SERVQUAL has been demonstrated to be a reliable and valid tool to measure customer perceptions and expectations of service quality. Two previous uses of the survey in the horticulture industry were identified. In Spring 1997, we adapted the SERVQUAL instrument to survey 701 customers of 10 retail garden centers (TR) and four nontraditional retail or mass-merchandise outlets (MM) in seven U.S. markets. Among the seven markets, customers differed on only two of six demographic characteristics: income and number of people residing in the household. Demographic characteristics of TR and MM customers were similar in terms of age (47 and 45 years), people residing in the household (2), percent female respondents (77% and 73%), and family status. Customers differed demographically on 1996 household income ($50,722 and $44,753). Customers of TR and MM had similarly high expectations for three of five service quality and one product quality dimensions. However, TR customer perceptions were consistently higher on all service and product quality dimensions than MM customers. This yielded consistently higher service quality gaps for MM customers when compared to TR customers. We concluded that TR hold an advantage in these seven markets with higher customer perceptions of product and service quality.
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