Purpose - The purpose of the paper is to explore the impact of total quality management (TQM) factors on performance dimensions of service companies. Design/methodology/approach - A research project was designed in the Spanish services sector. Companies that had already participated in activities with regard to business excellence were randomly selected and approached through a structured questionnaire, yielding a sample of 151 responding companies. By analyzing TQM implementation and company performance through the exploratory factor analysis, specific TQM factors and performance dimensions are extracted. The TQM factors that significantly influence the performance dimensions are determined through multiple linear regression analyses. Findings - According to the findings, the factors describing TQM implementation in service companies concern quality practices of top management, employee quality management, process management, employee knowledge and education and customer focus. Similarly, the performance dimensions revealed concern financial performance, operational performance, customer satisfaction and product/service quality performance. The TQM factors concerning customers, employees and top management significantly affect the performance dimensions. Research limitations/implications - The subjective data were collected from quality managers of a small-sized sample of companies operating in a European Union country and belonging to different services sub-sectors. Based on these limitations, future research studies are recommended. Practical implications - By focussing on specific TQM factors, a service company can improve its performance dimensions. In doing so, it can lay the foundations not only to survive but to be competitive in the current global scenario that is characterized by an economic downturn. Originality/value - This paper describes a reliable TQM model that can be implemented in the services sector and a means by which a service company can improve its performance.