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The term ‘Service Quality’ is used to describe the degree of excellence of the process of delivering service by an organisation to its customers. Perfection would be 100% all of the time! Some say that 100% all of the time is too costly, others say that good service costs less than bad service. An organisation has choice about the level of service quality it aspires to deliver. An organisation may choose to deliver different levels of service to different customer groups, on the basis of price, geography or what competitors do.


The concept of product quality has its origins in manufacturing. Business owners have deployed a range of techniques to deliver minimum number of defective products Ideally zero) delivered to customers. For a manufacturing business to thrive, the profit from the sale of a perfect product must not be eaten up by the cost of rework or wastage from imperfect items rejected during manufacturing. Six sigma is a popular technique employed in quality management at present. The same idea can be applied to service businesses in all three sectors.


The aspiration is easy a 100% perfect service quality at a cost the organisation can afford. It’s then all about the detail in planning how a particular service is to be delivered, taking into account the views of managers, customers, potential customers, employees and also how other similar organisations operate (unless this is an entrepreneurial service). Amongst the topics to consider are:

  • How can you minimise the error rate in each stage of an end-to-end process?
  • Can technology help or hinder?
  • What is the cost of perfection at each stage of the service delivery process?
  • How much cheaper would it be if you accepted a 0.5% error rate overall or at each stage?
  • In the customer’s eyes, is service quality about the delivery of paperwork (maybe an insurance policy), the accuracy, timeliness and manner in the way a telephone call is handled or other factors (even the level of postal service used to deliver papers by mail)?
  • The availability of an adequate number of staff to avoid a queue (physically or in a call centre)
  • The appearance of premises and staff to serve customers
  • Do you have to deliver the same level of service to your most valuable (top ten percent) customers as you do to those who contribute very little to the overall performance of your organisation?
  • What do customers and potential customers expect?
  • What do your competitors do? Are you trying to match them or deliver service to a new level?
  • What is the real cost of service failure and rework? This can be in terms of actual expenditure or of lost business when a service quality failure causes a customer to defect. This calculation should take into account the cost of acquiring a new customer as a replacement. Can you expect your employees to deliver a high level of service quality if you give them poor quality working conditions, inadequate financial reward and no individual recognition and opportunities for personal development?
  • Do your recruitment and selection processes seek out individuals who understand and subscribe to the service quality concept?
  • Is the chief executive signed up to the concept of service quality?

Some quotes

  • Loses resulting from poor quality were described by Dr Juran ( the guru of quality) as “gold in the mine”
  • “Good service costs less that bad service”, Sally Gronow, Welsh Water.


Delivering high service quality is essential in modern business life. As customers, we have a choice and poor service quality will make us vote with our feet.

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