Evaluating Service Quality and Service Value in Manufacturer-Distributor Settings: A Systems Approach

Hannu Kivijärvi*, Aleksi Virta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose–The purpose of this study is to examine the antecedents of service quality and customer value in a manufacturer-distributor context by elaborating the basic principles of general systems theory. Based on previous research in the field we demonstrate how an initially multidimensional and complicated phenomenon can be explained and predicted by a relatively simple research model. Methodology/approach–After the theoretical discussion, this paper develops a systemic research model for measuring service quality and customer value. The model suggests that input dimensions positively affect process dimensions, which subsequently have a positive effect on output quality. It shows the mechanisms by which factors outside the traditional service management domain impact service outcomes directly and indirectly. Quantitative empirical research was carried out in order to test the hypotheses inherent in the research model, and the data were analyzed using the partial least squares (PLS) method. Findings–Study findings support the widespread idea that perceived service quality and customer value are grounded in the quality of the service process and also on critical input factors. Considering both direct and indirect effects, it seems that the most significant driver behind the service quality and customer value is employee response followed by employee assurance. Nevertheless, it is important to note that both tangibles and visuals (visually appealing physical facilities, equipment, and appearance of personnel), as well as information items (quality and accessibility of information and communication quality), are quite strong predictors of the associated process structures. These service attributes should not be rejected when in pursuit of a comprehensive quality policy in practice. Research Implications–The chief contribution of this study to the research community is that a more definite conceptualization and explanation of the service success can be found by the general systems theory. Practical Implications–Our advice to practitioners, and above all to service management, is that they must do everything in their power to increase the level of employee responsiveness. Without ignoring other dimensions in the quality system, the soft metrics inherent in employee assurance are valued highly by customers. Originality/value–The research model reveals previously unrecognized interactions between eight constructs. Our data and the empirical tests confirm that the adopted approach explains service quality and customer value exceptionally well. In addition to the explanatory power of the proposed approach, due to the methodology chosen, it also has strong predictive power. Thus, the model can be used to predict observations for cases that are similar to the case used in the sample. Even though the specific focus of the study is on the manufacturer-distributor context, the results are applicable to service management in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-46
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Business-to-Business Marketing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • customer value
  • employee response
  • Manufacturer-distributor context
  • measurement systems
  • Partial Least Squares
  • service delivery
  • service outcome quality
  • service quality
  • systems approach


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