Background Concepts such as support, quality of life and quality of services are customary in services for people with intellectual disabilities. The identification of the different ways of conceiving, prioritising and implementing these concepts by service providers can help to drive changes to achieve better personal outcomes for this population. The current study aims to identify service providers' perceptions regarding the quality of life of their clients and the quality of services they provide. It also aims to identify similarities and differences of appraisals among professionals, and to identify associations between supports, quality of life and quality of services. Method Data were collected from 22 service providers who attended three focus groups (professionals, direct support staff, and managers) from whom 424 comments were analysed. Service providers were asked about the required support for users, the meaning of quality of life for those users, and about features that should characterise quality services. Thematic analysis was employed and transcripts of the sessions were coded according to the dimensions of models on supports, quality of life and quality of services. Chi-squared tests were utilised to test for potential differences among groups. Results Each professional group has its own priorities concerning required supports. Among the organisation different and potentially conflicting perceptions regarding the meaning of experiencing quality of life coexist. Concerning quality of services, only managers mentioned personal outcomes. Finally, institutionalisation has a negative impact on supports, quality of life and quality of services. Conclusions It is necessary to move beyond a shared awareness of the negative impact of institutionalisation towards the transformation of services in search of personal quality outcomes.