Roland T. Rust and Richard L. ("Rich") Oliver
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The importance of service and service quality has been growing in the world economy since the late 1970s. Establishing new levels of sophistication and rigor, as well as a broad set of approaches, Service Quality presents the latest research and theory in customer satisfaction and services marketing. In this book, designed to advance the practice of delivering superior service, the field's leading scholars and practitioners present a wealth of stimulating ideas that include measuring the managerial impact of service quality improvement, new methods of assessing the various elements of service quality, and philosophizing about the nature of customer value. Presenting diverse points of view and revealing a variety of emerging ideas, the editors conclude with a look toward the future of service quality.
An exhilarating-and sometimes demanding-change of pace, Service Quality is essential for professionals involved with any aspect of service, as well as researchers, scholars, and students in marketing studies.
Since the late 1970s, there has been a growing realization of the importance of services in the world economy. This realization is reflected in the increasing number of scholarly articles devoted to such topics as customer satisfaction, service quality, customer service, and services marketing and the number of companies that have reemphasized their relationship with the customer. Service quality and customer satisfaction are now seen as integral parts of total quality management.
In the 1980s, a first wave of researchers defined the frontier n service quality. These pioneers included Christian Gronroos of Finland, who established a research agenda for service quality management; Len Barry, A. Parasuraman, and Valerie Zeithaml, who devised an influential service quality rating scale; and Lynn Shostack, who argued successfully that managing services was very different from managing products. Steve Brown established the First Interstate Center for Services Marketing at Arizona State, and some important research resulted, led by such people as Terri Swartz, Larry Crosby, and Mary Jo Bitner. Ray Fisk and Steve Grove pioneered the notion that service could be viewed as a drama. These first wave researchers have had an unusually large impact on management, and several are "household names" in the business community.
In the 1990s we are experiencing a second wave in the investigation of service quality. A new generation of researchers, most of whom are highly trained in quantitative methods, psychology, sociology, or anthropology, is establishing new levels of sophistication and rigor, as well as a surprisingly broad set of approaches. This new group includes quantitative modelers such as Ruth Bolton and Jim Drew at GTE; Claes Fornell, Wayne DeSarbo, and Gene Anderson at Michigan; John Hauser and Birger Wernerfelt at MIT; Rick Staelin and Bill Boulding at Duke; Steve Shugan at Florida; and Donna Hoffman at Vanderbilt. The group also includes behavioral researchers such as Morris Holbrook at Columbia, John Deighton at Chicago, Valerie Folkes at USC, and Aaron Ahuvia at Michigan. This second wave is expanding the field of investigation and building upon the efforts of the first wave, which itself continues to make important contributions.
The advent of the second wave in service quality research has been marked by several important events. Vanderbilt University founded its Center for Services Marketing in 1990, with the mission of being "the focal point for cutting edge thought in the management of service quality." Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management also instituted an innovative curriculum in customer service and service quality.
Vanderbilt's strong ties to both leading academic researchers and the business community created a new opportunity to expand the scope of research in service quality. A TIMS Conference on Service Quality, Customer Satisfaction, and Services Marketing (cosponsored by Vanderbilt's Center for Services Marketing) was held at Vanderbilt in September 1990, and again in March 1992. This conference established a forum for leading thinkers in service quality to trade ideas and quickly attracted some of the leading researchers in marketing academia, along with some of the leading researchers in the business community. The conference drew attendees from many nations, from both business and academia. This conference then merged with the AMA's Services Marketing Conference to form the new AMA Frontiers in Services Conference (again cosponsored by Vanderbilt's Center for Services Marketing), first held at Vanderbilt in September 1992. The new conference retained the international flavor of the TIMS conference and its invigorating mix of academics and business people.
This book features many of the second wave researchers who are currently making cutting edge contributions to service quality, as well as some recent work by first wave researchers. The chapters range from measuring the managerial impact of service quality improvement (Bolton), to new methods of measuring the importance of various elements of service quality (DeSarbo), to philosophizing about the nature of customer value (Holbrook). Many points of view are represented, revealing the great variety of new ideas currently springing up on this topic.
Too many management books, conferences, and seminars get stuck in the same jargon and war stories. This book should prove an exhilarating (if some times demanding) change of pace. Both managers and academics should find plenty of stimulating ideas in these pages. We are happy to be part of it.