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Measuring and applyingthe PAKSERV service quality construct Evidence froma South African cultural context Stephen Graham Saunders Department of Marketing, Monash University, Berwick, Australia Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the PAKSERV service quality measure in a South African cultural context. Design/methodology/approach – In order to test and confirmthe dimensionality of the PAKSERV service quality construct a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used. The data were collected through a survey of over 300 Black South African banking customers. Findings – The results of the CFA confirmed that PAKSERV is a valid measure of service quality in a South African cultural context, consisting of six dimensions: tangibility, reliability, assurance, sincerity, personalisation and formality. Research limitations/implications – A major limitation of this study is that PAKSERV was only validated for the banking sector. To ensure validity across a variety of industries and cultural contexts, further replication would be needed. Practical implications – By measuring and evaluating service quality dimensions that are culturally relevant to customers, marketing managers can focus on the dimensions of service quality that are not adequately captured in the SERVQUAL instrument. The paper recommends three useful managerial applications of the service quality construct. The findings are particularly valuable to international services managers who what to move away from a single international service strategy and embrace a flexible service delivery strategy that is culturally sensitive. Originality/value – The study contributes by providing further validation for the PAKSERV service quality measurement scale. This is also one of the few studies to test and confirm a culturally sensitive service quality construct in Africa. Furthermore, the study questions the notion that the PAKSERV measurement scale is culturally specific and argues that PAKSERV should be seen as a generic measurement scale that can be used across a variety of countries and cultural contexts. Keywords Customer services quality, Culture, South Africa, Banking Paper type Research paper Introduction The rapid development and competition of service industries, in both developed and developing countries, has made it important for companies to measure and evaluate the quality of service encounters (Brown and Bitner, 2007). Even though most service companies recognise that excellent service quality is of vital importance to international success (Berry et al., 1989), service companies that operate in a variety of cultural contexts are finding that the most popular generic measure of service quality (i.e. SERVQUAL) is less applicable and meaningful outside of developed countries (Malhotra et al., 2005). Consequently, this has led to unsatisfactory and inappropriate marketing strategies in these countries and/or cultural contexts (Laroche et al., 2004). The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0960-4529.htm MSQ 18,5 442 Managing Service Quality Vol. 18 No. 5, 2008 pp. 442-456 qEmerald Group Publishing Limited 0960-4529 DOI 10.1108/09604520810898820 While there is evidence that there is a growing “international consumer culture” that shares values, norms and beliefs across cultures and political boundaries, most developing country consumers are not (yet) a member of this consumer group (Alden et al., 1999). This is particularly the case in the international services industry where service is often customised (rather than standardised) to accommodate local service cultures (Witkowski and Wolfinbarger, 2001). The way services are delivered often depends on the appropriate expression of culturally acceptable emotions (e.g. sincerity) and behaviours (e.g. formality and personalisation) towards the customer (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993; Winsted, 1997; Raajpoot, 2004; Malhotra et al., 2005). For example, Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) established that in many Muslim cultures, smiling at the customer during the service experience was deemed a culturally unacceptable emotion. As service encounters are quite different between countries in terms of cultural value systems, international service managers must gain an understanding of the different dimensions of service quality and “accordingly emphasize the various dimensions of service quality differently” (Malhotra et al., 2005, p. 256). In order to measure the dimensions of service quality adequately in a variety of country and/or cultural contexts, the most popular measure of service quality – SERVQUAL – is often adapted to specific cultural contexts. Weekes et al. (1996), in fact, believe that the main strength of SERVQUAL, over other measures of service quality such as SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992), is its ability to be adequately adapted. Even though SERVQUAL has been used as a measure of service quality for over 20 years, it is only really in the last ten years that researchers have seriously questioned SERVQUAL’s relationship to cultural dimensions (Donthu and Yoo, 1998; Espinoza, 1999; Furrer et al., 2000; Kueh and Voon, 2007; Tsoukatos and Rand, 2007). Donthu and Yoo (1998) studied the effect of consumers’ cultural orientation on their service quality expectations of banking customers, concluding that culture influenced overall service expectations and the dimensions of those expectations. These findings were supported by Espinoza (1999), Furrer et al. (2000), Kueh and Voon (2007), and Tsoukatos and Rand (2007) who established that the SERVQUAL dimensions were related to cultural dimensions. Moreover, researchers began to question the adequacy of SERVQUAL to capture cultural dimensions, suggesting a need for culturally specific measures of service quality (Winsted, 1997; Witkowski and Wolfinbarger, 2001; Raajpoot, 2004; Kueh and Voon, 2007). Witkowski and Wolfinbarger (2001, p. 153) found that in countries such as Thailand and Japan, formality (defined as “interpersonal communications, both verbal and non-verbal, that express courtesy and proper etiquette and maintain social distance”) is a discriminable dimension of service quality and should be included in SERVQUAL. To fully capture this “formality” service quality dimension, Raajpoot (2004) developed a culturally sensitive service quality measurement scale (PAKSERV) that was an extension of SERVQUAL. Raajpoot (2004) established internal reliability and discriminant validity for the multi-item scale in Pakistan. Despite this research, Kueh and Voon (2007) and Ladhari (2008) advocate that further research into culture and service quality is desirable and that adapted SERVQUAL measurement scales require continued validation in different cultural contexts. The objective of this research is threefold. First, from a modelling perspective, the researcher seeks to confirm that the PAKSERV service quality construct is valid in an PAKSERV service quality construct 443 African cultural context. While Raajpoot (2004) would argue that PAKSERV is only suited for use in an Asian culture, this studies seeks to confirmthat the study is valid in other cultural contexts. Once the PAKSERV service quality construct is confirmed, the researcher then proceeds to the second objective which is to apply the instrument to the banking sector in an African cultural context to determine the relative importance of the dimensions in influencing customers overall service quality perceptions. Finally, the researcher measures perceived service quality across the service dimensions, before statistically testing the perceived difference in service quality across the main banking groups in South Africa. The study will conclude by providing recommendations and directions for future research in international services marketing. Service quality and culture Pioneering research by Parasuraman et al. (1988) suggested that perceived service quality is based on multi-dimensional factors relevant to the context. Parasuraman et al. (1988) research identified five dimensions of service quality that customers rely on to form their judgement of perceived service quality. These are: (1) Reliability: ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. (2) Responsiveness: willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. (3) Assurance: employees’ knowledge and courtesy and their ability to inspire trust and confidence. (4) Empathy: caring, individualised attention given to customers. (5) Tangibles: appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and written materials (Zeithaml et al., 2006, p. 117). A scale, known as SERVQUAL, was developed to operationalise the five dimensions of perceived service quality. This scale is probably the most popular service quality scale used in the United States and Europe, despite some of the criticism it has received for conceptual and operational shortcomings (Babakus and Boller, 1992; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Teas, 1993; Brady and Cronin, 2001). The extensive reviews and critiques of SERVQUAL are adequately summarised by Buttle (1996), Morrison-Coulthard (2004) and Ladhari (2008). While the theoretical link between customer’s perception of service encounters and the cultural context is not new, there is some disagreement amongst researchers on SERVQUAL’s adequacy in capturing cultural differences. In this regard, researchers could potentially be placed into two distinct groups. First, researchers that hold that the SERVQUAL dimensions adequately capture the service quality dimensions for all cultures, even though different cultures interpret the dimensions somewhat differently (Malhotra et al., 1994; Akan, 1995; Donthu and Yoo, 1998; Furrer et al., 2000; Kueh and Voon, 2007; Tsoukatos and Rand, 2007). They explain these different interpretations through Hofstede’s (1980) dimensions of national cultures. In other words, perceptions of service quality are defined by each cultures position on Hofstede’s dimensions. For example, Western consumers are more likely to rely on tangible cues to evaluate service quality (such as the appearance of physical facilities), whereas Asian consumers are more likely to rely on empathy cues (Mattila, 1999). While these studies accept the SERVQUAL dimensions, they do MSQ 18,5 444 highlight the need to interpret the impact that cultural differences may have on the evaluation of service encounters and to emphasise the dimensions of service quality accordingly. For example, Malhotra et al. (2005) found that perceptions of service quality were significantly different between the USA and both India and the Philippines. The USA was selected as an example of a developed country that has an individualistic society (based on Hofstede’s dimensions) while India and the Philippines were selected as examples of developing countries that have collective societies. Second, researchers that hold that the SERVQUAL dimensions do not entirely capture the service quality dimensions for non-Western cultures and recommend the use of culturally specific service quality dimensions (Winsted, 1997; Imrie et al., 2002; Raajpoot, 2004). Winsted (1997) conducted a study to determine how consumers evaluate service encounters within the USA and Japanese restaurant industry. A key finding was to identify a set of relational dimensions including genuineness of behaviour, perceived control, courtesy and formality which are not adequately captured by SERVQUAL. Imrie et al. (2002) conducted a qualitative study to develop a conceptual model depicting the service quality construct in a non-North American context. Ethnic Chinese within Taiwan were chosen as the sample population as the Chinese broadly display the “opposite” cultural characteristics to North Americans (based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions). The findings confirmed four of the five SERVQUAL dimensions but failed to confirm the empathy dimension. The empathy dimension (i.e. caring, individualised attention given to customers) failed to capture the interpersonal relationships that play a central role in Chinese life and business. Instead, Imrie et al. (2002) identified another dimension, tentatively entitled the Confucian relational ethic. This dimension was reflected by the supposed Confucian values of sincerity, politeness and generosity. Raajpoot (2004) adapted and extended SERVQUAL, so developing a culturally sensitive multiple-item scale (PAKSERV) – consisting of six dimensions and 24 items – to measure service quality in a Pakistani cultural context. The PAKSERV findings confirmed SERVQUAL dimensions of tangibility, reliability and assurance but replaced responsiveness and empathy with three new dimensions: (1) Sincerity: consumer’s evaluation of the genuineness of the service personnel. (2) Formality: consumer’s evaluation of social distance, form of address and ritual. (3) Personalisation: consumer’s evaluation of customisation and individualised attention. Raajpoot (2004) research appears to verify the premise that cultural dimensions of service quality are important when customers evaluated service encounters. Not only did customers use the three new (cultural) dimensions to evaluate service quality, but their interpretations of the confirmed SERVQUAL dimensions were also quite different. Raajpoot (2004) indicated that the implication from his research is that service companies not only need to include cultural dimensions when measuring service quality but also need to be open and aware of different interpretations of the more common dimensions. For example, in Pakistan, reliability was interpreted as the ability to perform a promised service within an appropriate timeframe, accepting that PAKSERV service quality construct 445 there may be service failure during this time period. In other words, there was a level of tolerance during the service delivery period, provided that the appropriate time frame was adhered to (Raajpoot, 2004). This interpretation is quite different to the generally accepted interpretation amongst service managers that reliable service must be accurate (Zeithaml et al., 2006). Research design In order to test and confirm the dimensionality of PAKSERV, the researcher used a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). The CFA is appropriate to this study as the construct (service quality) is well grounded in theory and empirical research. In CFA, the structural relationship between the items (observed measures) and dimensions (latent variables or factors) are postulated a priori and then statistically tested. More specifically, CFA tested the hypothesis that service quality is a multi-dimensional construct composed of the six PAKSERV factors: tangibility, reliability, assurance, sincerity, personalisation and formality. The 22-item scale consisted of five items for tangibility, three items for reliability, four items for assurance, three items for sincerity, four items for personalisation and three items for formality. For the purposes of this study Black South Africans – who were banking customers – were identified as the cultural unit. Following Farley and Lehmann (1994) belief that culture is only loosely related to a country state, the study chose to focus on a specific within-country cultural unit. Moreover, another reason for excluding other cultural groupings (i.e. Caucasian) in South Africa was to ensure maximally homogeneous respondents. Homogenous cultural contexts would be preferred in this type of research, as according to Calder et al. (1981), homogenous units often lead to stronger tests of a theoretical model than heterogeneous units. Bankingwas chosenas the service industry, as the bankingsector is considereda major contributor to the service economy in South Africa and continues to be a vital driver of economic growth (STATSSA, 2006). Moreover, the banking industry has increasing began actively marketing its products and services to the Black South African population. Despite this focus on the banking sector, there has been very little academic research into the service quality perceptions of Black South African customers. The sample data were collected through a survey. The survey was conducted through an anonymous self-completed structured questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of two parts. The first part contained questions pertaining to basic demographics and current usage of banking services. The second part contained 22 statements representing the six PAKSERV dimensions. Respondents were requested, on a seven-point Likert scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree), to indicate their opinion on statements relating to banking service quality. The questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample of 329 Black South Africans at a South African banking mall. Convenience sampling was deemed acceptable for this study as its purpose of this study was to test the PAKSERV scale in a cultural context that has the potential to refute the theoretical model. In this case, a representative sample is not required because statistical generalisation of the findings is not the primary goal (Calder et al., 1981). All respondents were screened to determine if they were recent users of banking services. A recent user was classified as someone who had engaged in banking services in the last three months. This screening process ensured that the respondents had a bank account and were familiar with the services offered by their bank. A total of 329 questionnaires were collected, of which 311 were usable. MSQ 18,5 446 Once the data had been collected, it was captured and collated using SPSS. Table I shows some of the key characteristics of the respondents. According to Bickman et al. (1998) the collected data are useless unless it is accurate, valid and reliable. In order to establish both internal and external validity it was necessary to address the issue of construct validity. Supportive evidence of construct validity in this case is if the CFA is supported by the theory that the PAKSERV service quality construct produces six meaningful factors. A popular diagnostic measure of reliability – Cronbach’s a coefficient – was used to test the consistency of the construct. For the service quality constructs to be reliable, Hair et al. (2006) affirms that the generally agreed lower limit for Cronbach’s a coefficient is 0.70. For the service quality construct as a whole, the Cronbach’s a was 0.90, exhibiting high reliability. Model assessment The goodness-of-fit test for the hypothesised model (model 1) is presented in Table II. The model indicated a significant x 2 value of 516.98 (df 203), indicating that the model Per cent Gender Male 55.6 Female 44.4 Age 16-20 12.8 21-24 24.8 25-29 23.2 30-34 16.8 35-49 19.0 50-60 3.4 Employment status Full time 46.6 Part time 22.2 Student 23.5 Retired or employed in the home 1.2 Unemployed 6.5 Education level No education 1.2 Some primary school 0.9 Primary school completed 0.6 Some high school 10.3 High school completed 29.8 Tech diploma/degree 30.4 University degree 20.7 Other 2.7 Unspecified 0.3 Banking institution Absa 28.1 First National Bank 32.7 Nedcor 9.0 Standard Bank 25.6 Post Office 2.5 Other 0.9 Table I. Respondent characteristics PAKSERV service quality construct 447 did not fit well. This is supported by the other goodness-of-fit tests that also indicated that the model did not fit the data. The RFI and CFI values of 0.797 and 0.775, respectively, are deemed less than the acceptable value of 0.80. The RMSEA value of 0.075 is also quite high even though it is deemed acceptable. In general, then, there seems to be some degree of misfit in the hypothesised model. To locate the source of the misfit, the modification indexes for covariance (MIs) were examined. The MI values represent the expected drop in the overall x 2 value if the parameter were to be freely estimated in a subsequent run. In reviewing the MI values, only the parameter representing a covariance error between item p2 (err19) and f1 (err22) appears to be of any interest (Figure 1). It indicated that if the model was re-estimated with this parameter specified as free, the overall x 2 value could drop by at least 57.75. According to Byrne (2001) error covariance is often an indication of perceived redundancy in item content. This seemed to be the case as items p2 and f1 appeared to elicit responses that did not make a distinction between being addressed by “name” (personalisation construct) and being addressed by “title and family name” (formality construct). On the basis that respondents did not make a distinction between these two items, it was deemed appropriate to re-estimate the model with the error covariance between items p2 and f1 specified as a free parameter. The goodness-of-fit tests for the re-specified model (model 2) are also presented in Table II. In comparison with the hypothesised model (model 1) in which no error covariance was specified, the re-specified model (model 2) yielded an improvement in the x 2 value to 451.69 (df 202), indicating a better fit. This is supported by the other goodness-of-fit tests that also indicate that the model fitted the data better. The RFI value of 0.882 was representative of a reasonable fit, whereas the CFI value of 0.906 was considered evidence of a good fit. This was supported by the RMSEA value of 0.065, thus indicating that the model fits the sample data and was not mis-specified. The graphical model is displayed in Figure 1. In reviewing the estimates for the regression weights (factor loadings) of model 2, it was found that they were all statistically significant, suggesting that the factor loadings are correctly specified and valid. The covariance between the error terms (err19 and err22) was also significant with a correlation coefficient of 0.46, suggesting that not all error terms associated with each item would be uncorrelated. In reviewing the estimates for the variances it was found that res3 (i.e. the residual item for the assurance construct) and res4 (i.e. the residual item for the sincerity construct) were not statistically significantly. Overall, however, on the basis that the goodness-of-fit test indicates that the model fits well, the adequacy of the unstandardised and standardised solutions, and little justification for further freeing of parameters, model 2 was considered to best represent the service quality construct. Construct validity was therefore inferred as the CFA supported the theory that the service quality construct produces six meaningful factors. Model x 2 (df ) x 2 /df Probability RFI CFI RMSEA Model 1 516.98(203) 2.55 0.000 0.797 0.775 0.075 Model 2 451.69(202) 2.24 0.000 0.882 0.906 0.063 Table II. Goodness-of-fit indexes for the CFA MSQ 18,5 448 Figure 1. Service quality model PAKSERV service quality construct 449 Managerial applications Three useful applications from the results of the PAKSERV CFA will be discussed in this section. Service quality tier structure The first useful application is to determine the relative importance of the dimensions in influencing customers overall service quality perceptions (Lai et al., 2007). The results of the CFA illustrated in Figure 2 show that that “assurance” and “sincerity” have the highest factor loadings and could be labelled first-tier dimensions (i.e. the most important dimensions in determining customers’ perceived service quality). “Tangibility” has the lowest factor loadings and could be labelled a third-tier dimension (i.e. the least important dimension in determining customers’ perceived service quality), while “formality”, “personalisation” and “reliability” are in between and could be labelled second-tier dimensions. Customers perception of service quality The customer’s perception of the service quality dimensions were measured and ranked for all six dimensions. The results presented in Table III indicate that customer’s Figure 2. Service quality tier structure Mean SD Mean rank Tangibility 4.69 1.370 1 Reliability 4.42 1.583 2 Assurance 4.32 1.542 3 Sincerity 4.08 1.699 4 Formality 3.85 1.718 5 Personalisation 3.58 1.701 6 PAKSERV 4.20 1.280 Table III. Service quality dimension scores MSQ 18,5 450 perceptions of the tangibility, reliability and assurance dimensions ranked higher than perceptions of the personalisation, formality and sincerity dimensions. The standard deviations for the three highest ranked dimensions were also less than that of the three lowest ranked dimensions. This implies that the responses to the three lowest ranked dimensions were more widely spread than the three highest ranked dimensions. It is interesting to note that the three high-ranked dimensions (tangibility, reliability and assurance) are generic dimensions to both the SERVQUALand PAKSERVinstruments; while the three low-ranked dimensions (personalisation, formality and sincerity) are the unique PAKSERV dimensions that replaced the SERVQUAL dimensions of responsiveness and empathy. Competitive analysis Another useful application from the results of the PAKSERV CFA is to compare the perceptions of service quality across the major banking groups in South Africa in order to provide the banking groups with suggests for improving service quality relating to the tier structure (Beach and Burns, 1995). One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test the null hypothesis that the mean service quality across the banking groups is equal. As over 85 per cent of respondents banked either with Absa, First National Bank or Standard Bank, it was decided to only test the mean service quality across these three banking groups. Table IV shows the results of the one-way ANOVA. The results indicate that the null hypothesis is not rejected (significant ,0.05) for all but one service quality dimension. For the reliability dimension, the null hypothesis is rejected (significant ,0.05), meaning that there was a significant mean difference on this dimension across the three banking institutions. On performing a Bonferroni post-hoc test to determine which pairs of means are statistically different from each other, it was found that First National Bank’s perceived reliability was significantly less than both Absa and Standard Bank. Discussion A major contribution of this study was to confirm the PAKSERV service quality construct. The results of the CFA confirmed that PAKSERV is a reliable and valid measure of service quality in a cultural context outside of Asia, consisting of six dimensions: tangibility, reliability, assurance, sincerity, personalisation and formality. Based on the results of the CFA it was possible to classify the relative importance of the six service quality dimensions into a three-tier structure. The first-tier included “assurance” and “sincerity”, the second-tier included “formality”, “personalisation” and “reliability”, while the third-tier included “tangibility”. This suggests that banks could better service customers by focusing on “assurance” and “sincerity” than on the “tangible” dimensions of the servicescape. This finding is consistent with Mattila (1999) and Lai et al. (2007) whom found that Asian customers placed far less importance on “tangible” dimensions than Western consumers. Malhotra et al. (2005) argues that the reason for this is that consumers in developing countries place more importance on the “core benefits” of the banking product which cannot be substituted by an agreeable “servicescape”. As Bitner (1992) explains, the “servicescape” influences higher order emotions of the customer rather than the lower order “core service” that is of primary importance to customers in developing countries. Nevertheless, further investigation PAKSERV service quality construct 451 would be needed to understand why Black South African consumers place low importance on “tangible” dimensions of the service encounters. The results of the summated scores for the six service quality dimensions showed that Black South African banking customers perceived “tangibles” to have the highest score. This means that while Black South African banking customers place less importance on tangibles, they rate the tangible dimension of the service quality highly. The results also showed that Black South African banking customers’ perceived “personalisation” to have the lowest score, suggesting that this is an area in which the banks could improve the service encounter to banking customers. Issues such as receiving individual attention, being addressed by name, getting immediate attention and customising solutions to suite the customer are all areas that need to be addressed to improve the personalisation dimension of service quality. According to Gro¨nroos (2000) services are inherently relational where personalisation and knowledge of the customer are the basis of the relationship. The low personalisation scores in this study seem to confirmMalhotra et al. (2005) findings that relationship marketing is not emphasised for developing country customers and that further effort should be made on understanding and knowing the customer. Gro¨nroos (2000) maintains that service quality measures do not capture the dynamic nature of relationships and suggests that international service Sum of squares df Mean square F Significant Tangibility Between groups 5.850 2 2.925 1.568 0.211 Within groups 479.572 257 1.866 Total 485.422 259 Reliability Between groups 16.223 2 8.112 3.442 0.033 Within groups 622.091 264 2.356 Total 638.315 266 Assurance Between groups 7.045 2 3.522 1.505 0.224 Within groups 620.184 265 2.340 Total 627.228 267 Sincerity Between groups 3.472 2 1.736 0.601 0.549 Within groups 757.125 262 2.890 Total 760.597 264 Personalisation Between groups 2.271 2 1.135 0.395 0.674 Within groups 753.291 262 2.875 Total 755.562 264 Formality Between groups 0.772 2 0.386 0.135 0.874 Within groups 757.755 265 2.859 Total 758.527 267 PAKSERV Between groups 3.614 2 1.807 1.126 0.326 Within groups 381.762 238 1.604 Total 385.376 240 Table IV. One-way ANOVA MSQ 18,5 452 managers need to measure the dynamic nature of relationships by using a relationship quality measure. The three high-ranked dimensions (tangibility, reliability and assurance) are generic dimensions to both the SERVQUAL and PAKSERV instruments; while the three low-ranked dimensions (personalisation, formality and sincerity) are the unique PAKSERV dimensions that replaced the SERVQUAL dimensions of responsiveness and empathy. As personalisation, formality and sincerity were included in the PAKSERV instrument to specifically measure service quality in a culturally sensitive context, it seems that this is an area that the banking industries needs to devote resource in order to improve the service encounter for Black South African banking customers. The results of the competitive analysis indicated that there was no significant difference in perceived service quality across the three most widely used banking groups other than on the reliability dimension. First National Bank was perceived to be significantly worse on reliability than the other two banks. Issues such a keeping promises, following through on customers instructions and reducing errors on banking statements are areas that would need to be addressed by First National Bank to improve the poor perception of reliability. According to Berry et al. (1989) reliability is the core to service provision and that issues such keeping promises, following through on customer’s instructions and reducing errors on banking statements are areas that should be “core” prioritises of the service provider. Furthermore, Malhotra et al. (2005) found that reliability of services could be better established by placing the emphasis on personnel (high touch) rather than technology (high tech) in developing countries. Conclusion and directions for future research While it may not be possible to generalise the point estimates of the various PAKSERV dimensions beyond the population under study, it is possible to conclude that the PAKSERV scale is applicable in a variety of real-world situations and contexts. As the main purpose of the study was to provide further validation of the PAKSERV scale, this studies major contribution lies in its information about the adequacy of PAKSERV to capture the cultural dimensions of service quality. Not only does this study re-enforce the notion that cultural dimensions are important to measuring service quality, but also maintains that service quality scales need to include cultural dimensions. While Raajpoot (2004) argues that these dimensions need to be tailored to specific cultures, this studies rather views these dimensions as generic. In other words, PAKSERV’s cultural dimensions are not necessarily unique to a specific cultural grouping but may be generic across a variety of countries and cultural contexts. As Calder et al. (1981) argues, only models or theories that repeatedly survive testing are candidates for application. While this study has explored some applications of the PAKSERV instrument, these applications would probably not be generalisable outside of the banking sector as a major limitation of this study is that PAKSERV was only validated for the banking sector. To ensure validity across a variety of industries in an African cultural context, further replication would be needed. Only after a series of replications across a variety of industries and new samples, could it be concluded that PAKSERV is “absolutely” valid (Raajpoot, 2004). Furthermore, Chowdhary and Prakash (2007) caution that generalisations of importance of service quality dimensions is not possible among all types of services, as PAKSERV service quality construct 453 different services are structured and delivered in different contexts. Taking this into consideration, generalisations could possibly only be made for services with similar contexts. For example, this study was confined to the perceptions of service quality in a physical banking environment. As banking services are increasingly moving to the internet and other electronic devices in developed and developing countries, it would be important to adapt and test the PAKSERV instrument in an e-retail environment. If the PAKSERV service quality instrument is further validated it could potentially be a more widely used “generic” tool for measuring service quality and provide the impetus for further research into a cross-cultural service quality measure. Further research could possibly then use the PAKSERV instrument as the basis for linking the service quality construct to economic and socio-cultural dimensions that Malhotra et al. (2005) found important to customers evaluation of services. Managerial implications Notwithstanding the limitations, the results of this study have been used to demonstrate a number of practical managerial applications of PAKSERV. While managers are cautioned not to generalise the results from the applications, they can begin to measure service quality in a variety of contexts and industries by using a more culturally sensitive measure. By evaluating service quality dimensions that are culturally relevant to customers, international service managers could focus on the dimensions of service quality that are not adequately captured in the generic SERVQUAL instrument, and so develop service delivery strategies accordingly. Even in many contexts where there are minority cultural groups, formally recognising and addressing cultural dimensions could not only improve the service encounter for culturally diverse customers but also improve the delivery of services to all customers. As service contexts become more internationally and culturally diverse, a single international service strategy will become less realistic. PAKSERV provides managers with a usable tool that is flexible enough to develop realistic strategies that are sensitive to cultural diversity. References Akan, P. (1995), “Dimensions of service quality: a study in Istanbul”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 5 No. 6, pp. 39-43. Alden, D.L., Steenkamp, J.E.M. and Batra, R. (1999), “Brand positioning through advertising in Asia, North America, and Europe: the role of global consumer culture”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 63, pp. 75-87. Ashforth, B.E. and Humphrey, R.H. 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(1996), “Measuring quality and client satisfaction in professional business services”, Journal of Professional Services Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 25-37. Winsted, F.K. (1997), “The service experience in two cultures: a behavioral perspective”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 73 No. 3, pp. 337-60. Witkowski, T.H. and Wolfinbarger, M.F. (2001), “The formality dimension of service quality in Thailand and Japan”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 153-60. Zeithaml, V.A., Bitner, M.J. and Gremler, D.D. (2006), Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm, 4th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. About the author Stephen Graham Saunders is a senior lecturer at the Department of Marketing, Monash University, Australia. He previously lectured at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. His postgraduate studies include a MCom and MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand, and a DCom from the University of Johannesburg. His research interests include services marketing, multivariate analysis, and marketing products and services to the urban poor. Stephen Graham Saunders can be contacted at: [email protected] MSQ 18,5 456 To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: [email protected] Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints
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