Implementation of a service quality strategy : application to the Algarve hotel industry
This dissertation addresses the problem of service quality strategy implementation. The problem has been defined more precisely as how to implement a strategy of quality, which focuses on customers' needs, in a service organisation, or alternatively, as how to integrate coherently a strategy of service quality, centred on the customers, with the requirements and idiosyncrasies of operationalization, in order to make it successful. The nature and scope of this research problem is based in the confluence of the areas of service quality, strategy and strategy implementation. Thus, addressing this problem naturally requires a review of the literature on service quality, on strategy and on strategy implementation. The literature review on service quality revealed, first, that service quality is a function of service quality gaps; second, that there are some models of service quality gaps; and, third, that there are several service quality gaps in the literature which are not integrated into any model; thus revealing a need for an encompassing synthesised model. This dissertation consequently considers the existing service quality gap models and a list of other gaps to propose a comprehensive model. Similarly, the literature review on strategy and on strategy implementation revealed, first, that there is a lack of clear, detailed and general strategy implementation models; second, that existing strategy implementation models can be separated into two distinct types, the static and the dynamic models; and, third, that existing static models exhibit many relevant aspects but differ strongly on the number and on the nature of the aspects included; thus revealing insufficiencies and the need for an integrative effort. The same happens with the existing dynamic models. This dissertation consequently considers several existing models to propose a synthesised static model and a synthesised dynamic model. The synthesised static model is a representation of an organisation, of all aspects relevant for strategy implementation, at a given instant. The synthesised dynamic model is a generic process of strategy formulation and implementation that explicitly addresses the requirements for success. Note that whilst the two kinds of models address the implementation problem from different perspectives they are not in competition. In fact, it is the view of the author that static and dynamic models are complementary and have to be integrated into a "mixed model", in order to provide a better understanding of strategy implementation. Thus, besides the already mentioned three comprehensive models, that have been synthesised, this dissertation goes further to suggest a mixed model which, simultaneously and harmoniously, considers all relevant organisational dimensions and all relevant stages of the strategy process. The model shows what dimensions can be changed and at what stages. It can be adapted to the specific circumstances of any organisation. Such model, unique in the literature, as far as the author is aware, is finally combined with the service quality gap model to propose: (1) a map of the pattern of the quality gaps occurring at each implementation stage; (2) the organisational variables that can be manipulated, at each stage, to prevent and eliminate the gaps; and (3) several relevant implications to practising managers. The gap, static, dynamic and mixed models suggested are confronted with some evaluation criteria and with sample data from the four and five star hotels of the Algarve. The data does not provide evidence against the models thus supporting their validity. This tentative validation of the models thus provides some relevant theoretical contributes to the service quality and strategy implementation literatures. Sample data is also used to describe (1) how these hotels are implementing service quality strategies and (2) how they prevent and eliminate service quality gaps. This description has raised concerns about the absence of a consistent model for the implementation of service quality strategies in many four and five star hotels of the Algarve. It also provides some insights to managers interested in implementing a service quality strategy, especially to those of the Algarve Hotel Industry.