Sincere customer service leads to long-term growth: Professor A Parasuraman

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Published: June 3, 2019 6:38:15 AM

In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Professor A Parasuraman says that intense competition, coupled with increasing power of consumers, are the reasons for companies’ growing focus on customer service.

A Parasuraman, James W McLamore Chair Emeritus, Professor Emeritus, Marketing, University of Miami Business School, SERVQUAL model, service quality, Indian companies, customer service, customer service growth

Amongst the many achievements of A Parasuraman—the James W McLamore Chair Emeritus and Professor Emeritus, Marketing, University of Miami Business School—is the SERVQUAL model, an instrument to capture consumer expectations and perceptions of a service along five dimensions that are believed to represent service quality.

These dimensions are ‘reliability’, ‘assurance’, ‘tangibles’, ‘empathy’ and ‘responsiveness’. He says Indian companies have a great opportunity to excel by providing superior customer service. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that intense competition, coupled with increasing power of consumers, are the reasons for companies’ growing focus on customer service. Excerpts:

Where all in India has your SERVQUAL model been applied?
Based on anecdotal evidence gleaned from participants in executive development programmes I have conducted in India, I would say the principles underlying the SERVQUAL model have been applied in a variety of service sectors like banking, airlines and hospitality/hotels.

Has anything similar (to SERVQUAL) been developed at Indian B-schools?
While the specific questions comprising each of SERVQUAL’s five dimensions may need some tweaking to fit any contextual idiosyncrasies or nuances, I believe the basic model is quite robust and a new model is not needed. I am not aware of any major alternative (to SERVQUAL) that has been developed in Indian B-schools.

Where does the opportunity lie for Indian companies to offer best-in-class service quality to their customers?
Companies that market to end-consumers, to other companies, or to governmental agencies have potential to improve both their top lines (by garnering competitive advantage through superior service), and bottom lines (by lowering or eliminating costs associated with poor service).

In India, frugal innovation (jugaad) has been used for ages—in manufacturing and services. Does jugaad impact quality of service (jugaad, after all, is a temporary solution to a problem)?
Jugaad can have a positive impact on service quality experienced by customers in the long run. Companies that support an internal culture of being resourceful (which I believe is the essence of jugaad), especially amongst frontline employees, and in terms of addressing unique customer requests and handling problems experienced by customers, can gain a significant advantage over their competitors.

A lot of Indians are rising to the CXO suite globally. Is it a new phenomenon? What does the data say?
I am not an expert on this, nor do I have objective ‘data’ to answer this question! But I believe an increasing number of people of Indian origin are being tapped by global companies for CXO roles. Indians who develop a record of excellence in their own fields—business, engineering, medicine, anything—are the crème de la crème, capable of being at the helm of global firms.

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