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Unique Aspects Of Financial Services Marketing Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 5424 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Timm (2005) said that “No business or organization can succeed without building customer satisfaction and loyalty. Likewise, no person can make a good living without meeting the needs of customers”. Service quality has been found to be an important input to customer satisfaction (Caruana & Malta, 2002). Especially, in banking industry, banks all over the world provide the similar kinds of product range. Thus, banking service quality is becoming a critical success factor for many banks. For these reasons, the objective of this chapter is to review the remaining literatures in order to identify the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction in Retail banking.

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2.1 Services Marketing

Services marketing – a form of marketing which focuses on selling services, when a company sell services, the goal is to get customers to do business with them, not to get customers to buy products. Thus, the marketing approach for services is much different than for products (Smith, 2010). Nowadays the contribution of services to the development of every country is huge, significant and in the progress. The size of the service sector in both developed and developing countries is sharply increasing; the total for services reaches about 80 percent of the value of GDP in almost developed countries (Lovelock, Walker& Patterson, 2007). As a result, services are becoming a major contributor to every country. In their turn, the consumers are becoming more powerful and more demanding with service providers. Therefore, by understanding the distinctive characteristics of service to improve service quality, the service providers can meet customers’ needs and create a competitive advantage for their own businesses.

Lovelock (2007) defined services as “economic activities offered by one party to another, most commonly employing times-based performances to bring about desired results in recipients themselves or in objects or other assets for which purchasers have responsibility”. The different marketing approach for services comes from a number of distinctive characteristics of services: intangibility, inseparability of production and consumption, heterogeneity, and perish-ability (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry, 1985). Services cannot be touch, seen, felt and tasted. This intangible characteristic of services makes them different from products. While the processes of producing, selling, consuming of goods can occur different time and be separated. For services, those processes cannot be separated, the service providers’ staffs and customers have to involve in the those processes, in other words the process of producing, selling and consuming of services have to occur at the same time. Heterogeneity refers to the quality of services can vary from service provider to provider, from day to day as well as from customer to customer. Due to the inseparable characteristic of services, services cannot be saved. This is perish-ability of services (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry, 1985).

According to Parasumaran, Berry and Zeithaml (1991), understanding customer expectations is a key for the performance in service marketing and a prerequisite of delivery superior service. Thus, in today’s competitive environment, only those enterprises that attempt to exceed their customers’ expectations will succeed (Sinha & Ghosal, 1999). Parasumran et al. (1991) also stated that service quality is considered as important factor that affect buyers’ decision and as support for the performance in service marketing. For these reasons, the service quality is increasingly important as more emphasis placed on exceeding the expectations of customers (Gronroos, 2002). The co-production with customers also increases the importance of service quality. Customers today are very knowledgeable; they can gain significant information on the companies and industries. Hence, they can distinguish the service providers with high service quality. The companies that can provide valuable services will be seen through customers’ eyes (Zineldin, 2005).

Unique Aspects of Financial Services

According to Estelami (2007), financial services have some special related aspects, such as subjective perceptions of quality, price complexity, regulations, market clustering and consumer protection, that makes financial services marketing differentiate it from others. The first unique aspect of financial services marketing results from the illusive notion of quality, in other word, the notion of quality is highly subjective in financial services, such as insurance services or securities brokerage services. Secondly, the prices of financial services are complex. For instance, a loan that payment is made in installments which may be monthly payment or a down payment. These payments are difficult for consumers to understand. Thirdly, regulations involved also make marketing financial services different from other marketing practices. For example, content of financial service advertisements, Securities and Exchange Commission, etc. Other unique aspect of financial services marketing is due to the needs of customers for financial services. The needs of these customers vary remarkably from one customer to other customer, thus the important thing for financial service providers is effectively segmenting and grouping customers. Moreover, any decision and discussion of financial services has to include the issues of consumer protection that also make financial service marketing distinctive.

2.2 Retail Banking

2.2.1 What is Retail Banking?

Retail banking can be simply understood as the antonym of wholesale or bulk banking. In other words, retail banks provide products and services to individuals and small businesses with large volumes of low value transactions through various channels, such as branches, Internet, mobile phone, ATM (Automated Teller Machines), etc (Oliver, 2009). Therefore, According to Gopinath (2005) retail banking can be characterized by three characteristics: multiple products and services, multiple channels of distribution and multiple customer groups.

However, the technological developments, the reformation of macroeconomic environment and financial market and the changes of micro level demand and supply factors in recent years make it difficult to identify the nature of a retail bank, many banks now are doing business in both retail and wholesale activities (Gopinath, 2005). Moreover, Dror (2007) said that human resource, technology, planning and organizational relationships are important factors to improve service quality in retail banking.

2.2.2 What services and products do retail banks provide?

Retail banks provide various products and services to customers with a number of low transactions. Traditionally, the products and services of retail banks are mostly intermediation and payment services, but now retail banking is increasingly providing a much wider range of products and services, such as investments and securities, insurance products, pension schemes, stock broking services. Especially, the recent developments of the products and services of retail banks significantly contribute to economies and the convenience of their customers, such as debit cards, automated clearing house debit, credit cards and smarter cards (Buckle and Thompson, 2000).

According to Oliver (2009), the nature of banking products has some unique characteristics: service character in general, interlacement, immateriality, and dualism. The interlacement of retail banking products means that these products have cross-links to the other. This can be found within production and sale process of the retail banking products and services. Thus, banks can sell different products and services at the same time to achieve a customer lock-in. Immateriality is another feature of retail banking products and services. The products cannot be stored and only produced when a customers demand. Finally, dualism means that the retail banking products consist of both piece and value related performance. The piece related performance refers to the involvement of banking staff and equipment. The value related performance refers to the receipt, creation and transformation of money or capital.

2.2.3 What channels do retail banks use to deliver services?

Traditionally, retail banks mostly use branches to deliver their products and services. But now with the technological development, the more channels of distribution are used, such as automated teller machines (ATMs), fixed line telephones, personal computers and cellular phones, to provide better services for the convenience of the customers.

Figure 2.1 Multi – Channel Service Delivery System in Retail Banking

Source: Xue, Hitt & Harker (2004)

Habubank’s retail banking products fall into five main categories: Personal loans, credit/debit cards, mortgages and other products. The personal loan, such as consumer loans, household loans, is round 10% of Habubank’s outstanding loans. Customers can get personal loans from Habubank to buy car, motorbike or house. Apart from issuing debit and credit cards, Habubank has become member of Visa and Master Cards. The total number of card issued was over 100,000. Furthermore, the banking services of Habubank consist of Guarantees, Money Transfer, International Settlement, Cash services, Automated Banking services and Wealth Advisory. In 2009, Guarantees contribute 16.5% to the bank’s total revenues from services. International Settlement revenue was $395 million. The Wealth Advisory attracted more than 10,000 clients that made total funds raise over VND 115 billion (Habubank, 2009).

Habubank has diversifying sales channels. Besides, branches and transaction units, the bank can reach to customers via Wealth Advisory, ATMs (automated teller machines), POS (point-of-sale), Contact Centers, mobile banking, internet banking and SMS banking. The bank has over 50 branches and transaction units and 6000 ATMs nationwide. The bank has also been connected with Banknet and VNBC switching systems. These facilitate Habubank to easily reach to its customers (Habubank, 2009).

2.3 Consumer Behavior in Banking Sector

Today the competition among the banks is intense and cross boundary of the banking industry. Banks are not only competing with each other, they also competing with non-bank institutions (Cohen et al., 2006). Therefore, the need for understanding of banking consumer behavior is becoming extremely important for the survival of banks (Harrison, 2003). In this study, the consumer behavior of bank consumers will be examined by analyzing the Decision Making Process in banking consumer behavior.

There are many consumer decision making models. The foundation is the model of Simon (1957), which includes three stages: problem identification, information gathering and choice selection. Then this model is developed by Engel, Kollat & Blackwell (1968) and Howcroft, Hewer & Hamilton (2003). However, the model of Engel, Kollat & Blackwell is the most frequently applied model in analyzing banking consumer behavior (Harrison, 2000). In this model, consumer decision making is divided into five stages: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post-purchase evaluations.

Figure 2.2 Customer Decision Making Process

Source: Engel, Kollat & Blackwell (1968)

Problem recognition: the decision process begins with the customer’s recognition of “problem” or awareness of need and the customer may be is motivated to act by external factors (advertising or promotion) or internal factors (need for security). According to Karim & Affif (2006), there are two different motives in placing customer fund in a bank; they are long-term saving needs and short-term transaction needs. The long-term saving needs refer to security and return reason, that means the purpose of bank selection is because of security and return criteria. Besides, the short-term transaction needs refer to convenience. Now the purpose of selecting a bank is because of convenience, such as utilities payment, purchasing staple needs, etc. Those explain why many banking consumers in Vietnam want to use more than one bank. However, because of the nature of banking products/services, such as lack of intrinsic appeal and complexity of product rage, the banking consumers do not actively recognize their needs (Ennew, 2007).

Information search: customer gathers relevant information either from external sources (friend recommendations, word of mouth) or their own memories. Howcroft et al. (2003) indicated that banking consumers rely more on personal sources, such as friend and family recommendations, during information search stage. According to Ennew (2007), the nature of banking products and services leads to consumer passivity and limited degree of information search. Thus, the banking services are high in experience and credence qualities while low in search qualities because of intangibility and inseparability characteristics (McGoldrick & Greenland, 1992). Moreover, information-gathering of banking products and services also have some further problems related to the validity and accessibility of information. They may be because of long-term in nature and complexity of banking services available and the lack of transparency in marketing (Ennew, 2007).

Evaluation of alternatives: Karim & Affif (2006) noted that convenience and service quality are the main consideration of banking consumers in this stage, while Tan and Chua (1986) argued that the recommendations of friends, family members and neighbors strongly influence on banking consumers’ decisions. In the study of bank selection criteria, Kaufman (1967) stated that convenience location, length of bank-customer relationship and service quality are the most influential factor in selecting a certain bank. More detail, Kaynak et al. (1992) in the study of banking customer behavior in Turkey realized that the bank’s reputation, opening hours, facilities, and rage of services are more important for male than female customers and bank location is more important of the customers under the age of 40 than others. Moreover, Boyd, Leonard, and White (1994) found that the bank’s reputation is the most important factors for the age group under 21 in determining their bank selection, and friendliness of bank employees and the modern of facilities are less important factor for this age group.

Purchase decision or bank choice: a bank will be selected based on the result of the evaluation of alternatives stage.

Post-purchase evaluations: after choosing a certain bank, the customer will compare his experience and expectation. If the experience does not match his expectation, the customer will be dissatisfied and can switch to other banks. If the experience matches or exceeds his expectation, the customer will be satisfied (Karim & Affif, 2006). However, for banking products and services, the post-purchase evaluations are very difficult, because the expectations of customers may not be clear or the customers may lack knowledge to evaluate the banking service that they have received (Harrison, 2000).

The decision making process of Habubank’s customer behavior also follow those five stages. In the problem recognition stage, the Habubank’s customers prefer more to security and return motives. In other words, the convenient factors affect the bank’s customers less than security and return reasons. This is because Habubank is the top ten biggest Joint Stock Commercial Banks in Vietnam and provide high interest rate to customers. However, the bank’s channels to deliver products and services still remain small, even the bank puts a lot of efforts to expand those channels. In information search stage, Habubank’s customers rely more on friend and family advices. The bank also tries to put more information available on its website and through advertising campaigns. Besides friend and family recommendations, the service quality and bank-customer relationship are also bank selection criteria of Habubank’s customers (Habubank, 2009).

2.4 Service Quality

2.4.1 Definition of Service Quality

Service Quality is increasingly recognized as a critical success factor of any business, and retail banking industry is no exception. Nowadays, all banks offer similar kinds of products and services due to the technological development. However, the quality of service of banks can be distinguished by the customers; they can perceive the differences in the service quality of banks (Cronin & Steven, 1992). Therefore, many banks have understood the importance of service quality as a way to increase customer satisfaction and position themselves better than competitors in the market place.

Table 2.1 The Different Definitions of Service Quality



Parasuraman et al.,(1985)

The differences between customer’s expectations of services provider’s performance and their evaluation of the services they received.

Asubonteng et al. (1996)

The difference between customers’ expectations for service performance prior to the service encounter and their perceptions of the service received

Gefan (2002)

The subjective comparison that customers make between the quality of the service that they want to receive and what they actually get

Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985, 1988) found that service quality can be determined by the comparison of customers between their expectations of the services provider’s performance and their evaluation of the services provided. Similarly, According to Asubonteng (1996), the quality of service is determined by the difference between customers’ perceptions of the service received and their expectations for services provider’s performance prior to service encounter. So service quality can be defined as a judgment of customer about a service. When a customer evaluates banking services, he compares his expectation of service performance and his perception of the service provided, and he will be satisfied if his perception meets or exceeds his expectation (Kolter, 2000).

2.4.2 Service Quality Models

Many researchers have developed the models of service quality. In this research, the study refers to the two key models, Perceived Service Quality Model (Gronroos, 1983, 1984, 2000) and the Service Quality Gaps Model (Parasuraman et al., 1988). Perceived Service Quality Model

Perceived service quality is the result of the evaluation process of comparing customers’ expectations with their real life experiences (Gronroos, 1983). He stated that the perceived quality will be low if expectations are not met by performance or actual experiences. In other word, when the experienced quality meets or exceeds their expectations, the perceived quality is high.

Figure 2.3 The Total Perceived Service Quality Model

Source: Gronroos (2001)

Gronroos (1983) have found that the service quality experienced by a customer has two dimensions: technical quality and functional quality. Technical quality describes what the customers received and functional describes how the service is delivered. Gronroos (1984) suggests the third dimension of service quality: the corporate image which describes how customers perceive the firm and is built up by technical and functional quality. Gronroos (1984) also stated the expected service quality as a result of a number of factors, namely market communication, sale, company image, and word of mouth, etc (see Figure 2.2)

Gronroos (2001, 2007) identified and emphasized that the following 7 criteria of good perceived service quality that are very similar to the service quality dimensions of Parasuraman (1985). These criteria are the determinants and need to be considered when evaluating the service quality.

Table 2.2 Determinants of good perceived service quality


Determinants of good service quality


Professionalism and Skills


Attitudes and Behaviors


Accessibility and Flexibility


Reliability and Trustworthiness


Service Recovery


Services cape


Reputation and Credibility

Source: Gronross (2001, 2007) The Service Quality Gaps Model

Parasuraman (1985) consider perceived service quality as a gap between the perceptions of customers of received service quality and their expectations.

Service Quality = Perception – Expectation

In the service quality gaps model, Parasuraman (1985) suggests five gaps. The first four gaps focus on the service provider side of service and the last gap, gap 5, refers to the customer side of service.

Figure 2.4 Model of Service Quality Gaps

Source: Parasuraman et al. (1985)

Gap 1 is difference between customers’ expectations and management perceptions. The managers think that they know what their customers want, but in fact they are mistaken. This may be result of the lack of a marketing research orientation and inadequate upward communication.

Gap 2 is difference between management perceptions and the translation of those perceptions into services quality specifications. This may be a result of inadequate commitment to service quality, a perception of unfeasibility, inadequate task standardization and an absence of goal setting.

Gap 3 is difference between the service quality specification and service delivery. This may be a result of role ambiguity and conflict, poor employee-job fit, poor technology-job fit, inappropriate supervisory control system, lack of perceived control and lack of team work.

Gap 4 is the difference between the service delivered to customers and the external communications. This may be a result of inadequate horizontal communications and propensity to over promise.

Gap 5 is the difference between what consumers expect and what they receive. This gap suggests that the difference between expected and perceived levels of service form consumers’ overall perception of service quality. This gap may be a result of the influence exerted from the customer side and the shortfalls on part of the service provider.

The central focus of the service quality gaps model is on the “customer gap” (Shahin, 2004)). Therefore, Gap 5 is considered to be the true measure of service quality. The SERVQUAL instrument has developed by Parasuraman et al. (1988) with five service quality dimensions (Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance and Empathy) to measure this gap. The SERVQUAL instrument uses a “gap score or SERVQUAL score = Expectation – Perception” analysis methodology by using 22 item scales with questions intended. In addition, Zeithaml et al. (2000) develops the extended service quality model which characterizes and delineates the four gaps indentified in Gaps model of Parasuraman. This model suggests that most factors, such as communication and control process implemented by the firms, focus on managing employees.

Figure 2.5 Extended model of service quality

Source: Zeithaml el al. (2000)

2.4.3 Measuring Service Quality – The SERVQUAL Instrument

Measuring service quality is more difficult than physical product quality because of special characteristics of services, particularly the tangible nature of services (Parasuraman et al., 1985). However, in the competitive environment, service quality measurement is becoming very important and creates an interest among service providers, especially among banks all over the world that provide similar kinds of products and services. There are various service quality models have been used to measure service quality, such as the SERVQUAL model (Parasuraman, 1985), the SERVPERF model (Cronin and Taylor, 1992), and the Human-Societal Element model (Sureshchandar, 2002). According to Babakus and Mangold (1992), Cronin and Taylor (1992) and Carman (1990), SERVQUAL instrument has been widely used to measure the quality of service in various industries and research studies. SERVQUAL is the most popular instrument to measure service quality Cronin and Taylor (1992).

Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985) found ten overall dimensions of service quality to use for measuring the quality of services. They are tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, competence, courtesy, credibility, security, access, communication and understanding.

Table 2.3 The explanations of original ten service quality dimensions




Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials


Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately


Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service


Possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service.


Politeness, respect, consideration, and friendliness of contact personnel


Trustworthiness, believability, honesty of service provider


Freedom from danger, risk, or doubt


Approachability and ease of contact


Keeping customers informed in language they can understand and listening to them


Making the effort to know customers and their needs

Source: Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, (1988)

After refining their research, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1988) reduced the ten service quality dimensions to five with a 22 item scale. The three of original ten dimensions remained unchanged (tangibles, reliability and responsiveness). The other seven dimensions were combined into two dimensions (Assurance and Empathy).

Figure 2.6 Correlation between Modified SERVQUAL and original ten dimensions

Source: Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, (1988)

Now, the new five service quality dimensions made up what we called SERVQUAL. The SERVQUAL dimensions are tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy which are used to measure service quality through measuring both customer perceptions and expectations. The SERVQUAL instrument measure the “customer gap” by establishing 22 questions of 22 attributes. Therefore, the SERVQUAL questionnaire is also based on these 22 attributes.

Table 2.4 The explanations five service quality dimensions




Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials


Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately


Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service


Employee’s knowledge and courtesy and their ability to convey trust and confidence


The caring, individualized attention given to customers

Source: Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, (1988)

Although SERVQUAL has been widely used to measure service quality, it has been subjected to criticism by many researchers. They criticized that SERVQUAL mainly focuses on the process of service delivery (Gronroos, 1984; Richard and Allaway, 1993). Gronroos (1984); Carman (1990); Cronin and Taylor (1992) also stated that SERVQUAL has low predictive validity because it uses only functional quality to predict the behavior of customers. Cronin and Taylor (1992) indicated that the customers’ perceptions of service quality and their evaluations of service provided are very close. However, Parasuraman, et al. (1988) disagreed with them, he stated that when establishing gaps in the provided service, the disconfirmation is valid. According to Angur and Jahera (1999), SERVQUAL scale seems to provide much greater information about the quality of service and they agreed that although SERVQUAL still is a topic to criticism, but it is a better and the most popular instrument to measure service quality.

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2.4.4 Validity of SERVQUAL Application in Banking Industry

There are various approaches and methods for measuring the quality of service, however the SERVQUAL that developed by Parasuraman (1985, 1988, 1991 and 1994) seem to have greatest potential for applying in various service sectors, such as banks, credit card companies and long distance telephone companies. According to Angur and Jahera (1999), perceived service quality is playing the important role in retail banks. Realizing the important role of SERVQUAL in services marketing, particularly in a customer intensive industry like Retail Banking, Cowling and Newnam (1993-1995) applied SERVQUAL model in two British banks and then in 1996 they reported that this model worked extremely well in the two banks and had no trouble in the implementation. They also said that the model improved the quality of service, and both banks enjoyed substantial increases in profit.

Although Cronin and Taylor (1992) have criticized SERVQUAL, but they also agreed that it has the basic beneficial application in certain industries, particularly in banking industry. Similarly, Oppewal and Vriens (2000) stated that the SERVQUAL instrument is insufficient measures of service quality dimensions, but finally they concluded that most of perceived service quality measurements are completed by SERVQUAL. In the study of one of the top ten UK banks, Newman (2001) noted that “Nevertheless, SERVQUAL continues to be one of the most widely recognized methods of measuring service quality, notwithstanding these criticisms” (Newman, 2001, p. 129).

Cronin and Taylor (1992) indicated that SERVQUAL uses only functional quality to predict the behavior of customers. However, Kotler and Armstrong (2006) stated that in the competitive and developed economies, the functional quality is more attentive than technical quality and banks can obtain product differentiation and position themselves better than competitors through the way banking services are delivered, creating customer and employee satisfaction. Therefore, SERVQUAL can be an appropriate instrument for measuring service quality in the retail banking industry.

2.5 Customer Satisfaction

2.5.1 Definition of Customer Satisfaction

In the banking industry, customer satisfaction is commonly seen as a key in determining why customers stay or leave a bank and establishing the relationship between banks and their customers. Leeds (1992) noted that “approximately 40 percent of customers switched banks because of what they considered to be poor service”. According to Zairi (2000), dissatisfied customers may share their unfortunate experiences with another 10 people, while satisfied customers will tell another five or six people of their experience. Thus, satisfying customers is an important task of every company. Evans and Lindsay (1996) also stated that having satisfied customers will give an organization a good opportunity to convert its customers to loyal customers who will stay with the organization over an extended period.

There are a variety of alternative definitions about customer satisfaction. One of the most popular definitions holds that: “Satisfaction is a person’s feelings of pleasure or disappointment resulting from comparing a product’s perceived performance or outcome in relation to his or her expectations” (Kotler, 2000). Kotler and Armstrong (2006) further discuss about customer satisfaction, he said if service performance does not meet the customers’ expectations, the customers will be dissatisfied, and if it matches or exceeds, the customer will be satisfied and ma


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