Investigating service quality perceptions in tertiary institutions : the case of University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The study aimed to gain insight into staff and student perceptions of service quality at tertiary institutions. As noted in the literature review, service marketing has evolved over time, as more research has been conducted on quality and how it impacts on the customer. Since tertiary education forms part of service marketing, this study aims to identify the quality variables attached to this service sector and illustrate how each quality variable affects the students and staff within the university environment. The literature review highlighted that universities should not merely subscribe to service quality for its own sake, as high levels of service quality within tertiary institutions yield long-term benefits. These include competitive advantage, reducing customer recruitment costs, promoting positive word of mouth and reputation and building loyal internal customers, which all result in a higher Return on Investment (RoI) in the long term. The foundation of this study is based on the theories relating to the SERVQUAL and Gaps model of service quality developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985). The study adapted the variables pertaining to the tertiary education sector to the SERVQUAL instrument. The researcher opted to use a five point LIKERT scale for the questionnaire, which consisted of closed-ended questions. The questionnaire used in the study was adapted to the quality dimensions peculiar to the tertiary education environment and to the SERVQUAL instrument. Convenience sampling technique was employed. The researcher identified the population as all students and staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, consisting of approximately 40 000 students and 4 170 staff. The samples included 380 students and 354 academic and non-academic staff from the Westville, Howard College, Edgewood, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine and Pietermaritzburg campuses. These figures were arrived at using Krejcie and Morgan's (1970) tables on sample size for a given population. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 13 for Windows programme was used for the analysis and presentation of the data. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse data. Data will be presented in tables, charts and graphs to illustrate the results of the survey. The findings of this study record the perceptions and expectations of staff and students respectively. Further, the relevant quality “Gaps for Tangibles, Responsiveness, Reliability Empathy and Assurance” are identified for staff and students. Thereafter relevant recommendations are put forward to address these gaps. The findings of the empirical study illustrate that both staff and students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal were very dissatisfied with the quality of services provided. These findings can be used by University management to improve their marketing strategies for each service offering made to students and staff within the University. It is recommended that in order for the University to be recognized as an institution of higher learning with a high quality of excellence it needs to have an organizational culture that embraces high levels of service quality.