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The effect of service improvisation competence on hotel performance

Enrico Secchi (Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Aleda Roth (College of Business, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)
Rohit Verma (School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 14 February 2020

Issue publication date: 28 April 2020



The development of a service improvisation competence (Serv-IC), operationally defined as “the systemic ability of a service firm’s employees to deviate from established service delivery processes and routines to respond in a timely manner to unforeseen events using available resources” (Secchi et al., 2019, p. 1329), has been proposed as an effective way to accommodate customer variability while increasing the quality of the service experience. However, empirical evidence of its impact on service performance is scant. This paper tests the effect of Serv-IC on performance in the hospitality industry.


This paper develops a conceptual typology of service delivery systems (hereafter service typology is used interchangeably) in the hotel industry based on the experiential content of the service and the amount of standardization of service delivery routines. Then, using a survey of hotel managers, the effect of Serv-IC on hotel performance is estimated within each service group in the typology.


Serv-IC is associated with increased occupancy in high-process-standardization and high-experience hotel operations but does not have a significant relationship with the average price per room. The results suggest that managers could invest in Serv-IC to increase loyalty and positive word of mouth but not to increase prices.


This paper provides evidence of the effectiveness of developing a service improvisation competence while also offering boundary conditions to its applicability. The proposed service typology disentangles the design of service processes from their execution, thereby shedding new light on the complex relationships among service design, employee behaviors and business outcomes.



The authors wish to thank the staff at the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University for their editorial support and help in data collection.


Secchi, E., Roth, A. and Verma, R. (2020), "The effect of service improvisation competence on hotel performance", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 245-270.



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