Investigating service quality perceptions of ChemSystems paper division customers.
Zwane, Ernest Sifiso.
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The manufacturers of pulp, paper and tissue in South Africa are facing a difficult challenge to remain competitive and to continuously produce paper products that are economically viable. The steady increase in imported paper products has placed these manufacturers under pressure to streamline their operations to reduce input costs and to remain competitive. Therefore, they have to resort to cost reduction initiatives, which have a direct impact on profitability for specialty chemicals suppliers that form part of the pulp and paper making value chain. Consequently, there is fierce competition amongst specialty chemicals suppliers in the industry to retain market share and profitability. ChemSystems Paper division is one of the many specialty chemical suppliers facing the challenging task of trying to maintain its competitive advantage under the current conditions. This competitiveness amongst specialty chemicals suppliers has rendered them to become increasingly similar in their product offering. Therefore, it was critical for ChemSystems to formulate a differentiation strategy to improve customer satisfaction, retention and profitability, based on service quality. In order to identify important factors contributing to service quality, a cross-sectional quantitative SERVQUAL investigation was conducted among pulp, paper and tissue manufacturers. The aim of this investigation was to assess the service quality level delivered by ChemSystems Paper division to its customers by identifying gaps between expectations and perceptions of service quality. The researcher used a questionnaire which had a five-point Likert Scale, and the questionnaire was linked to quality dimensions relating to the paper industry. By adopting a judgement sampling, a population of 92 respondents was identified, thereafter a census approach was executed where the questionnaires were distributed to all respondents in the population, where 77 participated. The researcher used Statistical Package for Social Sciences, Version 24 for descriptive as well as inferential statistical analysis. The findings indicated that all expectations of service quality exceeded the customer perceptions. It was also found that customer expectations of service quality in order of priority did not align with their perceptions on services provided by ChemSystems Paper division. Hence, the recommendations were put forward to address the misalignment, and to close the service quality gaps identified.