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Developing operational understanding of service quality through a simulation environment

Rogelio Oliva (Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Michael Bean (Forio Business Simulations, San Francisco, California, USA)

International Journal of Service Industry Management

ISSN: 0956-4233

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to articulate the challenges of learning and improving in service delivery systems – that present managers with imperfect information, confounded variables, and tightly coupled interactions between operational and psychological factors – and present a simulator to assist managers to overcome these challenges.


After reviewing the literature on “learning from simulations” and the main challenges of learning in a service environment, the paper presents the assumptions underlying the service quality management simulator, its interface, and protocols to use it that have proven effective.


It is possible to assist managers to develop operational understanding – what to do, when and how much of it to do – about the drivers of service quality using a simulation environment.

Research limitations/implications

In its present form, the simulator only takes a functional definition of service quality and captures the relationships in a business‐to‐consumer service environment. These shortcomings suggest future expansions to the theory. Also, while anecdotal evidence is reported of the benefits using the simulator, quantifying these benefits remains a challenge for future research.

Practical implications

The ability to customize the simulator's parameters to represent specific service settings makes it a powerful tool for operating managers facing some of the challenges described by the theory.


This paper documents, in a non‐technical way, the elements a set of relationships that has been shown to confuse managers and cause erosion of service quality and describes the simulator's uses and benefits in a pedagogical environment.



Oliva, R. and Bean, M. (2008), "Developing operational understanding of service quality through a simulation environment", International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 160-175.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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