Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Service Quality Dimensions and Satisfaction Determinants with the Alaska Ombudsman's Office

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Service Quality Dimensions and Satisfaction Determinants with the Alaska Ombudsman's Office

Article excerpt


Research on the dimensions of service quality and on the relationship of service quality to satisfaction has a rich history in marketing. The focus here is on a type of relationship that has not yet been examined, specifically the services of ombudsmen. In the original Swedish model, the ombudsman's roll is to impartially investigate complaints by citizens and to make recommendations where warranted. Under other models the ombudsman may act as a mediator or an advocate for the complainant.

The first ombudsman's office was established by the Swedish parliament in 1809 (United States Ombudsman Association, 2006). Since that time many other countries, five U.S. states, and many counties and municipalities have established ombudsman offices, and variations on the original model have been established by corporations, universities, hospitals, and others (see Finucan, 2005; Hill, 2002; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005; Steiber, 1989).

When rendering services, there are three parties to any situation that calls on the services of the ombudsman; the complainant, the organization against which the complaint is lodged, and the ombudsman. The complainant, in this case, is seeking to have perceived wrongs redressed by going to a third party, the ombudsman. The ombudsman's role is, first, to determine whether or not the complainant has a valid complaint, and second, to make recommendations if warranted.

In the marketing literature complaining behavior and service recovery effort impacts on customer satisfaction have been examined (e.g., Bitner, Booms and Tetreault, 1990; Maxham and Netemeyer, 2002; Smith, Bolton and Wag, 1999; van Doom and Verhoef, 2008). In such research the focus concerns organizations that presumably want to satisfy customers, customers who perceive a process or outcome failure, and on subsequent recovery efforts by the offending organization. As an independent third party, ombudsmen are not initially focused on turning dissatisfied customers into satisfied customers (which in marketing is usually referred to as service recovery), but in objectively assessing the merits of complaints. The outcome of the service might be bad news to the complainant, the organization against which the complainant has filed a complaint, or both. In previous research on complaining behavior the focus has been on the relationship of service failure and recovery efforts to satisfaction and repurchase intentions. A useful metric for firms concerned with upset customers might be something like the percent of complainants who were placated and satisfied. This metric would not be appropriate for an ombudsman's office; here a metric should be linked to objectivity and accuracy.

Understanding the relationship between ombudsmen efforts and customer or citizen satisfaction is useful in a couple of ways. First, it extends our understanding to a new type of relationship that is prevalent in our society. There are a growing number of ombudsmen, and other commercial relationships such as brokers, where managing conflicting interests between two independent participants is important. Second, understanding this relationship may provide insights useful across a wide range of relationships. Understanding the drivers of satisfaction in this type of relationship may prove useful in studying relationships between buyers and sellers, for example, or company representatives charged with addressing complaints.

Prior research on ombudsmen is sparse, and none is concerned with evaluating service quality from the perspective of parties involved in a complaint or in linking service efforts to satisfaction. Reviews of the nature and number of complaints handled have been done (Gregory and Pearson, 1992; Hill, 2002; Stieber, 1989), as have the general outcomes of the process (Hill, 2002). Gregory and Pearson also reviewed the perceived effectiveness of the United Kingdom's parliamentary ombudsman by members of parliament (1992). …

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