Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty within Part-Time Students

By Erjavec, Hana Suster | Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research, May 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty within Part-Time Students


Erjavec, Hana Suster, Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research


INTRODUCTION

"Competition in the higher-education sector is becoming increasingly fierce (Chen, 2011, p. 86)". Profound changes in this sector are seen in the USA and other European countries. "In the future, it is expected that this scenario of competition will become even more intense deriving from the implementation of the Bologna convention and the resulting harmonization of academic degrees across the European Unioin" (Alves & Raposo, 2010). The increasing competition in higher education in recognized also in Slovenia, former Republic of Yugoslavia, and today member of the European Union. There are many providers of educational programs especially in higher education. In addition to public institutions there are many privately owned institutions. All these institutions are struggling for the same students whose proportion is even going down due to demographic trends. At the same time establishment of new education institutions is growing; in recent years many new study programs are being created and many existing institutions establish their own programs at higher levels (e.g. Masters, PhD).

Several empirical studies in the field of measuring customer satisfaction indicate that the measurement of customer satisfaction is not sufficient if it is not attached to customer loyalty or any other variables, which in the service profit chain influence business results. Gee, Coates and Nicholson (2008) note that customer loyalty is important condition to create a strong and reliable base of customers. It seems academics and managers are starting to understand the central role that customer loyalty plays in achieving company's success in business. Even though exploring the link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty started in 80s with Oliver (1980) and continued with other researchers like LaBarbera and Mazursky (1983) and frequently cited Fornell (1992), there is still a huge gap in literature about customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in higher education industry (Brown & Mazzarol, 2009, p. 81-82). The aim of this study is therefore to research whether customer satisfaction affects customer loyalty in the specific field of higher education.

Our objective is to offer a useful measurement instrument to measure customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in higher education institutions. Therefore the measurement instrument for the empirical study was developed in three phases (Pisnik Korda, Snoj & Zabkar, 2012): (1) some relevant items for the questionnaire were taken from the literature, (2) in-depth interviews with 10 graduates of undergraduate and graduate studies were conducted to check the applicability of the items in the higher education industry context and (3) a pilot study was conducted to test the internal consistency of the scales used.

A detailed literature review was made according to which we set reliable measurable variables that would enable us to measure the concepts of Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty in the specific context of higher education industry.

Our empirical study aims to answer the research question: "Does customer satisfaction affect customer loyalty of part-time students in the specific field of higher education". The answer to the question would fill the existing gap in marketing literature. While researching determinants of service quality has received much attention in the field of higher education (for ex. Kwek, Lau & Tan, 2010) the lack of researches of customer satisfaction - customer loyalty link remains.

Several studies have confirmed the positive link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in different industries, also service ones, but studies that would explore the problem in the specific field of higher education service industry are rare. Besides, the strength of connection between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in different service industries varies tremendously. This fact is not to be neglected as the strength of the link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty is important relationship indicator. …

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