Customer Relationship Management defined
Customer Relationship Management has been defined in different ways in the literature perhaps based on the definers academic and professional backgrounds. Woodcock defined Customer Relationship Management as a set of methodologies, technologies and e-commerce capabilities used by companies to manage customer relationship.
CRM is the act of acquisition, analysis and use of knowledge about customers to sell more goods and services effectively and efficiently by providing profitable service for both the firm and its customers (Bose).
CRM is a comprehensive marketing strategy of acquiring, retaining and partnering with selected customers to create superior value for the company and customers (Parvitiyar & Sheth).
According to Swift CRM is an organisations approach to understanding and influencing customer behaviour through meaningful communication to improve customer retention, profitability, loyalty, satisfaction and customer acquisition. However, it can be deduced that these schools of CRM researchers believed in using CRM strategies in understanding customers expectations so as to serve them satisfactorily.
Croteau & Li described CRM as a customer oriented strategy targeted at creating and increasing customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and customer retention by offering specific, responsive and unique services to individual customer.
Understanding Customer Expectations defined
One of the primary goal of a company is to understand its customers needs and wants in order to provide targeted service, targeted satisfaction and targeted profit. Knowing what customers expect is the first and the most crucial aspects of quality service delivery. Understanding customer expectations is a set of tactics and methods adopted by an organisation to generate more knowledge on what the customer expects, based on their needs and wants with the aim of providing best service in order to win their loyalty. Understanding customer expectations stresses the identification of core customer desires and availing those customers products and services that will deliver expected satisfaction at a profit.
Service Personalisation defined
Service personalisation can be defined as a market differentiation strategy targeted at meeting customers demands based on their individual needs and wants for the purpose of keeping them satisfied at a profit. Also, service personalisation enables a business to match the right product or service to the right customer for the right price, at the right time, with a view of giving each customer a unique consumption experience. Further, in the view of Kambil & Nunes they described service personalisation as an approach used by organisation in generating intelligent details of customers and analysing their characteristics in order to make recommendations for effective planning and effective service provision. Whilst Berg noted that personalisation is a strategy designed and tailored towards addressing customer needs across all customer-interfacing departments such as sales, marketing, and customer service, etc. Another aspect of service personalisation has to do with the distribution of customised mails or by customising the business and customers relationship.
Service Quality: Customer Satisfaction and Customer Advocacy Behaviour defined
Service quality is perceived as mediator between the producer and its customers. It has received wide attention in literature in the past decades; recently scholars are of the opinion that Service quality should be defined from the consumers perspectives rather than the firm’s perspective. Service quality is a measure of service delivery against customers expectations. Customer satisfaction is very illusive to define and measure due to its subjective nature of experiences and its relativity. This is because if a sample from a pull of one thousand consumers on their perception of satisfaction may surprisingly generate one thousand divergent perceptions. Therefore, customer satisfaction can be defined as the customers intrinsic and extrinsic feeling of fulfilment derived from a provided product or services. Customer satisfaction is described as the value the consumer enjoyed from consuming a product by specifically meeting his need and want. Customer advocate is a customer or group of customers who devote their time to preach to others about their favourite products and services with the aim of attracting prospects to patronise such product or services. Further, Wali & Uduma described customer advocacy as an act carried out by an individual customer or group of customers to preach the value embedded and derived from in a products based on their positive consumption experiences with the aim of wining new customers to its supplier.
Understanding Customer Expectations & Customer Satisfaction
Understanding customer expectations is the first step in delivering quality services. This is because services provided to the right customer and at the right time will tend to produce satisfaction. Whilst right services offered to the wrong customer will create dissatisfaction.
Understanding Customer Expectations & Customer Advocacy Behaviour
When customers expectations are identified by service providers it means that the firm stands a better chance of serving its customers uniquely and satisfactorily and this portends some positive influence on its customers advocacy intention.
Service Personalisation, Customer Satisfaction and Customer Advocacy Behaviour
Every consumer enjoys to be served uniquely; thus service personalisation is an initiative adopted by firms to provide individualised or customised services to their customers which is aimed at inducing the feeling of respect and customer value. Further, it has the ability to create and deliver the desired level of intrinsic satisfaction in customers, as well as inducing the feeling of loyalty behaviours on consumers.
Real world example: University in the North of Britain
A qualitative interviewing was used for this article and is an important research method for understanding individual participants values, attitudes, believes and experiences and opinions about certain phenomenon. The University in the North of Britain units of analysis were five key officers purposively selected from the international recruitment and marketing office, as well as seven international students from the case University for the purposes of the focus group discussions. The rationale was that these employees were the once directly responsible for international students issues and the selected students were mostly heads of international students societies. Further these participants were selected because they posses the relevant experiences for the questions to be answered by the study.
University in the North of Britain: Data Collection and Analysis
Two focus groups were conducted, the first group interview was with students this was because we needed to gain the insight into their experiences since they were at the receiving end of this service and information gotten from the first group was used to interface with the second focus group with staff. The method of data collection was semi-structure interview, which consisted of a list of questions to enable the interviewer probe deeply into customers and staff experiences regarding the phenomenon under investigation. The study analysed the interview data using Thematic Template Analysis Technique aided with Nvivo 10 in analysing interviewees attributes.
Definition of themes and interviewees quotes
1 CUSTOMERS EXPERIENCE FEEDBACK
The views of staff and students on their experiences as customers and employees which has aided in the improvements of the quality of academic and social infrastructure.
1.1 External Research links
Staff: We use the national international students barometer the university subscribed to the survey is done every year just as international students initiates an application and is repeated around April before they leave the University. These is a criteria covering academic, administration and quality of campus experience whilst they are here, from lecturers and lecture facilities aimed at getting feedbacks that will enable us to get a view on what is considered as our customer service.
Staff: In as much as the University gets feedbacks from the national students barometer exercise, which takes the business process and putting up a standard competence. For example like through surveys.
Staff: Up to sixty Universities around the world are subscribed to this, so when you get your answers back, we extract the top ten priorities of our international students and make sure that this is reported in all our marketing data, and use them to match against other Universities.
1.2 Internal Research Framework
Staff: Based on the answers the students give us against based the hundreds of questions they answered which has to do with their experiences around the University. This is done two times a year in September and April, during the entering wave certain questions like how easy was your enrolment? How good was the joining instruction to get here for you? While at during [Easter] season in April, some second set of questions will be asked because such customers would have spent time within the University, like how can you rate your academic experience so far? How did you find the University facilities?
Staff: For example our students can say accommodation is of high priority, whereas in the world accommodation can be seen as top 20. Now we ask ourselves is it that we do not provide good and affordable accommodation as well as good information to our international students? Or is there something different about the country? Based on the data we generate we are able to improve our services to our international students and other students at large.
Staff: Just to let you know that it was through the feedbacks we got from internal students survey we carried that we knew that our students building and sports complex had outlived its best, and so we decided to build a new structure to meet the needs of the students in this regards.
1.3 Students Forum
Staff: Also there are times meeting of course representatives and lecturers are held, international students societies give us feedbacks too. All these are aimed at solving problems at the local level before it gets to the national level.
Student: Yes, we talk about issues that pertain to general students welfare and not specifically international students issues. The meetings were arranged by the Students Union and not the University. Perhaps it was the University that commissioned the SU to call for those meetings.
Student: The students opinions on their experiences. I think from time to time the university not just this university alone should have a forum where students will come and air their views and suggest where they should improve on. I think the university is not doing much to understand our needs as international students.
1.4 Friendly Academic Environment
Students: For instance, like in my course any module we do the lecturers don’t only focus on Examples from the UK environment only, rather they relate it to other countries, I think they do this knowing that they have students from different parts of the world.
Student: I think academically some of our lecturers actually understand while some are worst. The good ones actually are ready to help and encourage and support us grow.
Student: In terms of academic needs they are doing very well, I say this because I have engaged my lecturers at different times and aftermaths they try to personally find out what I need from my course of pursuit and if I am really enjoying the program?
Student: “Also, they are doing relatively well in personal academic services”.
2 ACADEMIC REFERRALS
These are the views of employees regarding the nature of service referrals the institution enjoys from current and past customers.
2.1 Family and Friends Referrals
Staff: “Like we have situations where a father studied here and after graduation he returned to his home country and sends his other children to our University”.
Staff: “Another example is that 3 staffs in one of the organisation abroad just sent four of their children to this University this year for study”.
Student: “In fact I heard about this University from my cousins who graduated from this University thats why I came here”.
Student: Yes, I will still talk about this University to my colleagues, families and friends back home in as much as the University has their weaknesses. Their strengths are higher and stronger than their weaknesses. I will always talk about this University positively to outsiders.
Student: Yes, I will talk good about the University to people always. In fact at the moment I have already spoken to friends and family in Nigeria about this University. Some are already processing their admission and papers for September 2014 and some are preparing for 2015.
2.2 Institutional Referrals
Staff: “But this referral work more in the small countries like Bahrain (Middle East) where we work with oil companies send us 5 to 8 students and staff every year, because some of their staff had studied here”.
3. SERVICE CUSTOMISATION
Experiences of customers on the nature of personalised services offered which has enhanced their satisfaction and quality of services received.
3.1 Customised Service
Staff: If you have not accepted your offer from the University and it is observed that you have not complied after one month, the system writes you as say “Dear John” we have made an offer to you but you have not accepted the offer, whats the problem?
Student: Well I think when I have paper need, like letter or reference from my University they are ready to give me. The last time I requested for such letter to enable me travel I got it and even got more than I expected as well as other important information that will help me. Well I receive emails bearing my name on it with information.
3.2 Timely Information
Staff: “We relate with our customers (students) everyday through emails, targeted emails and brochures”.
Student: Now as an international student there is some very important information which the University passes across to us which is very good through emails, I mean personal names on the emails and everything.
Student: I know they give us information on courses or rather workshop and seminars that are geared towards the development & growth of its international students.
Student: “Well I receive emails bearing my name on it with information”.
Student: “Secondly, the University does send emails which bear my personal names on it for workshops & seminars”.
4. ECONOMIC IDENTITY
Experiences of customers on their economic wellbeing and how it impacts on productivity.
Student: “Whereas there are no jobs provided at least to support the students recoup”.
Student: “Yes, there so called job targeted emails is just to fulfill all [righteousness]. Because, there is no commitment on the part of the University to fill these gaps”.
Student: “Friends and cousin that are already processing their admission to come to this University by September 2014. But I will tell them to be financially prepared and not to feel that there is any job to be provided by the University”.
Student: “The University to partner with local employers and the community where this University is, to provide jobs even if they were menial job for its international students”.
Student: “Also, provide menial jobs for international students so that we can survive”.
4.2 Living Cost
Student: “Again in terms of accommodation, the cost is very high for international students”.
Student: “If the Universities can consider the reduction of accommodation fees for its international students it will be really fine”.
Student: “No, I cannot afford the University property that is why I am living outside the University Hostel, it is very expensive”.
Student: Also, the University should reduce it accommodation fees as well as partner with independent landlord (house owners) to reduce rents for its students. Another, way the University can handle the accommodation issues would be to reduce its accommodation fee in order to accommodate enough international students. In that case the market for private property owners will fall drastically, just to help its students.
Student: The University can build different category of students hostels like rating them average, middle and high maybe differing in facility. International students and other students who wish to live in it will evaluate their pocket and see which one they can afford it will be fantastic rather than living outside. For example I live in a very expensive house and up the hill or better put on the mountain. Sometimes I wake up in the morning feeling so tied, and its so cold I begin to think how to journey 45mins to class. But if I was living in the University property I will only walk a short distance to class.
5. CUSTOMER RELATIONS
This theme emphasises on the social and cultural experiences of the customers.
5.1 Social and Cultural Activities
Student: Yeah, I think that the intl students festival is actually cool, for me. Because this last one they organised in 2014. I came to understand that I am not alone and I love the fact that I am able to meet people from other country of the world, their culture and everything so nice. The fact that the University gives its intl students the chance to display what they have, who they are its very good.
Student: “Now I am a member of the University gym, they have modern equipments but the quantity are not enough at all, there are exercise that everybody really want to partake in, but you need to take turns, the equipments are modern but not enough”.
Student: “However when it comes to other social activities far and wide I think the University is doing a good job; the University stand to appreciate every countries culture by recognising every countries independence day, so long as such country have one student represented here”.
Student: “They unite the world I will always rate them high for that”.
Student: “The reputation of my University in the world, like sometimes I tell people about my University and they shout oh yeah that cultural friendly University”.
6. ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE REWARD
Experiences of the customers how the academic performance incentive provided by the institution has influenced their academic inputs as students.
6.1 Scholarship Award
Student: “There are some strategies the University adopt like scholarship award which favors some schools and not all, school here I mean like Business School, Engineering school etc.”
Student: “Now I know that there is this policy here, that if you make distinction you will get a PhD scholarship, but it does not favor my own school. This has reduced my interest in pursuing certain grades in my modules”.
Student: “The Vice Chancellors scholarship award to students who graduate with First class or distinction has really made me to work award to earn the best of grades in my modules so I can benefit from it”. Let me correct my colleague, the Vice Chancellors scholarship award is for grandaunts in every school and not particular to certain schools. I mean that is for your information.
An Addition: 1. SATISFACTION
Student: Yeah, so far I am satisfied to the tune of 75% with the whole thing, because like I said earlier I cannot compare it to where I am coming from, I am enjoying the facilities am just okay and wishes they improve.
Student: “Yes I am satisfied but not 80% to 100% I can put it at 70% in terms of satisfying my expectations here”.
Student: Well the university personal service strategy is good and has satisfied me but to the tune of 70%, off course the evaluation is not yet over. Lets keep watching and receiving their services till the end of my program”.
Student: “In terms of satisfaction I am okay”.
Student: “If I have any problem well on a scale of one to ten I will rate my satisfaction seven (7)”.
Student: I am highly satisfied with the services of the University. For example: we have world class teaching and learning facilities here, the local and international social events which the school sponsors is so mouthwatering, I am just at home here. Also students who performs well academically will have scholarships, I mean what else can I say?
Managing customers: CRM measure Service Quality Report
Theme 1: Customer Experience Feedback
Theme 1 examines the approaches or methods adopted by the institution to understanding its customers expectations, and the degree to which using customer feedback could to improve on service quality might influence customers satisfaction. This theme relates to four areas of customer relationship management in understanding customers expectations which is important in managing customers need and wants: (see 1.1) on external research links used in unravelling students experience, (see 1.2) on internal research link which is used to compare with the result gained from the external survey barometer, (see 1.3) above on students forum organised by the institution as a means of generating first-hand experience reports from its students regarding the services offered and how to improve upon existing infrastructure, (see 1.4) friendly academic environment which considers efforts by academic staff in providing academic advises to enable them achieve their expectations whilst studying. Summarily, the central theme emphasises the role customers experience feedback in delivering desired maximally on service quality.
Theme 2: Academic Referral
Theme two considers the institutions relationship with customers influenced their service satisfaction and how past and present customers have been advocating and or referring friends, family and colleagues to the institution as a result of the satisfactory service experiences with the University. This according to the interviewees is very critical for evaluating customer relationship management effectiveness, (see 2.1) on referrals from family and friends (see 2.2) on institutional referrals.
Theme 3: Service Customisation
Theme three explores how the practice of service customisation influences customers advocacy behaviour and delivering intrinsic satisfaction which is required in managing the relationship between the service supply and consumer. This theme is consistent with two sub-themes (see 3.1) on customised service, also (see 3.2) on timely information dissemination.
Theme 4: Economic Identity
Theme four emerged from the study, because students kept emphasising the need to survive whilst studying, now we found it interesting as a theme because it could be an abstraction of the special need services offered by the institution. This theme is required to enhancing the extrinsic customer satisfaction as reported by the students: (see 4.1) on joblessness as well as (see 4.2) on living cost.
Theme 5: Customer Relations
Theme five discusses how the institution relates with its customers socially and how the social and cultural platforms provided by the institution has influenced experiences as students, it also reports how should socialisation platform has enabled them to network with peers from different cultural and social background. This theme is crucial to the survival of CRM initiative because it induces the feeling of integration and breaks the gap created by race, tribe, religion and other overarching tendencies: (see 5.1) on social and cultural activities.
Theme 6: Academic Performance Reward
Theme six whilst drawing from the researchers personal reflections is important in severing the relationship between supply and consumers in the institution because it comes with it carries monetary value and the customers are at the receiving end, this examines how the provision of academic performance incentive has influenced their academic input and output as well as customer selling tendencies. See 6.1 on scholarship award.
The CRM effectiveness and service quality performance on customers, has thus provided a suggestive conclusion, effectiveness of CRM programmes. This example has contributed by affirming the validity and importance of adopting the customer relationship management behaviour theory in managing customers. The theory is suitable to draw upon whilst researching into CRM, more so, the theoretical contributions of this article are the six emerging themes. It provides a suitable construct for the evaluating and improving CRM effectiveness. Consequently, in terms of methodological contribution this article shows that the qualitative research design is suitable for understanding and evaluating the extent of CRM effectiveness.
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