Freight customers’ perception of service quality by Rift Valley Railways
Muluka, Dorothy N
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The marketing environment all over the world has changed posing serious challenges to the survival and profitability of firms (Mbau 2000). In this competitive environment, quality service is critical to corporate success (Lovelock, 1996). As competition intensifies, organizations have realized that the strength of their brand names, corporate image, effective advertising, price, trade marks, among others, are no longer sufficient to differentiate them from competitions (Baker, 1994). Ngahu (2001) observed that many products and services have become commodities in recent times with little to tell them apart. Therefore, service becomes a key differentiator and viable strategy to differentiate, establish value and hence satisfy consumer needs (Ozment and Morash, 1994). The objective of the present study was to determine the level of service quality as perceived by freight customers of the Rift Valley Railways. The researcher used the SERVQUAL model as developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1985. The conceptual framework they developed helped to elucidate the various gaps that can exist in the service delivery process. GAP 5, which is the gap between the customer’s expectations and perceived service quality, was the main theme of interest in this research. The research design of this study was descriptive. The target population was major freight customers of RVR. The researcher sampled 50 managers responsible for their companies’ freight business although the freight companies that responded and returned the questionnaire were 46. Primary data was collected through a questionnaire that consisted of open-ended and closed-ended questions, and was analyzed using descriptive statistics and the help of Software Package for Statistical Science (SPSS). The simple disconfirmation model as originally elucidated by Parasuraman et al. (1985) was adopted. This model looked at perceived service quality (Q) as being the difference between perceived service (P) and expected service (E) or Q=P-E. From the findings, there is a service gap between the expected service and perceived by the customer. Using the simple disconfirmation model as originally eluded by Parasuraman et al (service quality (Q) = Perceived service (P) – Expected service (E), the service gap has clearly indicated that 1985), where the entire service dimension as perceived by the RVR freight customers, indicate negative values. Empathy scored -1.6 that was smaller variation, assurance, responsiveness and tangibility scored -1.8, while Reliability was the worst with -2.4. The average perceived mean of all the service dimensions is 2.6 and expected mean is 4.5, therefore the service gap is -1.8. This negative value show there is negative gap in the serviced provided by RVR.