Service quality refers to two things. One is the aggregate of all the tangible and intangible aspects of the service experience encompassing the physical distribution and marketing efforts of firms. The other is the cognitive outcome after consumers process the service experience. (Brown et al. 1991) The extent of service quality depends on the existence and extent of disparity between the expectations of consumers and their opinions over the actual service quality they received (Bebko 2000). Service quality has a strong influence on customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction is a determinant of service quality. Customer satisfaction follows an upward trend and those customers who experience consistent satisfaction throughout the upward climb become loyal customers. It is important for firms not only to sustain service quality but also to enhance this as customer expectations change and increase.
The service quality in retail supermarkets depends on the overall atmosphere experience. This led to the atmospherics concept (Kotler 1973), which provides that a key feature of service quality is the locale where products and services are purchased and consumed. The atmosphere could even comprise a stronger influence on customer satisfaction than the products bought. Atmosphere has emotional or psychological effects on consumers, by stimulating the senses, and this could even offset any complaints toward particular products. The initial experience of a retail supermarket atmosphere could influence the probability of purchase and the totality of atmospheric experience determines repeat purchases. The concept of service gap (Bitner 1992) also emerged to include the role of personnel in the retail supermarket atmosphere. The physical setting is not complete without including the personnel who not only design the atmosphere but also contribute to the overall atmosphere through their attitudes and behavior towards customers. Service quality comprises of tangible and intangible elements, all of which retail firms need to manage. The effective management of these elements requires measures.
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