Customer service and service quality are closely related concepts underlying customer satisfaction. Customer service is all the activities done in providing a service experience to customers while service quality is the targeted outcome of the service experience. As a target, there should be congruence between expectations and the actual experience to ensure customer satisfaction.
Customer service encompasses the entirety of the activities intended to achieve service quality in retail firms. There are two conceptualizations of customer service. The physical distribution approach describes customer service as the entirety of the ordering system; information collection, use and dissemination; and delivery to consumers (Brady and Cronin 2001). Customer service comprise activities such as ordering service, provision of information to customers, delivery of orders to consumers, and post-service support such as warranties (Tucker 1994). The marketing approach is an expansion of the physical distribution approach by adding activities done as part of sales and the means of motivating repeat purchases (Paul et al. 2009). This approach considers customer service as the outcome of monitoring the perspectives of suppliers and consumers and using the information to direct organisational strategies and practices (Christopher et al. 1994).
By combining these two independent but interrelated conceptualizations, customer service becomes all the retail service activities implemented in physical distribution and marketing that create customer service. These approaches need integration to support the accurate and comprehensive measurement of service quality. By determining the outcomes of all physical distribution and marketing service activities, retail firms gain a better understanding of the effectiveness or success of their customer service (Domegan 1996).
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