The quality service model of Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry defines five gaps or discrepancies which may impinge on service quality.
Gap 1. The discrepancy between customers’ expectations and managements perceptions of these expectations
Gap 2. The discrepancy between managements’ perceptions of customers’ expectations and service quality specifications
Gap 3. The discrepancy between service quality specifications and actual service delivery
Gap 4. The discrepancy between actual service delivery and what is communicated to customers about it
Gap 5. The discrepancy between customer’s expected service and perceived service delivered. (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry, 1990)
Recent studies of service quality in library and information services, using the SERVQUAL instrument or variants of it, have focused on Gap 5, the discrepancy between customers’ expectations of service and their perceptions of service delivery. This has been shown to be a useful tool for diagnosing areas where libraries could improve their services and make them more responsive to customer expectations.
There is a perception in the LIS literature (Hernon and Altman, 1998; Cullen, 1997) that managers lack an understanding of customer needs and lack the motivation to re-allocate resources to meet these needs.
In the quality service model referred to above, Gap 1, the gap between managers’ perceptions of customers’ expectation and customers’ actual expectations “is the first and possibly most critical step in delivering quality service” (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry, 1990, 51).
It is also assumed that the organisational culture and leadership style of the manager may have an impact on the manager’s perceptions of customers’ expectations, willingness to take action on this information, and the discrepancy between customer expectations and perceptions of service delivery.
There have been no formal studies of Gap 1 in the field of LIS studies, although some studies have investigated managers’ perceptions of customer expectations (Edwards and Browne, 1995). There is no research on the impact of other factors on the ability of an organisation to respond to perceived differences or gaps revealed by the SERVQUAL instrument.
In order to investigate aspects of organisational culture that might account for these gaps, the project employed two models. In the first model Lakos argues that the extent to which an organisation fosters a ‘Culture of Assessment’ is critical to the effective use of evaluation (Lakos, 1998).
Lakos focuses on organisational factors as the key to evaluation:“A Culture of Assessment is an organizational environment in which decisions are based on facts, research, and analysis, and where services are planned and delivered in ways that maximize positive outcomes and impacts for customers and stakeholders. (Lakos, 2002).
The second model was proposed by Cullen (1997) and was an attempt to understand why libraries and their managers have been slow to use evaluation, despite a growing focus on accountability, and extensive research into the evaluation of library services. The model highlights some of the organisational factors that influence the use of evaluation in libraries: whether the organisation’s focus is internal or external, whether it places greater value on inputs or outputs, and the strength of its commitment to use evaluation methods to help the organisation plan and change.
These factors were built into a new model, the Focus/Values/Purpose matrix, which attempted to explain some of the factors affecting Lakos’s ‘Culture of Assessment’ (Lakos, 1998). Some libraries have adopted the matrix as an approach to assessing their readiness for evaluation, and ensuring the organisation develops a leadership focused on outputs and external relationships with stakeholders (Phipps, 1999).