Purpose – The purpose of this research is to examine the concept of “potential quality” – that is, a company's tangible search qualities (such as the physical servicescape and virtual servicescape) – within the context of the real‐estate industry in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – This qualitative study collects data by conducting personal in‐depth interviews with 34 respondents who had been recent buyers or renters of property. The data are then coded and themed to identify quality dimensions relevant to this industry. Findings – The results indicate that a buyer's perception of the overall service quality of real‐estate service consists of two components: the interaction with a realtor (process quality); and the virtual servicescape, especially the firm's website design and content (potential quality). The study concludes that existing scales (such as SERVQUAL and RESERV) fail to capture the tangible component of service quality sufficiently in the real‐estate industry. Research limitations/implications – The study uses data from only one industry (real estate) and from only one demographic segment (professionals in higher education). Practical implications – Service providers of intangible, high‐contact services must appreciate the importance of the virtual servicescape as a surrogate quality indicator that can help to reduce information asymmetries and consumers' uncertainty with regard to initiating a business relationship. Real estate firms need to pay attention to the training of agents and the design and content of their e‐service systems. Originality/value – This study integrates potential quality, process quality, and outcome quality in a comprehensive proposed model. In particular, the study identifies “potential quality” as a combination of the attributes of the virtual service environment and the physical service environment.
Managing Service Quality – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 16, 2008
Keywords: Customer services quality; Real estate; United States of America