Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

How the Customer Feedback Process Contributes to Perceived Customer Orientation and Affective Commitment in the Higher Educational Service Context

Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

How the Customer Feedback Process Contributes to Perceived Customer Orientation and Affective Commitment in the Higher Educational Service Context

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Similar to many service industries, higher education is facing increasing competition, new technology, poor retention rates, the need to diversify income streams, internationalization issues, and more demanding customers (Douglas et al. 2008; Shahaida et al. 2009; Furey et al. 2014). In attempting to respond to these imperatives colleges and universities are becoming more strategic in their approach to marketing as a means of increasing distinctiveness leading to long-term competitive advantage (Furey et al. 2014; Williams and Omar 2014). However, a lack of understanding associated with limited theory and research in this context makes efficacious marketing responses difficult to implement (HelmsleyBrown and Oplatka 2010; Furey et al. 2014; Bock et al. 2014; Williams and Omar 2014). Another contributing factor in the difficulty to revitalize marketing strategy in the current dynamic environment is the nature of higher education itself which consists of unique service characteristics. Higher education is: people-focused; largely intangible; dependent on customization; a prolonged relationship; and delivered in multiple ways at multiple sites (Chalcraft et al. 2015; Williams and Omar 2014). Importantly, students are both consumers and products of the educational service (Conway and York 1991).

Based on the intensity and continuity of interaction, higher education is a special service where the focus is on the customer (student) experience with the institution (Khanna et al. 2014; Fuery et al. 2014). In such an experiential service, customers (students) along with various service providers do much of the work to coproduce the outcome (their education) (Khanna et al. 2014; Fleischman et al. 2015). As highlighted in the higher educational marketing literature, colleges and universities must engage students in this process through experiences created via reciprocal communication and interaction (Fleischman et al. 2015). These relational touchpoints influence important service outcomes such as student perceptions of a university's performance, satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy (Khanna et al. 2014).

This line of thinking has spawned calls for explorations of how customer ori entated, collab orative/co-creati on approaches can revitalize higher education marketing strategies (Khanna et al. 2014; Fleischman et al. 2015; Ng and Forbes 2009). The call to explore consumers' role in service value co-creation has also been echoed beyond the educational literature as a way to more broadly reinvigorate future research related to consumer satisfaction (Dahl and Peltier 2015). As highlighted above, the concept of student engagement is foundational to understand and implement customer orientated, co-creation in higher education. While there are good examples of research supporting the efficacy of enhanced student academic engagement (e.g., Crouch and Mazur 2001), customer engagement in the educational service implies that student engagement is broader than the academic domain and encompasses engagement in the total educational experience. Theoretical development and empirical exploration of this broader conception of higher education customer engagement are sparse or limited in part owing to the complexity of the educational service. For example, in this context, engagement relates to more than just classroom and academic-related experiences as there are a number of touchpoints (i.e., recreational, dining, health care-related) involved in the educational service. In addition, attempts to integrate more dynamic student feedback processes in strategic marketing are often limited to classroom feedback or more static student satisfaction surveys. As noted by Chalcraft et al. (2015), in order to create genuine value in service delivery, there is a need for more highly developed understanding of students by educational institutions to "...become more aware of the way in which the services they offer must reflect and anticipate the fast changing demands of the students. …

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