Purpose - There are two objectives of this paper: first, to examine the application of lean production improvement techniques to the pure-service context; and, second, to evaluate the contribution of lean production techniques to services marketing improvement. Design/methodology/approach - Three case companies from the UK financial services sector are tracked through the process of lean improvement. Analysis of management change of a common process within each company forms the basis of the investigation. Findings - Research findings highlight that, through the adoption of lean service tools, service call centres can serve the traditionally competing priorities both of operational cost reduction and of increased customer service quality. The lean approach is validated in the service context and proposed as a valuable addition to traditional service marketing approaches to services improvement. Practical implications - The techniques described are easily replicable by academics, practitioners and managers and can be applied to a wide range of service centres or service businesses. In the contemporary marketplace, the difficulty of delivering quality service at any costs suggests that there is a great opportunity for the business that can deliver better service at a reduced cost of operation. Originality/value - Lean transformation in the manufacturing sector is well established. However, the use of lean improvement tools to improve the quality of service delivery within the service sector is relatively new, with limited understanding of approaches and benefits in the academic or managerial arenas. In addition, coverage of lean tools is still rare in the marketing literature.