Development of a measurement scale for business-to-business service quality: assessment in the facility services sector
The prominence of business services in the global economy has become self-evident. The amount of money involved in sales of products and services to business buyers are ever-increasing and much higher than those to individual consumers (Kotler, 2003, Jackson and Cooper, 1988). As organizations have increasingly invested in the business services sector with the hope of gaining sustained competitive advantage, the delivery of quality service has taken on an important role in the strategic planning of service organizations (Westbrook and Peterson, 1998). Since service quality has become the overriding concern of purchasers of business services, service providers focused on not only surviving but also thriving in turbulent national and international markets by delivering a certain level of service quality (Jackson and Cooper, 1988). However, the management of service quality in a business-to-business (B2B) environment is not as widely discussed in literature as it is in the businessto- consumer (B2C) context (Parasuraman, 1998, White and Galbraith, 2000). The most widely spread instrument to measure service quality in a B2C environment is the SERVQUAL scale developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1988). Researchers who applied this scale in B2B environment were not always successful (Brensinger and Lambert, 1990) indicating that the SERVQUAL scale might not be directly transferable to the business sector (Durvasula, Lysonski and Mehta, 1999). This could be due to the contrast between business markets and consumer markets (Kotler, 2003) wherein business services and their marketing are regarded as being more complex (Jackson and Cooper, 1988). Even the dimensions of perceived service quality (the basis for service quality measurement) are considered to be different across the two service settings (Kong and Mayo, 1993). Thus, the development of a measurement scale for perceived service quality adjusted to the needs of the business context appears imperative. In this study we develop a scale to measure the perceived service quality in business settings. The study is based on the exploratory research of Westbrook and Peterson (1998). Consistent with the B2B service quality dimensions they defined, we draw up a scale to actually measure the perceived service quality in a business environment. This newly developed scale will be called the B2B SERVQUAL scale. The SERVQUAL scale developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1988) will occasionally be called the B2C SERVQUAL scale to avoid confusion. Thus, the research focus of this study can be formulated as follows: To develop and test a reliable, valid instrument for measuring perceived service quality in a B2B setting and determine its dimensions. This research focus evokes other questions like which service quality dimensions need to be added to the B2C service quality dimensions to more completely encompass the perceived service quality in a business setting and accordingly are there specific B2C service quality dimensions that are unimportant in a B2B environment. Additionally, we are interested in identifying service quality dimensions that have the most influence on perceived service quality in a business context. The newly developed B2B SERVQUAL scale will help us to gain new insights into not only measuring perceived service quality in a B2B setting, but also in managing the service quality in such an environment thereby improving the service relationship between companies. In this research study the emphasis will be on how service quality is perceived in the facility services sector, like cleaning, catering and security. In the following section we give a short overview of the research on B2C SERVQUAL scale (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1988) and its applicability in a business environment. This section also gives a short overview of the current research done on perceived service quality in a B2B environment and addresses the issue of the dimensions needed to capture perceived service quality in a B2B context. These dimensions are defined and compared with those in a B2C context. Subsequently we discuss the methodology used to assess the B2B SERVQUAL scale. The analyses and results are then described in another section. In the last section the limitations of our study are mentioned. This section also covers the discussion of the results and gives possibilities for future research.
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