Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Process, Energy & Transport Engineering

First Advisor

Professor Margaret Linehan

Second Advisor

Professor Irene Sheridan


This study investigates service quality within franchised motor dealerships from the perspective of thirty-eight persons working in the roles of Dealer Principal, After-Sales Manager or Service Manager in dealerships operating under the Volkswagen group of brands in Ireland (VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda). With approximately 2.3 million cars on Irish roads, more than two thirds of the Irish adult population encounter car service experiences on a regular basis. Regardless of brand or dealership type, the quality of vehicle service experience is paramount for customer retention. Despite this, however, service quality within Irish motor dealerships remains an under-explored area. Qualitative analysis in this study enabled new insights pertaining to the delivery of high quality services within franchised dealerships to be uncovered. A new conceptual model is proposed, which provides a structure through which excellent service quality can be achieved on a consistent basis.

While the achievement of customer satisfaction through the delivery of high quality services is a priority within franchised dealerships, many issues impede efforts to achieve this objective. One element is the inadequacy of the existing 'one size fits all' approach to quality monitoring, which is used by the manufacturer throughout Europe. In particular, the structure of customer satisfaction surveys is a significant problem. Extensive coaching of customers is prevalent by front-line service staff within dealerships to stimulate specific customer responses to survey questions. In many cases, there is selective filtering of customers included for surveying in order to maximise positive responses. Financial implications imposed by the manufacturer, which are based on survey performance ratings, further exasperate the situation.

A related finding exposes substantial inconsistencies and contrasting attitudes regarding the management of customer complaints within dealerships. Haphazard approaches to monitoring customer defection rates are also evident. The study presents findings, which demonstrate an over-reliance on reactive service quality checks, which are manufacturer driven. The study highlights the need for dealerships to establish more accurately, what Irish customers perceive as high quality service. The stipulations imposed by the manufacturer do not account for regional or local considerations influencing customer requirements. This limits the potential of dealerships to tailor aspects of services in a manner which may be more suited to the needs of their customers.

Overall, the study shows that After-Sales operations, and service quality in particular, is increasingly recognised as vital for dealership profits and customer retention. This increased emphasis by senior management is fundamental for successful service quality improvements.

Access Level