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Meet the editor of... Managing Service Quality

An interview with: Jay Kandampully

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Professor Jay Kandampully is Professor of Services Management and Hospitality at The Ohio State University, USA, and has over 20 years teaching and industry experience in the field. Before joining The Ohio State University, he taught at The University of Queensland, Australia; Lincoln University, New Zealand; the University of Alaska Fairbanks; and the University of Exeter, UK. He has researched and published extensively in the fields of both services management and hospitality.

Managing Service Quality (MSQ) is a peer reviewed journal that is devoted to ways of improving quality of service, the most effective means of ensuring a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace. It covers the various management aspects of service organizations, of which service quality is an integral component. This journal brings together nascent academic research, managerial implications, and case studies on service innovators and service leaders. MSQ, therefore, serves both an academic and practitioner audience. It is the 13th most downloaded of the Emerald journals, with an average of 9,600 per month.

About yourself

Why did you choose to study, and latterly research, in the field of hospitality management?

As a young boy, I read The Hotel by Arthur Hailey and became intrigued by what goes on in a large hotel. From my perspective growing up in a small town in India, it was fascinating to see the complexities of managing such a large organization. So I went to Austria, to study hotel management at Klessheim, the well known hotel school in Salzburg. Following completion of the program, I worked in Austrian hotels for the subsequent eight years. I then decided to pursue further education in hotel management at the Birmingham College of Food in the UK. With a sound academic background and practical experience from Austria, I joined the Marriott Corporation in the USA and, after gaining a few years of senior management experience, I embarked on an MBA at Exeter University, UK. I focused my MBA studies on services marketing and subsequently continued on to pursue a PhD on service quality management, also at Exeter University, UK. My many years of experience in the hotel industry proffered me the unique opportunity to understand and link service theory and practice. Indeed, the hotel industry is one of the classic examples used by almost every services author to illustrate the various concepts in services; it is an example that is easily illustrated and one that is readily understood by readers. Since starting my career in the hospitality industry, of which service quality is an integral part, I have become passionate about the field of services, the quality of service and its contribution to every service sector. 

How long have you been editor of the journal, and how have you tried to change it?

I have been editor since 2001. Prior to taking up the editorial position, I served on MSQ’s editorial board for two years and also edited a special issue in the year 2000. Following my appointment as editor of MSQ, I, with the assistance of a new editorial board comprising eminent services researchers, worked towards transforming MSQ to its present standing. The obvious change in MSQ is its stronger focus on nascent services theory and its global application in practice. To this end, MSQ featured a series of articles under the theme "Guru’s view", which not only invited almost all eminent service researchers to write about nascent issues in services but, at the same time, helped to elevate MSQ’s standing in the field of services research. MSQ also decided to move away from the typical case study approach but, rather, to use cases as examples from the industry as a means of illustrating the application of theory in practice. One of the consistent focuses of MSQ has been this link between theory and practice. To this end, all research papers are required to discuss the findings in reference to managerial implications.

Although service quality may appear to be narrow in its focus, there is a general consensus that the ramifications of service quality for an organization are not only long term, but also strategic and global in nature. In this context, service quality is not therefore addressed in this journal from a measurement only perspective, but from the aspect of a catalyst for compelling service orientation and customer focus. The changes subsequently effected in an organization through a focus on service quality are what make the difference and create the competitive advantage. With this in mind, MSQ has endeavoured to highlight the changes/strategic factors engendered by service quality. 

Editorial philosophy

How would you describe the journal’s editorial philosophy?

As we have already discussed, MSQ addresses all aspects of the service industry (management, marketing and human resources). The journal welcomes manuscripts that have a strong underpinning in the services literature and with a clear contribution to services theory and practice. MSQ aims to appeal to a wide variety of academic readers: graduate students (MBA and PhD), researchers and faculty; in addition, a large number of MSQ readers are practising managers. MSQ’s aim is to communicate theory in a reader friendly manner. Linking theory to practice is, thus, at the core of this journal’s philosophy.

What are the main research issues and can you give examples of groundbreaking research which has affected service delivery?

Generally, we try and focus on the most sort after and nascent research. Service quality is one of the most researched areas in services management. This is true with regard to "bricks and mortar" firms; additionally, service quality has become a major theme in the fast expanding "clicks and mortar" business. E-service quality was the theme of a special issue in the year 2004. One of the nascent themes of research concerns service innovations, a major topic of discussion in the boardroom and within academic research. In 2005, MSQ commissioned a special issue dedicated to service innovation. Beginning in 2006, two series of articles have been planned : one is on service leaders (firms that are customer focused and service oriented) and the other deals with firms that are at the cutting edge of innovation.

You require that articles contribute to both theory and practice. What is the contribution of management theory to the area of service quality?

Management theory, in the past, focused its efforts on the firm in the expectation of gaining a profitable return. The customer was seldom the focus but, rather, on the sideline, an unpleasant task that management was forced to deal with. Services theory, which is essentially founded on a customer focus, aims to enhance customer perceived value of the firm’s offer. In order to align customer and service delivery, it is essential that there exists an interrelationship between marketing, operations and human resources. Thus, quality is the umbrella of the firm that essentially brings together all aspects of the firm.

Who are your primary and secondary audiences?

The primary audience of MSQ is academics and students, and the secondary audience is practitioners. The academics come from a variety of disciplines – mainly management, marketing and operations management. However, those working in the area of services management tend not to specialize within a particular functional area, but actually write about them all. It’s a very multidisciplinary field in which the different areas are not segregated into cubicles. However, the distinction between various disciplines does tend to be more prominent within academia, not in the business context. Customers, of course, are less concerned as to which aspect of the firm is at play but, rather, whether their needs have been fulfilled. Unlike in science where discoveries are made in laboratories and then disseminated to industry, in the field of management, industry leads and academia, in most cases, follows.

What is your main competition, and how do you differentiate yourselves?

I see every journal as my competition! If someone writes an article about services that pertains to a financial sector and publishes in a banking journal, I’ve lost the article; as is the case with an article on tourism services published in a tourism journal. MSQ suffers from the classic problem of the service industry: unless you use a service, its quality cannot be perceived. MSQ competes by providing an unparalleled service. An MSQ author is anyone who conducts research and writes about services and their delivery. My job as editor, along with the reviewers, is to bring out the best in those writers and to be available for assistance.

Service quality is something that requires management; it is a proactive concept and is not limited to an association with measurement. Service-focused firms are proactive, manage their services effectively and, thus, enjoy customers’ ongoing patronage. For example, in North America and Europe, the ISO standards (e.g. ISO 9000) are very prevalent; however, customers around the world consider the standard of Japanese goods and services to be higher than that of ISO.

What are the key issues you have to bear in mind in reaching both a practitioner and academic audience?

I try not to encourage articles that are overly focused on analysis, and tend to favour those that have some statistical research, but that also contribute to the existing services theory and provide valuable case examples. Theory is not only of interest to theoreticians, practitioners also benefit from using theory, and such articles are also useful for teaching graduate students, who prefer articles that are more literature based. 

Do you try and encourage practitioner authors? If so, how?

I encourage practitioners to write for MSQ but, given their time constraints, practitioner written articles are less often received for consideration. I have, however, been successful in encouraging business consultants to write for MSQ. I, myself, write a column for Business First, a business periodical, in a writing style very different from that of academic journals. 

What do you look for in a good case study?

Case studies in MSQ are different from conventional case studies; articles use various case examples to illustrate what is explained in theory. These case studies are very popular with readers.

What particular plans do you have for the next 18 months?

I am working on various projects to expose MSQ to various sectors of the service industry. Since service quality has become an important factor in assuring organizational success, authors in almost all service sectors have started undertaking service quality research. If MSQ fails to recognise this, writers will take their articles elsewhere. I am also reaching out to conferences; for example, in retailing, tourism and health services.

Publishing quality issues

How does your editorial team contribute to the quality of the journal?

I see the editorial board as a group of people who can guide and advise. I rarely use them as reviewers and, for that reason, they don’t see being a member of the EAB as taking up too much time and are, hence, willing to serve.

What do your reviewers specifically look out for?

In the first instance, for a real contribution to knowledge: has the author made proper reference to the literature, have they identified a gap for their research, is the study needed?  Is the methodology right for the research?  Is it written for both academic and practitioner audiences – what can managers get out of it?

How many submissions do you receive in a typical year? How many do you reject outright, how many are published after minor revisions and how many published after major revisions?

The number of submissions we receive in any one year varies; most recently it was around 180-190, but that number increases to around 250 with special issues. The rate of eventual acceptance is around 20 per cent. Outright acceptance is very rare. I also read through articles to sift out those that are not suitable for the journal. Around 15 per cent fall into this category, with examples being articles on quality in academic institutions. The time it takes to revise an article depends a lot on the authors.

Assuming that a successful article does not require major revision, how long on average would it take between first submission and publication?

Normally, between three and four months is a good turnaround; anything more than six months, and the article may become stale –- the literature will be out of date. You need to add onto this the time between acceptance and publication, which is around six months.

I try to ensure that articles are out within one year. Sometimes you get something which you really need to expedite because it is so topical, and you need to be there before anyone else; for example, I recently received an article on the use of biotechnology in managing services in Singapore Airlines, which appeared in the first issue of 2006.

You have received an award for your article "Competitive advantage through anticipation, innovation and relationships" (Management Decision, Vol. 37 No. 1), and the article was considered the fourth most-read out of the 140 journals in the Emerald database that year. What do you think caused that article to be well read and how generally can authors ensure that their work gets read?

It was a timely topic – innovation and relationship marketing were just coming into their own as fully-fledged areas, and everyone was looking for research and industry examples. My article drew on research that analysed many successful companies and set them against the theory: each paragraph contained a theory and an example. So, the article linked theory and practice: it showed real-world examples of something that people were talking a lot about.

And finally... 

We’ve had total quality management (TQM), lean production and six sigma: what do you think will be the "next thing" in quality management?

We are going to see the focus of service quality move to the customer. TQM, lean production and six sigma look at quality from a manufacturing perspective, at how companies can benefit from quality initiatives by cutting costs and, thereby, increasing their profits. However, without satisfying the customer, the company can neither expand nor create profit. So in future, companies will look at a mixture of initiatives, such as TQM etc. for their own advantage, but they will also need to be competitive by offering their customers superior value – thereby, gaining their loyalty.

Publisher's note

Professor Jay Kandampully was interviewed in November 2005.

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