A Study of Customer Service, Customer Satisfaction and Service Quality in the Logistics Function of the UK Food Processing Industry
Grant, David Bruce
The aim of this thesis is to test the importance and sufficiency of existing constructs of customer service, customer satisfaction and service quality in the logistics function of the UK food processing industry. These activities represent ongoing challenges in the logistics discipline and are under-researched in this industry sector that is affected by primary producer crises, product commoditisation and increasing retailer power. Firms that improve customer service should increase customer satisfaction resulting in better customer-supplier relationships, increased customer loyalty, profitability and a differential competitive advantage. The customer-supplier dyadic exchange between intermediary food processors is the focus of study. There has been little programmatic and integrative study or empirical research of these activities in logistics since work conducted over twenty-five years ago by La Londe and Zinzser. Additionally, some existing studies suffer from a general lack of rigour that pervades the logistics discipline and has prevented meaningful development of research validity and reliability. Finally, existing research into these activities from the marketing discipline is under-utilised in these investigations. Indeed, there has been limited inter-disciplinary research in logistics notwithstanding the genesis of both logistics and marketing as a single discipline at the beginning of the 20th century. This study uses a rigorous two-stage methodology developed for marketing research by Churchill. This methodology comprises generating variables for enquiry from a literature review, collecting and analysing data in a pilot survey to purify variables, and conducting a second survey to assess reliability and validity of pilot study findings. Models used for the study are adapted from existing work in marketing service quality by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry and are supplemented by relationship constructs emerging from the pilot study. A postal survey was administered to 1,215 UK food processors. Respondent data was analysed using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling to test variables and constructs. The findings of this study validate constructs of pretransaction, order service and quality and relationship service and quality, thus reaffirming original constructs developed by La Londe and Zinzser. The findings also falsify transaction service quality constructs posited by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry. Issues of price, supplier importance, supplier switching, and relationship power were tested, but did not feature in resultant constructs. These latter issues are discussed in terms of an overarching framework that encompasses the validated constructs and an extended model is hypothesised for future study. The results of this thesis indicate that UK food processors should consider all phases of pre-transaction, transaction and post-transaction events when facilitating operations design and customer service planning.