A service according to (Stauss 2005) is ‘the application of specialized competences (knowledge and skills) through deeds, processes, and performances for the benefit of another entity or the entity itself’. Although the process may be, attached to a physical product, the performance is essentially intangible and does not normally result in ownership of service. According to (Lovelock et al.1996), services are economic activities that create value and provide benefits for customers at specific times and places, as a result of bringing about a desired change in or on behalf of the recipient service. According to (Lovelock & Writz, Fifth edition), all products i.e. core output in any type of industry, deliver benefits to the customers who purchase and use them. In the case of good, the benefits come from ownership of physical objects & devices, whereas in services, the benefits are created by actions & performances.
Marketing of services is completely different from the marketing of physical products. The four unique characteristics that distinguish services from products are; intangibility, inseparability, perishability and heterogeneity. By their nature, services cannot be touched, tasted, or possessed; which gives birth to customer perplexity in product evaluation, due to the intangible factor involved. A service is inseparable from the source of the service; production and consumption take place simultaneously (Sierra & Mcquitty, 2005). Services are perishable since they cannot be stored; yesterday’s vacancy cannot be sold today. Heterogeneity simply implies that services are hard to standardize, unlike products, creating quality control issue.
Services greatly differ in the extent, to which they are people-based or equipment-based. For instance, educational courses except for distance learning are usually people-based; while products like a mobile phone are totally, equipment based. According to (Lovelock, et al. 1996), there are various other factors, which separate good from services. According to research of Gronoss, mentioned in (Lovelock et al.1996), he argue that these descriptions do not apply in all situations and circumstances.
UK Higher Education Marketing
Marketing of higher education is a well-entrenched macro process today, especially in the major-English speaking nations i.e. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. One of the major factors behind the worldwide evolution of educational marketing could be a result of globalization, which has dramatically shriveled the world. Due to intensifying competition for overseas students amongst MESDCs, i.e. major English speaking destination countries, higher educational institutions recognize the significance of marketing themselves, in the international arena.
Amongst the five major English speaking destination countries, the United Kingdom is the second largest source market for international students, after the United States. The latest data (2002-03) indicates that there are over 270,000 international students in UK higher education, generating over £1.2 billion per annum, in fee revenue and add over £2.5 billion gross addition to the UK economy.
In addition, there are nearly two-hundred thousand international students following UK higher education programs delivered in their own countries (Bohm et al. Vision 20-20.). The UK government has sponsored various initiatives to multiply international students, with the ambition to become the leading destination country, for international education. However, the gap between the United States and the United Kingdom appears to be increasing, as seen in the table. In 2002, the United Kingdom managed to attract 23.6% of the international students globally, whereas the USA attracted more than double than that of the U.K, with 58.4%. Between 1997 and 2002 the UK’s relative market share declined by 3.1%.
Even though Canada and Australia achieved the highest compound growth rate, they still lag behind the USA and the UK in terms of the total student number. However, in terms of the overall growth rate, Australia and the USA have experienced an extensive success. This continuing strong growth in overseas student numbers in the USA and Australia is due to the sustained pro-active and aggressive marketing strategies of the USA and Australia in the international markets for education) while the UK is behind in terms of its strategic marketing policies.
Relationship Marketing: Key to Success
The need for a relationship management strategy is to build long-term sustainable relationships with all students and recent graduates, and to nurture a new potential market for life-long learning. The majority of students will come from the priority markets, a significant percentage will come from a range of other countries albeit in small numbers. The ability to manage the relationship with current students in a more meaningful way and to sustain this once they have completed their studies is essential because they are:
They have ability to influence a prospective student, when deciding where to study.
Presents a way into new markets, and act as representatives.
A potential new market for us as the demand for lifelong learning together with the products and services needed to facilitate this grows
Harnessing good relations with destination countries, and improving trade & political links.
Currently, there is no efficient procedure in place to develop & nourish relationships with students at the very first stage i.e. during first enquiry about studying MBA in Delhi or India. While the experience most students are a positive; but work is to be diverted towards providing opportunities for work experience. The policy seeks to provide mechanisms to efficiently manage relationship with the MBA students. The chief scheme is to employ on line communications by creating - the University Zone. This lays a platform where qualitative interaction is possible with prospective students. The main aim will be to:
Provide a means of engaging existing students and sustaining relationships through the provision of information, new services, and activities
Improve our marketing intelligence and decision making through the development of databases, profiling of individuals and their interests and by conducting of market research
Improve the student experience by offering opportunities for work experience and activities designed to improve integration.
By offering plethora of services like search for employment or training and personal development opportunities, there is the possibility to develop good relationship with students, before they get back to their countries. By connecting with overseas alumni projects, the resource would sustain and reinforce this work. Prospective students will be able to express their desires before coming to the U.K and would get a true UK educational experience. Students & alumni will be able to access international organizations and recruitment agencies, which would substantially benefit them. In the next phase, stakeholders could access information about the on-line society, which would benefit them commercially as well as in planning and resource allocation. Furthermore, opportunities may exist for students to assist in sustaining and improving international profile, while pave a way for other development opportunities.