A service focus in higher education and the CQL-model.

Author:Gudlaugsson, Thorhallur
Position:Consolidated quality lifecycle - Report

    The main purpose of this paper is to introduce a research model that shows the connection between a service culture, service quality and loyalty. The model is, in part, based on models developed by, on the one hand, Voon (2006) and the other Helgesen and Nesset (2007). In addition it incorporates variables, other than service quality, that are known to have an effect on satisfaction

    The paper starts with a discussion on the importance of a marketing and service focus. It is pointed out that the market orientation concept seems to be often misunderstood and connected to the for-profit sector. It is also pointed out that the market orientation concept has been of limited concern in the public sector among other things because of this misunderstanding. Two other known reasons, are that on the one hand that the market concept has not been adapted to fit the special situations of the public sector and on the other that politics can hinder a successful implementation. There is an in-depth discussion about marketing and service focus in higher education and how it has evolved.

    Finally the research model is introduced. Its main purpose is to show the relationship between a service culture, service quality and loyalty. It is assumed that loyalty is the end goal and that other variables affect it directly and indirectly. Eleven hypothesis connected to the model are put forward. A research project that has as its aim to find support for the hypothesis has been started.


    In the public sector the marketing concept has been of limited concern and sometimes misunderstood (Caruana, Ramaseshan and Ewing, 1997). The marketing concept has primarily been related to the private sector and for-profit enterprises. Many have criticized that changes in the public sector have not been focused enough and overly motivated by cost-cutting and streamlining instead of focusing on the needs of those whom the operation is designed to serve (Ferlie, Ashburner, Fitzgerald and Pettigrew, 1996). And even though directors of public enterprises may be willing to implement the marketing concept, frequently those efforts have been a failure (Laing and McKee, 2001). The implementation of the marketing concept can fail for a variety of reasons. In particular, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the concept of marketing in the public sector (Price and Brodie, 2001; Laing, 2003; Gronroos, 2006). This misunderstanding is rooted in defining marketing as primarily a function instead of viewing marketing as a philosophical foundation which the operation is based on (cf. Shostack, 1977; Gronroos, 1978; Donnelly and George, 1981; Hunt, 1976).

    A second reason has to do with the uniqueness of public service compared to typical for-profit operations. Although the operation in question has all of the characteristics of typical service (intangibility, heterogeneity, simultaneous production and consumption, perishability) (Kotler and Andreassen, 1991; Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996), there is a fundamental difference that sets public operations apart from other operations. Public operations thus may be driven by political motivations, a community rather than consumer focus, and the target group approach may not be as evident as in for-profit operations (Laing, 2003). Referring to goals as political is based on a wider definition of the concept of profit; or: providing the best service possible at the lowest cost possible. This also emphasizes a critique of the tendency to assess the performance of public enterprises in the same way as for-profit enterprises and thus overlook the social needs and community benefits that public enterprises serve (Ferlie et al., 1996; Price and Brodie, 2001).

    The third reason is political behavior, defined by Kohli and Jaworski (1990, p. 12) as "behavior that consists of individuals' attempts to promote self-interests and threaten others' interests". Because the board members of public enterprises frequently are appointed by majority and minority political parties, political agendas often take precedence over the interests of the organization and the recipients of its services. The behavior of political board members thus is often in direct conflict with the basic premise of the marketing concept; to define people's needs and attempt to fulfill them effectively and/or efficiently.

    The idea that non-profit organizations can utilize marketing is not new. In 1951 Converse foresaw the rise of marketing theory. Grether (1976) identified the development of marketing into an ideological basis for organizations. Converse was a leader in the field in the first half of the twentieth century (cf. Converse, 1938, 1942, 1945a, 1945b, 1958) and clearly points out that at that time the field of marketing was mainly concerned with sales, but neither service nor non-profit enterprises. However, just like Converse, more scholars are starting to explore the potential of marketing theory (Bartels, 1951; Hutchinson, 1952; Baumol, 1957; Taylor 1965). Around 1960 Drucker presented what may be called the foundation for modern marketing theory. Although Drucker is better known for his contribution to management theory, he discusses the role of marketing in strategy implementation (1958). Drucker maintains that from the viewpoint of the customer, the organization's operation essentially is marketing. Thus it's imperative to understand and define the customer's needs. Furthermore, Drucker points out that marketing is more than just sales and promotion, in fact, it is one of the only two facets of the operation that generate income, the other one being innovation. In his seminal work, Marketing Myopia, Levitt (1960) lays the groundwork for modern marketing theory. He demonstrates the importance of defining competition based on needs--the competitor is the one who satisfies the same or similar needs. Kotler has written extensively on marketing (Kotler and Levy, 1969; Kotler, 1979; Kotler, 1992; Kotler, 2004; Kotler, 1998; Kotler and Lee, 2007) and most importantly for this work, expands the scope of marketing beyond for profit organizations and tangible goods.

    He also identifies four different types of stakeholders; suppliers, customers, direct stakeholders or those members of the public, who directly benefit, and finally indirect stakeholders or members of the public who have some interest in the operation. He emphasizes that not-for-profit enterprises must adapt the methods of marketing to their special needs. Levy and Kotler (1969) introduced the concept of furthering as a next step in the development of the marketing concept. The development of this new concept is necessitated by, first, increased importance of intangible goods, second, globalization, third, increased importance of the public sector, fourth, increased competition, fifth, developments in communications, and sixth, increasing criticism of the operations of firms, communities, schools and other organizations. Hunt (1976) presents an interesting model of the scope of marketing, incorporating a normative and a positive approach, both the profit and the not-for-profit sectors, and micro and macro...

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