Consumer perceptions of supermarket service quality : scale development, measurement and validation
During the last decade much research has been done on consumer perceptions in the so-called pure services with scant attention being devoted to the analysis of retail services associated with the marketing of goods. However, in recent years the service quality debate received much attention and closer examination in retailing. It is, therefore, not surprising that many of m s spend substantial resources to measure service quality and manage customer satisfaction. This research was undertaken primarily to develop a conceptual model of service quality within a supermarket context. The research is supported by a detailed literature study into the marketing of services, service quality, service encounters and established service quality models. Four central questions were formulated and answered by the study. What are the dimensions used by consumers to evaluate supermarket service quality? How reliable is the proposed service quality scale? What relationship can be observed between the proposed service quality dimensions and future store patronage? What relationships can be observed between the proposed service quality dimensions and overall service quality? In order to develop and validate a measurement model for supermarket service quality, exploratory research was conducted using focus group interviews to establish aspects that could be important to consumers regarding service quality. This enabled the researcher to obtain a fairly accurate measure of consumers' perceptions of supermarket service quality. Based on the exploratory research, a forty-item scale was developed for the empirical study. The instrument was then subjected to a scale purification process through exploratory factor analysis. Non-probability sampling (judgment and convenience) was used and structured questionnaires were administered to six hundred and seven consumers from three stores of a national supermarket chain. A thirty-item scale was finally developed, which comprised three dimensions, namely reliability, atmospherics and policy. Continatory factor analysis was further undertaken in order to establish the overall model fit in terms of the three dimensions. Empirical evidence suggests, that the reliability, atmospherics and policy dimensions are all positively associated with consumers' perceptions of overall service quality. Reliability and atmospherics emerged as strong predictors of future store patronage and satisfaction. However, policy did not emerge as a strong predictor of future behavioural intentions. Empirical evidence also suggests that there is a causal ordering of service quality which influences customer satisfaction. The findings suggest that managements of supermarkets should incorporate all three underlying dimensions in order for them to access their customers’ evaluation of their service. Although it is probable that the relative importance of each dimension and variables within each dimension may vary from one retailer to another, it is important for managers to identify these components of the senice which make a contribution to service quality and customer satisfaction. The service offering must, therefore, be designed by managers to reflect these perceptions in order to allow them develop better service quality strategies. The findings in this study also suggest the need for a more extensive study so as to validate the model. However, it provides an avenue for academics and researchers to explore and contribute to the ongoing debate on the measurement of service quality and its relationship with customer satisfaction.