as to why many retail activities have flooded the market. Statistics show that the trend of retailing activities has always been raising in the recent years and that there is a possibility of this condition repeating itself.

The number of retailers has been increasing to take advantage of the increased demand that has been brought about by globalization. Globalization is responsible for the increase in the disposable income of individuals; the increase in the disposable income which leads to the increase in demand for products offered by the retailers. Retailers are responding by investing heavily in order to take advantage of the situation. Smaller retailers especially the domestic ones are finding it extremely hard to compete with the well established multinational retailers; there is a growing perception that the multinational retailers dominate the local retailers by offering comparatively lower prices, which is achieved through efficient distribution of products and consistent quality through standardization. Small retailers have found it hard to retain their customers because they charge compared to their well established counter parts, this tends to limit the number of customers because they feel that they are being exploited; they tend to move to the multinational retail outlets where prices are comparatively lower. The customers have benefited from the intensive competition witnessed in the retail sector; every retailer wants to maintain a given number of customers so that the business can prosper and expand adequately.

The issue that has cropped up is service delivery where retailers have to ensure that they give quality and standardized services to their customers’ so as to make them happy and come back again. Service delivery is more abstract than the goods delivery; many customers perceive quality differently, and it is up to t6he retailes to go an extra mile and establish the expected quality of service delivery. Retailers must do this in order to achieve the customer loyalty which is fundamental in any form of business undertaking. Many retails struggles to make the shopping environment to be so appealing to customers and goes a step ahead to re-design and come up with improved products, which are of high quality, which are outstanding, this can play a part though small in attracting customers, but due to modernization, customer tend to need more than just what the retailers can offer to them. The key issue here to success is to understand the customer and his/her perceptions of service quality; many inventors should address this issue before the actual investment is made.

Most importantly, this und3erstanding should also pay attention to the differences that shoppers experience with competitors in the quality of the services they offer. The reasoning behind this is that delighted customers can become the main ambassadors who can help to promote the goods of the give4n retailer by telling others what to expect when they purchase products of a given retailer. Measurement of Service Quality It is common knowledge that services are abstract in nature, and every customer may view the services offered by a given retailer in a different perspective. Firms usually experience stiff competition and this competition propels them to devise ways of maintaining and enlarging their market share. Retailers do not only need to provide better services but must also measure or determine whether consumers have a given evaluation of their services. Measuring quality perceptions allows or enables retailers to determine if customers are satisfied with their buying experiences or not; if not, the retailers have to find out why and try to mend those loopholes.

The use of SERVQUAL scale is one measure that has been widely used to determine how customers are viewing the services provided or in other words to determine the level of satisfaction. SERVQUAL is a method that was developed by Parasuraman in the year 1991. The method has 22 items which are reworded to measure the consumer4 service expectations, for each scale item, the difference between perception score and the expectation score is the gap score. The gap scores the se4rvice quality gaps; there is a total of 22 gap scores given the 22-item scale. The scale is believed to have five dimensions, which are reliability, responsiveness, assurance, tangibles and empathy respectively. Subsequent study carried out in 1992 revealed that SERVQUAL scale can be applied in both the B2C and B2B sectors respectively.

Several questions arose concerning the dimensionality of the scale; the usefulness of the gap scores was disregarded by some researchers on both the conceptual and empirical grounds. The construct validity of gap scores is still questionable because gap scores tend to have a theoretically high correlation with their component scores. Despite the above explained weaknesses, the SERVQUAL scale is still useful because its impact in the area of service quality measurement is widely accepted and perceived to be more reliable compared to other methods of measurement. This study aims at establishing the psychometric properties of the SERVQUAL scale to demonstrate its relevance as a sound metric for measuring service quality at the retail level. The second objective is to apply the scale to the Singapore retail sector in order to compare the service quality expectations, perceptions and gap scores by age, gender and shopping frequency.

Methods of Data Collection Data used in this study was collected in Singapore from the consumers near shopping centers thought the whole country. The research was personally handled in English and lasted around ten minutes. Personal interviewers were present at that time, and the residents were subjected to some sort of interviews. The sample used consisted of 172 people who were drawn from both genders, female respondents were about 59% of the sampling population; they also paid tribute to age since4 t6here is a common perception that the leve4l of quality required across given age groups varies. The respondents were picked from different demographical setting; younger consumers between 18 and 24 years represented 50% of the sample, 25% was between 25 and 34 years,14% was above 35 while the remaining 11% was below 18 years of age. This means that the sample consisted of people of different age and gender groups picked randomly across Singapore to avoid bias.

Results The paper is to examine the service quality of retailers in terms of consumer expectations of retailer service, perceptions of the actual level of service received and the gap in service quality. The above objectives can be obtained after examining the psychometric properties of the service quality measures; the psychometric properties can be achieved by the use of the SERVQUAL scale which analyses the expectation, perception and gap scores. Gap scores are obtained by subtracting the perception of the actual price provided from the expected level of service expected by the customers from the best service provider. We have to observe the five properties of the SERVQUAL in order to find out whether the service is of high quality or not, these qualities are; dimensionality, reliability, convergent validity and discriminator validity. The dimension ability of the SERVQUAL scale was assessed by comparing the fit of the hypothesized model for the scale with a number of competing models, and it revealed all the five dimensions which include reliability, tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy.

From the data that was collected, all the five dimensions were witnessed, and, as a result, the data are said to have obeyed the dimensionality aspect. Reliability was also estimated with respect to the data provided; the result was that the data presented the perceptions, expectations and the gap scores, the reliability estimates of the five factor model were generally acceptable. This means that the reliability analysis provided support for the five facto model. Convergent validity of SERVQUAL was estimated to show the perception and gap scores; this was done by computing the average variance. The test provided a lot of support for the five-factor model showing expectation scores and gap scores. Discriminator validity was considered from the different scales of the SERVQUAL scale.

The results obtained were consistent in the estimation of expectations and gap scores; the conclusion made was that responsiveness, assurance and empathy dimensions exhibited only a modest level of discriminator validity.Conclusions The study aims at examining the issues pertaining the quality of services that the retailers offer to customers in Singapore. The competition experienced in the market is so intense to the extent that retailers are forced to devise methods of maintaining and expanding their market share so that they may survive and expand their retailing activities. In Singapore which is among the tremendously developing nations, there is an emerging trend in the retailing sector; Retailers are forced to offer quality services to consumers in order to survive. Each and every retailer is trying to bridge the gap between the customer’s perception of quality and the expected quality of services; this has forced the retailers to come up with mechanisms of identifying and determining the service requirements of their customers so that they may be able to determine the steps to take. Recommendations The main initiative that can be taken by retailers and all the aspiring persons is to embrace the issue of service quality; all retailers should think seriously about improving the quality of services provided to customers because this can guarantee loyalty which is particularly essential in the retailing sector.

Further research should be taken to come up with new mechanisms of increasing the quality of services offered to the shoppers, the business world is frequently changing, and globalization is promoting intense competition and so the retailers must undertake research activities regularly.