Standardising Services: A Help or Hindrance to Service Delivery: A Case Study on the Effects of Standard Operating Procedures in Service Delivery

Zaiga Circene & Cecilie Abildgaard Poulsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The service sector has experienced a massive growth over the past decades and continues to be the fastest growing industry. Whilst standardisation for many years has been used in industrial manufacturing and pro-duction, little research has been done on the effect of standardisation in services. With increased competition and price pressures from the ever-growing industry, the need for standardisation is rising. Hence, many service organisations have implemented standards which seek to help ensuring quality and consistency of the service, providing organisations the means to compete and survive in the industry.
To understand whether standardisation has a positive or negative effect on service delivery, this study seeks to understand the challenges of implementing standards within service organisations. Firstly, by reviewing the literature, describing the nature of services, we have identified services as comprising of four characteristics: intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability. Secondly, by reviewing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) definition, as proposed by Cyert and March (1992). By utilizing the mentioned definitions, a theoretical framework has been developed, assessing how and where the SOPs correlates with the service characteristics.
Against this framework, the thesis empirically investigates the effects of SOPs on the service delivery by conducting a case study. The case used for this study concerns a major Nordic hotel chain, Scandic Hotels Group AB, and in total 12 semi-structured interviews were performed at 5 different Scandic Hotels. This enabled the creation of an empirical framework, presenting how and where SOPs can hinder or enhance the service delivery.
As a result of the analysis several areas were identified, on where SOPs can have a positive impact on service delivery but simultaneously it also identified areas where the opposite was the case. The latter was particularly visible in scenarios involving more complex decision-making, such as complaint management, where the train-ing and support of managers affected the service delivery to a greater extent than SOPs.
The results of this thesis therefore suggest, that service standardisation is not the only element which can affect the service delivery. The managerial style of the organisation should be highly considered as a mean to increase the quality of the service delivery in areas where SOPs are unable to provide comprehensive support in decision-making, especially in complex scenarios.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages109
SupervisorsClaus Varnes