Student perceptions of customer experience in a higher education environment
Van Rensburg, Renier J.
Le Roux, Albertus
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Orientation: Higher education institutions (HEIs) are facing many challenges such as intense competition and a decrease in government subsidies. Creating more satisfied undergraduate students with a high level of loyalty can increase retention of students. Research purpose: The main aim of the study was to measure students’ level of loyalty, advocacy intentions and perceptions of customer experience during service encounters with administrative staff of the North-West University. Motivation for the study: Positive experiences by students on-campus can increase their satisfaction levels which will lead to an increased propensity for further studies, develop a sense of loyalty and increase advocacy intentions to promote the university to others. Research approach, design and method: This quantitative research followed a descriptive research design. Self-administered questionnaires were handed out to 1295 students on the 3 campuses of the university. Main findings: Students on the Potchefstroom campus show much higher loyalty and advocacy intentions than their counterparts on the Vaal and Mafikeng campuses. Overall the findings indicate that the students have very positive perceptions of the professional appearance of staff members, and also think that their personal information is handled in a secure manner. Male and female students did not differ in their levels of customer experience. European language-speaking students reported a higher level of customer experience compared to their African language-speaking counterparts. The customer experience levels of students in the Potchefstroom Faculty of Health Sciences are higher than students in the Vaal Faculty of Humanities. Practical/managerial implications: It could be beneficial for the management of tertiary institutions to gain insight into the sources or factors that constitute positive experiences for students, for example convenient opening hours and ease of contacting staff by telephone. The training of newly appointed and existing staff could also be enhanced when they are sensitised regarding students’ perceptions of positive customer experiences. Contribution/value-add: The adoption of strategies by HEIs to attract and retain students and render excellent services will result in loyal ambassadors who will demonstrate high advocacy intentions.