The cues that matter: Screening for quality signals in the ex ante phase of buying professional services
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionPemer F, Skjølsvik T. The cues that matter: Screening for quality signals in the ex ante phase of buying professional services. Journal of Business Research. 2019;98:352-365 https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.02.005
Service quality has become a central driver of competitive advantage and value creation. However, due to information asymmetries, many clients find it difficult to assess the service providers' quality ex ante. Nonetheless, this assessment is important to understand, as it affects service provider selection and, thereby, the service delivery. In this paper, we aim to reduce the opacity of service quality by interviewing 51 clients of professional services. Building on an in-depth analysis and a framework of signaling and screening theory, we develop a taxonomy of the dimensions on which professional service quality builds and of the signals clients use to assess quality in the ex ante phase. We also identify two types of signals, qualifying signals and signals of excellence, and develop a conceptual model of the screening process. We conclude the paper by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of our results.