Service quality of a pharmaceutical wholesaler in South Africa
The study investigates the measurement of service quality at a pharmaceutical wholesaler in South Africa. A number of pharmaceutical wholesalers distribute medical supplies throughout South Africa in a very regulated and competitive market where high service quality levels are expected. In this undifferentiated market, service quality can have a significant impact on the competitiveness a pharmaceutical wholesaler. As a result, a study with the primary objective to determine the current service quality levels of a large pharmaceutical wholesaler was therefore needed. The literature study compiled an industry profile of the South African Pharmaceutical market, analysed service quality and then proposed an adapted SERVQUAL model to measure the service quality. A review of the literature also highlighted the general structure of the pharmaceutical industry and the regulatory framework in the supply of pharmaceutical products. The literature also focuses specifically on the role and function of the pharmaceutical wholesaler in the supply chain. Data was collected from clients of a pharmaceutical wholesaler using an electronic platform (GoogleForms) to record service expectations and perceptions on a 7-point Likert scale. Some 4468 industry-adapted SERVQUAL survey questionnaires were emailed to clients of which 385 were completed and returned (signifying an 8.6% response rate). The analysed data returned a Cronbach alpha coefficient larger than 0.80 and therefore deemed reliable. Gap 5 of the SERVQUAL model was specifically scrutinised. The results show that in all five dimensions, expectations exceeded perceived service. The service dimension Assurance showed the biggest gap while Tangibility had the smallest gap. Further analysis using exploratory factor analysis identified three underlying service quality variables, namely Positive employee actions, Business process management and Marketing channels. These factors explained a favourable cumulative variance of 67.7%. The study also proposes a model to measure service quality in the pharmaceutical wholesale industry.