The services marketing mix of higher education institutions

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THE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE STRATEGY OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

The intangible nature of services makes it difficult for students to evaluate the service before they have received it. It is therefore important in services marketing to offer tangible evidence of the service product. Intrinsic brand cues are very important, especially for highly intangible services (Brady, Boureau & Heskel, 2005:401-408). The environment in which the service product is delivered, both tangible and intangible, helps to communicate, perform and relay the customer satisfaction to the potential customer. Goldsmith (1999:182) describes physical evidence as the physical assets that accompany and surround the service, such as reports, signage, music, smells,
uniforms, store decor and equipment. The Booms and Bitner (1981) framework refers to physical evidence as the environment in which the service is delivered and any tangible good that facilitates the performance and communication of the service. Several dimensions of physical evidence impact on the service environment and a combination of these elements help to create an overall personality or image for an organisation. The dimensions include ambience, design, and social and communication factors. Ambience has a physiological effect on customers and employees and refers to noise, lighting, music, sounds and air quality. The second dimension, design factors, includes the exterior appearance and architectural appearance as well as the interior decor, layout, furniture and equipment. Moore, Moore and Capella (2005:483-490) found that positive perceptions of atmosphere (design and ambience) lead to a positive customer-to-customer interaction and positive word-of-mouth. They suggest that changing the physical setting of a service organisation can enhance customer interaction and loyalty positively. The third dimension, social factors, such as the number of people present, their moods and behaviours, are concerned with the interaction between the customer and the organisation. The quality of material used in art works, floor coverings, or personal objects displayed in the service environment can all communicate symbolic meaning and create an overall aesthetic impression, and portrays the fourth dimension (Jordaan & Prinsloo, 2004:120-124). Organisations should determine the image they want to portray, their corporate identity, brand name and how they should enhance this image through physical evidence such as decor, building or signage (Du Plessis & Rousseau, 2005:13).
Brands are the names and symbols that identify goods of one seller and differentiate them from those of another seller (Du Plessis & Rousseau, 2003:329). Strydom et al. (200:211) define brand equity as the value of a given brand. It is the combination of assets such as brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality and brand associations for which all organisations strive through their marketing efforts.
According to Toma and Morphew (2000:1), brand equity is closely linked with an institution’s image, reputation, status and prestige. The products and services of higher education institutions can be given a name, sign, symbol, design or some combination that identifies them with the institution and differentiate them from competitor offerings.
Kotler and Fox (1995:281) are of the opinion that branding add value and increase customer satisfaction. Toma and Morphew (2000:2) state that a well-established brand name also provides a foundation for success and attracts available resources. Higher education institutions must work to raise their profiles. Although some brands are more highly regarded than others, all institutions have a brand and can benefit from strengthening their brand (Toma & Morphew, 2000:3). By strengthening and building their brand name and brand equity, institutions are maximising their competitive position (Anon, 2003a:1). For example, well-titled programmes often attract more attention than other programmes. A popular means of brand building is name change and conversion from “colleges” to “university” in America or “technikons” to “university of technology” (in South Africa and Australia). According to Reich (2004), more and more reference is made to universities as brand name service industries and the institution’s brand is becoming increasingly important. This study aims to investigate the relative importance of brand image as a choice factor used to select highereducation institutions.

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DEFINING CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR

Consumer behaviour can be described as the behaviour that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2004:8). Sheth, Mittal and Newman (1999:5) describe consumer behaviour as the mental and physical activities undertaken by households and organisational consumers that result in decisions and actions to pay for, purchase, and the use of products and services. Consumer behaviour describes two different kinds of consuming entities: the personal consumer and the organisational consumer. Schiffman and Kanuk (2004:9) note that the personal consumer (also referred to as end-user) buys goods and services for his own use, for the use of the household, or as a gift for a friend. Hawkins et al. (2004:678) describe the second group as consumers that buy goods and services in order to run their organisations, for example government agencies and organisations, and are referred to as organisational consumers. Due to the fact that organisational consumers are not in the scope of this study, the discussion in this chapter refers to the individual consumer, more specifically students, who purchase for their own personal use.
The behaviour that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services, are represented in consumer behaviour models. In order to understand the theory behind the consumer behaviour of students, the next section will briefly highlight some of the models of consumer behaviour.

CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 LITERATURE REVIEW
1.3 HYPOTHESES
1.4 IMPORTANCE / BENEFITS OF THE STUDY
1.5 METHODOLOGY
1.6 OUTLINE OF THE STUDY
CHAPTER 2
THE HIGHER EDUCATION LANDSCAPE
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE GLOBAL HIGHER EDUCATION LANDSCAPE
2.3 SOUTH AFRICAN HIGHER EDUCATION LANDSCAPE
2.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3
MARKETING’S ROLE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE CHANGING ROLE OF MARKETING
3.3 THE MARKETING CONCEPT
3.4 MARKET-ORIENTATION AND MARKETING-ORIENTATION
3.5 MARKETING STRATEGY AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR
3.6 SEGMENTATION, TARGET MARKETING AND POSITIONING (STP PROCESS)
3.7 THE SERVICES MARKETING MIX OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
3.8 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4
CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR IN CONTEXT
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DEFINING CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR
4.3 MODELS OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR
4.4 INTERNAL FACTORS INFLUENCING THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
4.5 EXTERNAL FACTORS AFFECTING THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
4.6 STEP 1: NEED/PROBLEM RECOGNITION
4.7 STEP 2: INFORMATION SEARCH
4.8 STEP 3: EVALUATION PROCESS
4.9 STEP 4: OUTLET SELECTION AND PURCHASE
4.10 STEP 5: POST-PURCHASE BEHAVIOUR
4.11 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM AND DETERMINE THE RESEARCH OBJECTIVE (STEP 1)
5.3 SET HYPOTHESES (STEP 3)
5.4 THE RESEARCH DESIGN (STEP 4)
5.5 DEVELOPMENT OF A SAMPLING PLAN (STEP 5
5.6 SELECT A PRIMARY DATA COLLECTION METHOD (STEP 6)
5.7 DESIGN OF THE DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENT (STEP 7)
5.8 GATHERING DATA (STEP 8
5.9 DATA PROCESSING (STEP 9)
5.10 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6
RESEARCH RESULTS AND FINDINGS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 RESPONSE RATE
6.3 DESCRIPTIVE DATA
6.4 RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY OF THE MEASURING INSTRUMENT
6.5 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND HYPOTHESES RESULTS
6.6 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7
CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ….
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 MAIN FINDINGS RELATING TO CHOICE FACTORS
7.3 MAIN FINDINGS RELATING TO INFORMATION SOURCES
7.4 IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS ON AN INSTITUTION’S MARKETING STRATEGY
7.5 LIMITATIONS
7.6 PERSPECTIVES/RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
7.7 EVALUATION OF THE OBJECTIVES SET VERSUS THE RESEARCH RESULTS
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