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- the comparison between an organization's objective and its expected performance from its current and planned operations. Gap analysis helps to identify means by which the gap might be filled.
- a technique used in the marketing of services to identify to what extent customers' expectations match up to the perceived level of services received. In some cases customers may get better service than they expected -a positive ‘expected service-perceived service’ gap – thus encouraging them to purchase the supplier's service again. By contrast, a negative ‘expected service-perceived service’ gap may apply such that customers will show their dissatisfaction with the supplier's service by ceasing to purchase it. Gap analysis identifies a number of potential problem areas which can emerge, including:
- management perception-consumer expectations gap: the supplier fails to identify or understand consumers' expected service needs;
- management perception-service quality specification gap: the supplier knows what customers expect but fails to establish satisfactory service quality specifications resulting in the provision of an inferior service;
- service quality specification-service delivery gap: service quality specifications may be satisfactory but the firm's service delivery is unsatisfactory because, for example, contact persons are inefficient/unhelpful;
- service delivery-external communications gap: the supplier ‘misleads’ customers by promising (through advertisements etc.) more than the supplier can actually deliver.
Gap analysis thus helps managers identify and remove existing and potential negative service gaps which reflect the firm's own failings in meeting customers' demands for a quality service.