Integrated customer experience management at the North–West University
Le Roux, Abraham Albertus
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Higher education institutions (HEIs) are facing greater challenges in the modern era as a result of globalization, advancement in new technologies and the worldwide recession. As a result of these factors, as well as a decrease in government subsidies, marketing departments at HEIs find it more difficult to recruit and retain quality students. It is therefore necessary to establish what factors can contribute towards creating more satisfied and loyal students using the principles of relationship marketing, with the aim (in theory) to produce more customer advocates that will further their own studies, and actively promote their HEI to other prospective students. This study aimed to determine the customer experience levels of undergraduate students of the North-West University (NWU) in an administrative environment by using a quantitative approach. A questionnaire was distributed to students from ten different modes of delivery and campuses by using primarily a systematic random sampling technique, and self selective sampling to a lesser degree in the ten different learning models and campuses of the NWU. The total population of related administrative staff also received questionnaires, while qualitative, structured interviews were conducted with the registrars of the NWU. The data was analysed and interpreted by using the SPSS software, and frequency tables, reliability tests, factor analysis, correlations and the determination of the statistical analysis in an effort to answer the five research questions. A total of 1,299 students (4,2% of the population), 107 administrative staff members (73,2% of the population) and all four registrars participated in the study. There were significant differences found in the customer experience levels on the different campuses and modes of delivery especially in the direct interactions at service points. A strong positive correlation was reported between a positive customer experience as encountered by students, and their loyalty, as well as their intentions to continue their studies at the NWU, and their intention to actively endorse or promote the NWU to friends and family members (customer advocacy). There was also a strong positive correlation between staff members‘ intention to deliver satisfactory customer experience levels and also between it, their own loyalty and own customer advocacy levels. There was, however, no significant difference in the perceived customer experience levels between younger, on-campus students and older, off-campus students. Lastly, the NWU-PERF service quality tool was found to be a reliable and valid instrument to determine participants‘ perceptions about customer service levels at the NWU in the academic administration environment. Four of the five research questions could therefore be answered from the finding of this study, with only the expected differences in the perceived customer experience levels between younger, on-campus students and older, off-campus students proved as incorrect. It could therefore be concluded that all student populations therefore have the same customer experience desires. Several recommendations were made, including the further development, testing and usage of the NWU-PERF instrument to consistently improve service levels at the NWU, the establishing of policy documents to establish an awareness of a customer-centric approach, the development and use of appropriate technologies, the improvement of service experiences, a central customer service centre, adequate administrative staff, centralized support for off-campus programmes, and a broader, more active alumni association.
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