While internal service quality has been known to be important for some time, research on internal service quality has been comparatively rare. This study focuses on the influence of internal customers’ cultural value orientation, expertise, and demographics on the relative importance placed on internal service quality dimensions. A better understanding about the effects of aforementioned variables is important in the pursuit of improving the quality of internal and external services.
The study starts with the literature review that offers an overview of (internal) service quality and reflects on its multiple influencing factors. Subsequently, 10 hypotheses groups are developed. They deal with each of the individual influencing factors and their supposable impact on the relative importance of the five internal service quality dimensions. The research conducted at Sitel, a leading customer contact center corporation, results in 209 management (internal customer) responses from respondents of 12, primarily European, countries. Multiple linear regression analysis confirms that 7 out of 10 independent variables have a significant effect on at least one internal service quality dimension.
The results show that higher uncertainty avoidance is positively related to reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. Higher long-term orientation is associated with reduced importance of assurance, empathy, and tangibles. Masculinity negatively relates to assurance and empathy, while higher power distance has a negative impact on assurance. Higher levels of internal service expertise positively relate to reliability and responsiveness. With regard to demographics, it is apparent that in contrast to males, female internal customers assign more importance to reliability, responsiveness, and assurance. Finally, married internal customers consider empathy more important than do single customers. From a management perspective, there are four main contributions. First, results reveal focus areas for internal service providers. Second, an enhanced typology of internal customer segmentation based on culture and internal service quality dimensions is proposed. Three distinct internal customer segments of Moderate Centrals, Easygoing and Flexible Masculines, and Demanding Self-Confidents are presented, statistically validated, described, and recommendations are deducted. The third managerial input is the development of the advanced process of internal service quality that bridges gaps of earlier internal customer service approaches. Finally, common training and learning approaches are considered and linked to research findings.