Quality Management in European Public Services

Public institutions are not particularly known for being customer oriented service providers. However, the emerging competition between European public services and private providers has stressed the importance of quality also in public institutions. The following article will illuminate the ability and efforts of European intellectual property (IP) offices in providing quality services.

1. Who, When, Where?

Master of Arts Christiane Richter studied International Business at the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden, the University of Alicante (ES) and the University of Gdansk (PL). The present work is a result of a 5-month trainee assignment in the quality management department of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, which is the European registration body for trade marks and designs, and resulted in her Master Thesis.

2. Wherefrom, Whereto, Wherefore?

Due to the founding of supranational bodies for the registration of intellectual property, national patent- and trade mark offices have suffered a loss of their monopolistic position. The quality of the service provided will therefore play a significant role in the survival of the national offices. For this reason, both national and supranational IP offices are beginning to introduce quality management systems in order to continuously improve their service quality. The aim of the study was to find out whether European IP offices strive to satisfy user expectations through the provision of quality services.

3. What, How, Which Results?

Three public institutions concerned with the registration of intellectual property, namely the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the Danish Patent and Trade Mark Office and the Portuguese National Institute for Industrial Property, are analyzed for their ability to provide quality services for their users. The article summarizes the findings of the author's Master Thesis on "Quality management in European IP offices – a comparative analysis” which were extracted by qualitative research. The methodology as well as the in-depth analysis of the sample is excluded in the abstract in order to give a brief overview of the findings.

The analysis is based on the Quality Gap-model by Zeithaml , Parasuraman and Berry which indentifies four gaps on the organizational side that lead to the discrepancy between the users' expected quality and the perceived quality, which is also referred to as the actual quality of a service ( Grönroos ). On this basis the Gap-Model allows a holistic breakdown of the internal processes and measures, which lead to higher or lower quality perception by the user.

The article contributes to the understanding why these gaps emerge and how they can be narrowed. Several measures are described in particular and brought together as Best Practice. The following Best Practice could be identified including five topics:

  1. ISO 9001:2000 certified Quality Management System
  2. Integrated IT system
  3. Top management involvement
  4. Staff qualification and motivation
  5. Expansion of the e-services and customer involvement

4. For Whom, on What Terms?

The study is highly relevant for executives in charge of designing services both in public institutions AND the private sector. The development of best practice may have standard character for service providers when assessing and improving their service quality.

Moreover, the article gives a concise overview of theories on service quality measurement.

5. How to Rank?

The study provides an in-depth analysis of public services in Europe focusing IP offices. On 51 pages (incl. Annex and Bibliography) Christiane Richter first of all describes the frame of reference by drawing the European IP landscape and giving an overview of public services and service quality in order to lead over to the analysis and critical consideration of service quality in European IP offices. All in all a theoretically grounded, sophisticated and comprehensive study concerning the state of the art of the European public sector.