The impact of competitive fee tendering on construction professional service quality
It is less than fifteen years since the associations representing construction professionals in the UK surrendered to Government pressure, and abolished mandatory fee scales, predicting as they did so that abolition would inevitably lead to a decline in the standard of service provided to clients. Competitive fee tendering is now the principal route for the appointment of construction professionals in the UK and during the recent recession, fee levels fell to unprecedented low levels. The main aim of this research project is to ascertain whether fee tendering has led to a decline in service quality. The research commences with a literature review of professional services in a construction industry context. The framework for the review is the three stage consumer behaviour model and the variables identified by the literature search are then developed into a process model. The model is underpinned by the important variables to be investigated - the method of appointment and clients' perceptions of service quality. A literature review of these subjects leads to the development of one main hypothesis (that clients' perceptions of service quality are lower for fee tendered appointments) and four subhypotheses. The hypotheses are tested by the analysis of data arising from the assessment of 244 professional consultants by their clients. The main research instrument is a measurement scale developed by comparing four previous studies, with the much used SERVQUAL scale (Parasuraman, Zeithami and Berry, 1991), providing the main foundation of the scale. The data do not support the main hypothesis - either for the entire client sample or for public sector clients only. However the hypotheses that service quality is higher when care is taken with the pre-selection of tenderers and when adequate weighting has been given to ability, are supported. The thesis concludes with implications for the professions and for clients, and with recommendations for further research.