Customer perceptions and expectations of service quality in the medical insurance sector in Zimbabwe.
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This study sought to evaluate customers’ perceptions and expectations of service quality in the medical insurance sector in Zimbabwe. This will help to identify the service quality gaps experienced and to come up with strategies to improve service delivery in the industry. Literature has shown that service quality has been least reflected on by researchers in private health insurance, and efforts to improve quality in the sector were mainly centred on regulations and benchmarking against practices adopted in developed countries. Therefore, an empirical assessment of service quality in the Zimbabwean medical insurance industry will greatly contribute to understanding the service quality dimensions, which could bring efficiency, profitability and sustainability to the industry threatened by increased competition and economic challenges. Furthermore, to ensure continued subscription by members in such a volatile situation, medical insurance companies need to align their service offerings with customer needs. The theoretical underpinnings of the study were the SERVQUAL and gaps models of Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985). A positivist research philosophy and quantitative methodology were adopted. The population constituted of 1000 000 members of five major medical insurance companies in Zimbabwe, namely PSMAS, CIMAS, First Mutual Health, Fidelity and Altfin. A sample of 384 was chosen from five major health institutions in Harare using quota and convenience sampling. Data was collected using a questionnaire adapted from a generic instrument (SERVQUAL scale), based on a fivepoint Likert-type scale. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 was used for data analysis in which both descriptive and inferential statistics were used. The major findings were that medical insurance customers in Zimbabwe are dissatisfied with service offerings in the industry with highest levels of dissatisfaction being expressed towards the quality dimension, reliability and lastly tangibility. Levels of dissatisfaction also varied across the service quality dimensions in terms of age groups, periods of membership to medical insurance companies and other demographic variables. The study also found that service quality was lower in government-owned than in privately owned medical insurance companies. Strategies to improve service quality in the industry are suggested, with some managerial and theoretical implications being highlighted.