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Can continuous improvement lead to satisfied customers? Evidence from the services industry

Oksana Koval (Industrial Engineering and Information Systems, Univerzita Tomase Bati ve Zline, Zlin, Czech Republic)
Stephen Nabareseh (Statistics and Quantitative Methods, Univerzita Tomase Bati ve Zline Fakulta managementu a ekonomiky, Zlin, Czech Republic)
Felicita Chromjakova (Industrial Engineering and Information Systems, Univerzita Tomase Bati ve Zline Fakulta managementu a ekonomiky, Zlin, Czech Republic)
Robert Marciniak (Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem, Budapest, Hungary)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Publication date: 8 October 2018

Abstract

Purpose

To achieve higher customer satisfaction (CS), companies implement continuous improvement (CI) programs, regardless of the growing evidence of their failure to achieve declared goals. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to identify whether companies are able to improve CS through the application of CI; and, second, to identify what organizational practices are able to facilitate the impact of CI on CS.

Design/methodology/approach

To test the developed assumptions, the study uses the structural equation modeling technique. The data for analysis were collected from 304 service companies via a custom web-survey.

Findings

The research confirms the direct positive impact of CI on CS. Further, the study demonstrates that management commitment and rewards system that encourages employees to participate in CI play the major facilitating role in improving CS through CI. These practices accompanied by quality-oriented culture and employee training in the improvement tools provide necessary infrastructure to sustain CI in the companies over time. Additionally, regardless of the vital role of goal setting for CI established in previous research, the proposed study finds a limited ability of goal setting, as compared to other organizational practices, to facilitate CI–CS relationship.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the scarce field of research on CI implementation in the services environment. Further, the research assesses CS as a variable of interest, as opposite to the previous studies, considering CS as a part of the composite variable. The research assesses the impact of the training in CI methodology on the CI–CS relationship, while previous research focuses on the general, work-related training. The findings provide an important basis for further academic work in the area of quality management. The identified practices can serve as guidance for managers, implementing CI in their companies due to the high fit of the proposed model.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Internal Grant Agency of Tomas Bata University in Zlin (Grant No. IGA/FAME/2017/008 and IGA/FAME/2018/005) as well as the Visegrad Fund (Grant No. 51700045) for financial support. A special thanks goes to Nikita Nikitin from WebKr Gmbh. for the technical support of data collection.

Citation

Koval, O., Nabareseh, S., Chromjakova, F. and Marciniak, R. (2018), "Can continuous improvement lead to satisfied customers? Evidence from the services industry", The TQM Journal, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 679-700. https://doi.org/10.1108/TQM-02-2018-0021

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited