A SERVQUAL investigation into customer expectations and perceptions of service quality at DTA College Pietermaritzburg during 2010
The marketisation of higher and further education institutions whereby education institutions adopt commercial practices to operate has led to increased competition in the education industry. Various sources of competitive advantage are being searched for aggressively by education institutions in the hope of securing customers and remaining competitive. Service quality has become one of the biggest sources of competitive advantage for higher and further education institutions as it enables the institutions to differentiate themselves from the competition. Development and Training for Adults (DTA) College in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa also faces similar challenges of the need to be competitive in an increasingly competitive environment. The study investigated the customers‟ perceptions and expectations of service quality at DTA College in Pietermaritzburg in order to identify and assess any existing service quality gaps. The SERVQUAL instrument which consists of 22 statements on perceptions and 22 on expectations of service quality was utilised to collect data for the research study at DTA College. A sample size of 58 was used and it was selected through stratified random sampling to maximise representativeness of the sample. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyse the data. Statistical tools that include frequencies, meanscores and tabulations were utilised to present the data from findings. The Wilcoxon signed ranks test was also utilised to further analyse the significance of the gaps. The findings from the study indicated that, a negative service quality gap exists at DTA College. Reliability was the service quality dimension that had the widest gap which indicated that the respondents do not rely on the College as it does not deliver as per promise. Assurance was the service quality dimension which had the narrowest gaps. However, 3 of the 4 assurance gaps were significant according to statistical tests conducted which mean that DTA College has to pay attention to all the service quality dimensions regardless of the gaps being small. Frequent interaction between the college and the customers is recommended for DTA College as it provides the college with important information on customer expectations and perceptions. Continuous employee training to improve the existing skills is also recommended for the college‟s employees as it can have a good impact on meeting the customers‟ expectations of the service quality dimensions.