Service Analysis: a Bank Marketing Example Using Perceptual Mapping

William Gillette, Syracuse University [Graduate Student, School of Management, Syracuse University.]
Richard H. Evans, Syracuse University [Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, School of Management, Syracuse University.]
[ to cite ]:
William Gillette and Richard H. Evans (1975) ,"Service Analysis: a Bank Marketing Example Using Perceptual Mapping", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 02, eds. Mary Jane Schlinger, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 525-534.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1975      Pages 525-534


William Gillette, Syracuse University [Graduate Student, School of Management, Syracuse University.]

Richard H. Evans, Syracuse University [Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, School of Management, Syracuse University.]

[This study was supported in part by funds from the Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company. The authors also wish to thank Dr. N. Dobashi of the Psychological Services and Research Center at Syracuse University for his assistance and comments.]

This study involved a form of perceptual mapping and its application to bank marketing. Data-was collected on bank service saliency and perceptions. The factor analysis technique was used to position respondents and banks on an n-dimensional map. The results of the study were such that in all but one of the perceptual maps the ideal point (service salience) of the respondents was in a different quadrant than the perceptions of the banks. In addition, the perceptual maps indicated that the banks form a cluster in varying degrees regarding their perceived services. The paper discusses how service re-positioning, market segmentation, and service surveillance may be considered in light of the above findings.

Perceptual mapping is a generic term that applies to the positioning of perceptual points in multidimensional space. The technique has been used in various ways in the past. As an example, Green and Carmone (1969) analyzed automobiles and consumer opinion, Assael (1971) focused on advertising, Lehmann (1972) delved into brand switching and Johnson (1971) indicated how perceptual mapping may be used to improve the market segmentation strategy. The purpose of this study is to present an approach that indicates how the technique may be used to analyze services. The organization that is used from the standpoint of service analysis is the commercial bank.

The contribution of the paper is twofold: the focus on services in marketing management, and the unique delineation of the ideal point (I). Previous papers on the subject of perceptual mapping have primarily dealt with product attributes. This study, however, will essentially deal with product services. Researchers have interpreted the ideal point to represent a position in an n-dimensional space which best describes the mean preferences of the respondents (Neidell, 1969). As such it was desirable to be in a juxtaposition with this point. The closer the proximity, the more a product was described as fulfilling the needs of the consumer. In this study, the ideal point is based on service salience. Therefore, the ideal point may be considered as the minimum acceptable amount of services. While in the normal context it is detrimental to product selection if a product possesses more of an attribute than signified by the ideal point, in this application, only lesser amounts of services hamper selection.

When making marketing decisions assumptions are formulated regarding the perceptions of bank customers. Management attempts to consider how customers perceive checking and loan policies, interest rates, hours of operation, branch office location, the cooperativeness of the personnel and so on. However, little is really known about just how present and potential customers perceive a given service or offering of a bank (White and Woodside, 1973). The risk factor inherent in such interpretations leads to uncertainty regarding the payoff of various marketing strategies. This study extends the research and indicates how perceptions may be analyzed to optimize a set of decisions.


The first data collection sequence of the study involved approximately 100 marketing students at Syracuse University. They were requested to respond to questions concerning those attributes that are important in their choice of a bank, which banks they frequent, and which banks are familiar by name. From the lists they supplied, 6 local banks and 11 bank attributes were selected. An additional restriction was later imposed by the researchers on the choice of banks; they must be full service and advertise their products. This additional limitation reduced the number of test banks to 4. The list of attributes selected by the respondents was as follows:

a - Free Checking Service

b - Efficient Service

c - Bank Statement Service

d - Loan Policy

e - Fast Service

f - Long Bank Hours

g - Interest Rate Level

h - Friendly Personnel

i - Drive-in Service

j - Bank-by-Mail

k - Convenient Location

In the second data collection sequence, sixty subjects (40 marketing students at Syracuse University, 20 non-students selected on a convenience basis) were provided with two questionnaires: one was concerned with the saliency of bank services and the other involved perceptions of bank services. Initially, there was concern that the students would have perceptions radically different from the non-students, but a comparison proved this unwarranted. Both groups were combined in the study.

The saliency of bank services was measured via the paired comparison technique. Subjects were presented with a pair of bank services such as: long bank hours and fast service. The respondents were then asked to indicate which one of the pair was most important when conducting business with a bank. Each respondent circled either the first service in the pair or the second. A total of fifty-five paired comparison questions were involved.

The questionnaire on bank service perceptions required the respondents to rate each bank in terms of the 11 selected attributes. Respondents rated each attribute on an eleven point scale from "does not describe the bank" to "does describe the bank" (Assael, 1971). A space was also provided to allow a no response with the stipulation that this would result only if the individual lacked any opinion of the bank concerning that particular attribute. The subjects were informed that this opinion did not require personal experience with the bank.


The output from the survey on the saliency of bank services was analyzed via factor analysis and the Varimax routine. The 11 bank services were reduced to four factors. A correlation value of +40% was assigned as the cutoff for each variable; i.e., any variable whose correlation with a factor was greater than +40% was described as comprising the basis of that factor. Four factor names were assigned. They are:

Factor 1 Internal Convenience (var. c, i, j, k)

Factor 2 Operational Compatibility ( var. a, b, g)

Factor 3 Non-service Compatibility (var. d, f, k)

Factor 4 Convenience Services (var. e, h, k)

The eigenvalue in the factor derivation was stopped at 1.00. At this level four factors emerged that accounted for 58.2% of the total variance. If the eigenvalue had been reduced to the .88 level, the number of factors would have been increased to six and 75.1% of the variance would have been explained. A trade-off is involved here between variance accountability and graphic interpretability. It was decided to select four factors with six graphs rather than six factors that would have involved 15 charts in order to make the data more manageable.

Each respondent was positioned in an n-dimensional map on the basis of his factor scores (Nie. Bent and Hull. 1970).

The results of the survey on the perception of bank services was plotted in the same perceptual space as the service saliency data. This was accomplished by using scores derived in the factor analysis as a weighting mechanism. A zero response was eliminated from the calculation.


The results of the study are depicted in Figures 1 through 6. The symbols A, B, C, and D represent the positioning of the mean values of the individuals' perceptions of the four banks regarding each pair of factors. In other words, A, B, C, and D refer to bank service perceptions. The letter I in the graphs pertains to the mean value of the respondents in terms of the saliency of bank services. The graphs indicate on the basis of mean values the position of the banks in terms of what they are perceived to provide in the way of services and the importance customers place on various services when dealing with a bank.


From the standpoint of marketing strategy, a number of implications exist. Three are: service re-positioning, market segmentation, and service surveillance.

In terms of service re-positioning one may observe (Figure 1-6) the general disparity between what a bank is perceived to provide and what services are important to the customer. In all but one figure the value I is in a different quadrant than the perceptions A, B, C, and D. This means in managerial terms that the banks are perceived as offering a package of services at a certain level and that these services are not congruent with the level desired by the user. In other words, one may say that perceived service level does not match perceived service importance. The results of the study indicate that it would probably be advantageous for the banks to re-evaluate the nature of their services and through marketing communications bring them more in line with the evaluations of the customer. In addition, it may be noted that the banks form a cluster in varying degrees regarding their perceived services. This indicates that little service differentiation is viewed to exist among banks. The results suggest that a differentiation policy may be profitable.

















The results of the study indicate that market segmentation may be used to advantage. For example, Figure 7 and Figure 8 illustrate the location of bank service perceptions and bank service salience (points). The salience points in Figures 7 and 8 are useful as they identify the distribution of the perception of each user within the market sample regarding service salience. Using Figures 7 and 8 as examples, one may transpose the location of the x and y axes to a particular bank such as Bank A in this example. In analyzing Figure 7, it can be observed that 66% (40/60 x 100) of the respondents would like a bank to possess more internal convenience than Bank A is viewed to have by the sample. In addition, 615 (37/60 x 100) of the respondents would not be satisfied with the degree of non-service compatibility that the bank is perceived to have. Figure 8 indicates that in terms of convenience services and operational compatibility, 3% (1/60 x 100) and 8% (5/60 x 100), respectively, of the respondents will be dissatisfied.

From a managerial standpoint, the above statistics may be interpreted as follows: Bank A appears to be relatively weak in non-service compatibility and internal conveniences as indicated by the 61% and 66%. It would be in these two areas that Bank A has the most to gain from marketing expenditures. As shown in Figure 8, Bank A is depicted to be essentially right on target relative to its efforts in convenience services and operational compatibility. Additional effort in these areas would not appreciably increase overall market satisfaction.

A question that arises is: to what consumer cross-section does the bank want to appeal--the total market, or some particular segment. When considering the total market, the normal approach is to position oneself in a juxtaposition with the mean ideal point. However, with the set of factors utilized in this case, the best place to be, as shown in Figure 7, is in the upper right hand corner of the upper right hand quadrant (again, there must be recommended caution on the issue of assessing strength of factors as desirability of the service). As the position of the bank moves down and away from this point, fewer and fewer consumers feel that the bank can satisfy its needs. Because of financial constraints, it is impractical to attempt the satisfying of all consumers, therefore, a trade-off is required. A bank's best alternative is to move into a position of competitive advantage over the other banks in the area. Considering Figure 7, if Bank A were able to move its service mix to Point S', not only would it be satisfying a good percentage of the market's needs, but also would be in a closer proximity to the remainder of the market than the other banks.

Perceptual mapping also offers management information that may be used in service surveillance. An examination of perceptual maps compiled at different time intervals will show the changes in consumer opinion of the bank. It will also disclose any shift in consumer needs. This feature of perceptual mapping is quite beneficial in determining and gauging the effectiveness of promotional expenditures. However, it may be unwise for a bank to change the ratio of expenditures by factor (service) without knowing first the effect one factor has upon another. This can be achieved by changing expenditures on one factor while holding the other constant.


Perceptual mapping is a useful tool for analyzing the management of services. It is a technique that is not without its limitations, however. It can provide useful information to assist in service re-positioning, market segmentation, and service surveillance. From the standpoint of planning, perceptual mapping may indicate where effort should be concentrated or reduced.

In terms of bank marketing, this pilot study indicated that services are perceived to be relatively homogeneous among banks. In addition, it was found that the service level offered by banks was not in most cases synchronized with the service level mix believed to be important by the customer. Suggestions were made as to how this situation could be improved via three marketing management approaches.


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