When A. “Parsu” Parasuraman first sat with his collaborators in a conference room in the 1980s and came up with a model to explain gaps in service quality, they made some deceptively simple conclusions.
“Quality of service is really something that customers judge by assessing how well the delivered service compares with their expectations,” the University of Miami School of Business Administration professor and legendary marketing researcher told a group of Gabelli School of Business marketing faculty members during a recent lecture.
Parasuraman added that there is usually a disconnect between what customers believe the service level is and what a service provider believes it is. That “very simple but very powerful” message led to the gaps model of understanding service quality and a company’s internal workings. The researchers’ findings on the elements of service quality, often called SERVQUAL and later changed to the acronym RATER (reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness), jump-started marketing research.
“Now looking at this, based on hindsight, it’s not rocket science, really. It’s almost too logical. Really didn’t have to do two years worth of research to arrive at this,” Parasuraman joked. “But the beauty of simplicity is a lot of times simple things pop out of very intense … research. Simple research is not minor research. And, by the same token, sophisticated models and outputs are not necessary to make a big impact.”
Parasuraman’s impact in the field of service quality cannot be underestimated. His work is cited thousands of times by other academics. His research not only broke new ground, it discovered a new land.
“Prior to this,” Parasuraman said of his work, “there was nothing.”
And that was one of the personal lessons Parasuraman said he had learned from his research journey: “Choose a domain/topic that has evolutionary potential—even if it is risky.”
Among the other lessons Parasuraman shared:
- Choose research partners with shared values but complementary skills
- Be realistic and don’t bite off more than you can chew
- Work hard and be prepared to face criticism and respond constructively to it
Parasuraman spoke at Fordham as part of the marketing area’s distinguished speaker series.