Gronroos (1990) defines service as an action that one party offers to another that is intangible and time-perishable with the aim of adding value to the other’s life. When customer expectations are not met or a service does not add value to the customer’s life, a suboptimal service or a service gap is said to occur, creating grievance to the customer. Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry (1985) state that service quality is the difference between customer’s expectations of a service delivered and the customer’s perceptions of the service received. This paper aims to analyse the service gap that occur within the service delivered by Maid in Melbourne (MIM), the effect to the author (refer to as “the customer”) and provide recommendations to improve the value of this service.
MIM is a residential house cleaning service, offering cleaning services at an affordable cost and an exceptional level. The customer’s perception of MIM is that they employ highly skilled house cleaners with experience to deliver a clean house. This is based on the information from the business’s website. MIM prides on perfection, punctuality and reliable house cleaning. The customer engaged the services of MIM fortnightly, with the expectation that the house will be cleaned, allowing the customer time to focus on studies and family. Prior to the first service, MIM provided the customer with a list of cleaning task that will carried out at each session. The list is tailor-made based on the need of the customer and the size of the house. At the 1st session and up until 1 month, the cleaner had diligently completed all the task. Then, the cleaner began leaving out task on the list, sighting inadequate time. Then the cleaner began demanding the customer to clear and organise areas in the house prior to the cleaning session. For example, the customer was asked to remove all cutlery & pots from the kitchen bench top if the cleaner is required to wipe down the surface area. Similarly, for the powder room, all toiletries items must be put away in the drawers prior to the cleaner wiping down the surface. The customer began spending a considerable amount of time preparing the house prior to cleaner starting their task. The cleaner also began cancelling appointments with no prior notice.
MIM’s business model is tailored to provide service based on the individual needs of each client – a “job shop operation” approach. MIM interacted with the customer to enquire regarding the expected work required and a task list was created for the cleaner to complete at each session. This set an expectation on the part of the customer. The customer wanted a clean house every fortnight and MIM via the cleaner was able to provide this service. However, this was not the case after 1 month. MIM was not providing the same service accurately and repeatedly, affecting the service quality. Sayareh, Iranshahi & Golfakhrabadi (2016), stresses that consistency in conforming to client’s expectations is important in delivering quality service. Reliability was not an essential element in MIM’s service delivery, as the cleaner was cancelling appointments and the customer had to prepare the house prior to the service occurring. From the customer’s perspective, it was essential for the business to deliver reliable service all the time. The service received by the customer was not the expected service, as the customer already had a perception of the service based on previous experience (Edvardsson, 1998).
It is also critical that businesses response to customers queries swiftly. A quick response time promotes a business in a positive manner (Nambisan, Gustafson, Hawkins, & Pingree, 2016). Instead of rectifying the problem promptly, MIM did not respond to the customer’s distress, implying that the customer is of minimal value to the business. Initially, prior to the service being provided, MIM was prompt in providing a task list to the customer without even being asked. This created a positive perception of MIM as being professional and knowledgeable. After each cleaning service, MIM asked feedback from the customer on the service rendered, creating an avenue for the customer to communicate specific needs, with the aim of building trusting relationship between customer and business and providing quality and lasting service (Chu, Lee, & Chao, 2012). However, after a month, MIM showed no signs of communicating with the customer. When problem began to arise, there was no willingness on MIM part to help rectify the problem quickly, creating a negative perception of the service delivery and negative satisfaction for the customer.
MIM also displayed no empathy towards the customer. There was no element of genuinely feeling the customer’s dissatisfaction or understanding the customer’s needs. Initially, individual attention was provided to the customer – creating a perception of providing quality service. Sura and Ahn (2017) confirms that empathy certainly has a positive effect on customer satisfaction. However, because empathy was not demonstrated by the business, this left the customer to feel less important. These created a situation whereby the service expected was not the service received, resulting in a service failure.
Any service business will experience service failure. Proper service recovery can convert an unhappy customer and maintain long-term relationships. Some key recommendations that MIM can implement is to narrow the communication gap. At the end of every visit, the cleaner can provide the customer with a list of task that was be carried out, the problem areas within the house that needed extra attention and time and actions on how the customer can maintain the cleanliness of the house until the next visit. Also, if the cleaner is unable to adhere to the appointment, the cleaner should inform the customer, state the reason and offering either a substitute cleaner or an alternate time. Most importantly, the business provider should treat the all customer fairly, regardless if they are new or existing customers to maintain long-term relationships. Zeithaml, Bitner and Gremler, (2009), affirm that an important part of an effective service recovery process is to treat all customers fairly.
In conclusion, a customer hires a cleaning service not primarily for the skills but because of trust and reliability. Should the business value the partnership, this intuition of trust, must be continually proved and earned by the business. For a customer to be satisfied with the service provided by a business, it is utmost important to ensure that the expected service delivered exceeds to the perceive service, by quality determinants of reliability, responsiveness and empathy. At the end, what matters most to a customer is the feeling attained from the service offered, not so much the service itself.
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