Customers' perception of service quality in a decentralised system in the public utility sector in kenya: the case of Kenya power and lighting company limited
In Kenya and world over, service quality is being used as a strategic tool to cut a competitive edge in the market place. Banks, supermarkets, merchant ventures, hospitality industry, to mention just a few, have widely used the service quality as a differentiation variable for competitive advantage. In the utility industry, de-regularization and, therefore, competition has dominated the marketing environment and service quality is therefore, a necessary evil. The objectives of this study were to investigate the expectations and perceptions of different categories of Kenya Power and Lighting company Limited (KPLC) customers and the management's perspective of service quality following decentralization of services within a restructuring program. To achieve these objectives, samples of different categories of 306 customers were picked and administered with . questionnaires that had both semi structured and likert matrix questions. The customers were randomly and conveniently chosen from amongst those visiting KPLC offices and others were visited in their premises. The data collected was analysed using proportions, percentages, means, standard deviations and coefficient of variation. Graphical displays were used to amplify the comparative analysis. Analysis of data indicated that the expected service quality on all the ten dimension,s, used in the study, is relatively high with a generally high level of agreement on their importance amongst all the respondents. The received service quality is generally lower than the expected service resulting in a relatively high service quality gap of about 18%. This service quality gap is fairly similar amongst the different category of customers but reduces progressively from domestic, small commercial towards the large commercial customers. KPLC management's performance targets relating to service quality were found to have only covered a scope of about 40% within the wide arena of all the service quality dimensions. On the basis of the study, several recommendations were deemed appropriate for KPLC and the utility industry at large, that is, to undertake: - enhancement of the use of marketing research and customer survey studies, especially when undertaking customer service enhancement programs, this will throw light to the customers' expectations of service and the perceived service quality, and thus lead to effective programs in addressing'the areas of need; enhancement of commitment to service quality; enhancement of empowerment of service personnel in close proximity to customer service; and, enhancement of effective communication amongst organisations' divisions of operations, human resources and marketing, research & development, e.t.c. The major constraints and hence the limitations of the study was lack of discrimination of customers' perceptions on the basis of income levels and education, factors which could affect the results. Besides, the study relied on customers' judgments of perceptions, which are subject to cognitive biases. It was suggested that other areas of further study could be undertaken in order to address the above limitations, especially on finding out: - whether there are significant differences in expectations and perceptions with respect to classification of customers on the basis of incomes, level of education and awareness; whether differences in the degree of need for electricity, telephone and water services could reveal any significant differences in expectations and perceptions; and also study the relevance of the postulates of the P-C-P model to the ten service quality dimensions used in this study.