The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of the importance of service excellence in higher education. The research upon which this paper is based employed a phenomenological approach. This method was selected for its focus on respondent perceptions and experiences. Both structured and semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect relevant data on service excellence. The focus of the research study was on achieving and implementing service excellence in higher education. Findings are analysed and results are grounded in relevant theories and the principle of service excellence. Preliminary results suggest that implementing service excellence establishes a direct link between a workforce and successful competitive strategies. In order to compete efficiently and effectively in their niche market, higher education institutions need to implement service excellence to ensure both internal and external customer satisfaction. A strong institutional culture that values internal customers can help achieve a motivated workforce, loyalty, high performance, innovation and a distinctive institutional competitive advantage. The qualitative data collected for this study reflect respondent perceptions and opinions. Individuals perceive and experience things differently. Although the service excellence approach is applicable to service organisations, its transferability to other sectors might affect its validity. The paper investigates how service excellence is achieved in industry and how it could be applied to promote competitive advantage in higher education.