Auditing for service quality. Towards service partnership contracting

J. A. Ovretveit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


How can you be sure that the quality of a service that you buy will be acceptable to you? One method used by institutional purchasers of services is organisation quality audits. This paper reviews audit methods and assesses their uses and limitations for purchasers and providers of services. It describes frameworks for external and internal quality audits and compares the relative merits of each for different types of service and purpose. It considers problems in predicting the quality of future service by auditing with reference to health services, where there are particular difficulties. Many audit frameworks for services are adapted from product quality experience and not from systematic research into factors critical to service quality. The paper contrasts these frameworks with research into what practising service managers found to be important for service quality. It proposes that, in most cases, purchasers should adapt auditing frameworks for their particular purposes, drawing on such research and their own and the provider's experience. It concludes that the validity of existing audit frameworks as predictors of service quality is questionable, especially for wide-scope, long-term service contracts with a high professional component. Here there are advantages to both provider and purchaser agreeing and developing an audit framework in partnership. If purchasers and providers select a framework with caution, they may reduce the risks inherent in contracting for services and develop more refined monitoring methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-9
Number of pages6
JournalQuality forum London
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes


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