Customer service quality provided by residential estate agents in the Durban area.
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The ‘service’ sector is a major contributor towards international and national gross domestic products (GDP). However the phenomenal growth in the services sector has to an extent compromised its service quality. The aim of this study is to examine the quality of services reflected by the ‘real-estate brokerage’ (estate agency) as a service orientated business that contributes over a R100 billion to the South African economy per annum. However, the reputation of this specific service sector is tarnished by reports of poor service quality and mistrust. The study is underpinned by a model called the ‘disconfirmation’ paradigm of satisfaction which utilises the service quality model (SERVQUAL) as a measurement tool. Based on this, customer expectations and perceptions of the relevant estate agency service were determined and the gaps between them analysed. Other relationships between service quality and related variables such as customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and customer retention were also investigated. The study focused particularly on the Durban area (South Africa) and aligned with a local estate agency as a platform to conduct the study. A census method approach was adopted with the census consisting of a total of 109 legitimate buyers and sellers. A quantitative approach was employed and a total of 69 completed questionnaires were received which reflected a response rate of 63 percent (of the census population). Both, descriptive and inferential statistical tests were performed on the data collected. In relation to the dimensions of the SERVQUAL rating tool (Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance and Empathy), it was shown that these determinants of service quality were rated as high importance with ‘reliability’ being the highest. The study further established the gaps that existed between expectation and perceptions of service quality and of these gaps, ‘tangibles’ was the only service quality dimension that reflected a positive gap. The remaining service quality dimensions yielded negative gaps. The study went on to confirm correlations that existed between service quality and customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and customer retention. Additional findings were also ascertained by the study. The study made suggestions about where focus was needed. These included training and development of brokers, incentive programmes, in-house service quality surveys, the effective handling of customer complaints and the improvement of online and web facilities to customers. The study concludes with some suggestions for future researchers. These include a national and international study, a comparative study as well as studies that would go on to test employee satisfaction and its influence on service quality. It was also suggested that future studies incorporate open-ended questions so as to yield a greater depth of understanding.