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Measuring service quality

Project summary

Delivering high quality services to the public is an objective for most public sector organizations around the globe. But how to measure success? In this project we developed and tested a model aimed at citizens and businesses’ evaluation of service delivery in the Netherlands.

The model defines service quality as a duel construct comprising a) quality of the outcome and b) satisfaction with the process. Each of these variables is predicted by a number of variables. The model was tested among a representative sample of 3702 Dutch citizens and business. Results show that citizens are moderately satisfied with the quality of government service delivery. 


Many governments and public sector agencies around the world deliver services to the public, online and using other channels. Examples include delivering permits, benefits, (legal) documents and a wealth of other services with an informational nature. Naturally, these organizations aim to optimize the quality of these service delivery processes. This ‘quality’ typically consists of a balance between the “Three E’s”:

  • This concerns the degree to which the desired outcomes of the process are being achieved.
  • Is about delivering this outcomes with as little resources as possible.
  • Refers to the perceptions towards the process and outcomes.

These three are interdependent; providing the most effective services is likely to increase the (positive) evaluation of service delivery, but also likely to drive costs (and thus reducing efficiency). Similarly, unhappy clients are more likely to make their ‘voice’ heard (e.g. through complaints) and thus putting pressure on both effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.

Most of the current instruments to measure the evaluation of service delivery are rooted in models developed in the 1980s-2000s, but the services landscape has evolved with topics such as ‘privacy’ being much more important now than they were 30 years ago.

The channel landscape has changed as well, with more clients going online and using a variety of channels to obtain public services. However, most existing studies target just one, or a narrow selection of channels.

Lastly, policies and goals have evolved. Digital by default is now a common goal and restoring public trust is high on many policy agendas.

The project

To address these changes and create relevant and timely insights regarding citizens’ and businesses’ evaluations of public service delivery, we worked with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior to develop a new service quality model.

Goals of the project were threefold:

  1. Develop a new model to measure service evaluations based on the latest insights.
  2. Conduct a large quantitative study to gather timely and relevant data.
  3. Test the model in different ways and provide conclusions on its validity and applicability as well as practical recommendations for the Ministry of the Interior.

Our role

We provided three services within the project:

  1. We developed a new model to validly and reliably measure the evaluations of public service delivery. This model is rooted in previous academic literature and research and practices from around the globe.
  2. We supervised the execution of a qualitative study to enrich the model and gain additional perspectives from citizens and business.
  3. We managed the quantitative study in which the model was tested, along with a number of other relevant topics. Based on the results, we formulated a number of recommendations for the Dutch government.


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