The RATER Model

Five Ways to Measure Service

The RATER Model

Five ways to assess your service.

© iStockphoto/Neustockimages

How do you assess the quality of the service that you give to your customers? You might ask focus groups or do a customer satisfaction survey. Or you could look at the number of complaints you get, or analyze the time it takes to answer customer queries.

While all of these can be useful for assessing what people think of your service, using approaches like these can lead you to miss areas that are important to your customers.

This is where the RATER Model can help. This useful tool highlights the areas that you need to focus on to provide great customer service. In this article, we'll explore the model, and we'll look at how you can use it to improve the service you provide to your customers.

Tip:

Remember that customers can be internal to your organization, as well as external. So this model is relevant in a wide range of scenarios.

About RATER

The RATER Model was created by professors Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry, and published in their 1990 book, "Delivering Quality Service."

The model highlights five areas that customers generally consider to be important when they use a service. These are:

  • Reliability – your ability to provide the service you have promised consistently, accurately, and on time.
  • Assurance – the knowledge, skills, and credibility of staff; and their ability to use this expertise to inspire trust and confidence.
  • Tangibles – the physical evidence of the service you provide. This could be offices, equipment, employees, and the communication and marketing materials that you use.
  • Empathy – the relationship between employees and customers.
  • Responsiveness – your ability to provide a quick, high quality service to your customers.

By focusing on these five areas, you can analyze and improve service.

Tip:

The RATER Model is a simplified version of the SERVQUAL Model, which was first created in 1988. Nowadays, you must also consider the state of your online presence, as well.

Depending on the importance of your online channels to your business, you can consider this under the tangibles heading – even though your online presence isn't strictly "tangible" – or you could have a separate area for this. (We add questions relating to these below, even though these were not part of the original RATER model.)

How to Use RATER

A good way of using the RATER Model is to carry out a Gap Analysis   using each of the five dimensions. You can then come up with a plan for improving the way that you serve your customers.

To do a Gap Analysis, you identify the following in each of the five areas:

  • Future state – the "place" you want to be to provide exceptional service.
  • Current situation – how you currently provide your service.
  • Next Actions – how you'll move from your current situation to your future state.

You can use the following questions as a starting point for thinking about each area:

Reliability

  • How well do you provide the service that you've promised to your customers?
  • Are your systems and processes robust and reliable?
  • Is service delivery consistent and timely, across all service channels (including online)?
  • Could you improve the quality   of your service in any other way?

Assurance

  • Do staff have the skills and knowledge needed to deliver a good service, across all channels?
  • Do your people need any further training or development  ?
  • Do staff inspire trust   in customers?
  • Is your service safe and secure?

Tangibles

  • Is the evidence of your service (products, packaging, marketing materials, website, offices, staff appearance, and so on) attractive and appropriate for your customers?
  • Are your website FAQs useful, comprehensive, and up to date? And can people talk to a human being through other channels if their questions haven't been answered, or if your website is broken?
  • As well as managing traditional channels and your website, are you properly handling queries and feedback through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online services?
  • Does physical or virtual evidence fit with your organization's brand?

Empathy

  • Do your people build good relationships   with customers?
  • Is all communication   with customers clear and timely?
  • Do staff show empathy   with customers? Do they understand why empathy is essential for providing a great service?
  • Do your people genuinely care about customer needs?
  • Are staff able to see things from a customer's point-of-view  ?

Responsiveness

  • Do you provide a prompt service, which is easy to access?
  • Do you manage complaints and feedback   appropriately?
  • Are staff always willing and able to help customers?
  • Do you resolve customer issues and problems satisfactorily, and in good time, across all service channels?

When you identify your future state and your current situation, it's important that you talk to your customers to understand their experiences and expectations fully.

Where you can't talk to customers directly, use tools such as Customer Experience Mapping   to see your service from their perspective. You can also use Reverse Brainstorming   to explore possible service improvements, and Benchmarking   to compare your performance with similar organizations or services.

Tip:

There is arguably some crossover between the elements of the RATER Model. Don't worry about this – just aim to do a thorough analysis in each of the five areas.

Key Points

The RATER Model was created by professors Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry. It highlights five areas that customers consider important when they use a service. These are:

  1. Reliability.
  2. Assurance.
  3. Tangibles.
  4. Empathy.
  5. Responsiveness.

You use the model by doing a Gap Analysis in each of the five areas. From this, you can plan how you'll improve the service you give to your customers.

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Comments (5)
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Gracenotes,
    Welcome to the Club.

    Although I have never used this tool myself, I would think that doing a gap analysis first against the categories of the RATER model would make sense. From there, if you think you need additional categories to assess, this will only then be determined after you've done the initial analysis.

    What are you going to be measuring?

    We are always here with lots of ideas, suggestions and tools so please let us know how we can help.

    Midgie
  • Gracenotes wrote Over a month ago
    My question is which do we do first. Identify the service gaps first and then put them in the RATER categories? Or do we identify the RATER categories and then research for the service gaps?
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    This is a great model to use when trying to measure something like customer service which is more often a subjective rating.

    Although there are some tangible measures such as what you deliver and how quickly you respond to queries, it is the intangible ones that are challenging to measure such as customer trust and loyalty.

    What experiences do you have with using this, or other, models to measure service?

    Midgie
  • Rachel wrote Over a month ago
    Hi All,

    The RATER Model is a useful tool that highlights the areas that you need to focus on to provide great customer service.

    Learn more about it in this week's Featured Favorite article.

    Best wishes
    Rachel
  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    This model is simple and very effective. When I was working as a customer service strategist in marketing in 1998, we had just begun conducting customer value surveys (evolving from customer satisfaction). At that time we were conducting focus groups with customers to identify how they wanted to be served in each of our delivery channels.

    Using the RATER model we used the output of the value survey to create the delivery model for each channel. A key insight for us was understanding how disconnected our processes were. This is not surprising as marketing, customer service, sales and engineering/IT operated in silos. Marketing then led an initiative to develop a Concept to Customer integrated process map using Rummler-Brache methodology, which is still in use today.

    Today, the company has evolved to a customer experience service model and the work continues to ensure that our customers receive the services they want, when they want them and services are "always on''.

    Zuni

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