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THE ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN ENHANCING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
While there may be many varying answers to why human beings exist, there may be only one answer to why business organisations and or companies exist. A smart economist may generate diverse answers to this one simple question but all will boil down to one point that organisations exist because of the customer as the entire activities of every organisation is targeted towards satisfying a group and or groups of people termed consumers or customers.
Quite often, the difference between organisations that merely survive in business and those that flourish is keeping up-to-date, and fine-tuning to the dynamics of attitudes and prospects in the market place.
One of such changes has been the major changes in attitudes of customers over the years. There was a time when customers were less critical and vocal if not totally satisfied when dealing with a business. This was the time when the choices available on where and who to deal with was limited. The power belonged to the business owner, customers had nowhere else to go and, therefore, customer satisfaction was not so important. This is not the case today. Today, corporations face their hardest rivalry, because they move from a product and sales viewpoint to a marketing philosophy, which gives a company a healthier chance of beating competition (Kotler, 2000). This is because today, customers are becoming increasingly more demanding, less tolerant and very critical when not having their hopes met as they have a lot of choices on where and who to deal with. As a result the power has now shifted to the customer. If they feel you cannot satisfy their expectations they will simply leave and deal with someone who will.
What a customer wants from an organisation is one important issue that is answered in this study. Assuming you go to a restaurant to eat. The waitress comes with a smile to attend to you. You go to another eatery that happens to be bigger than the former and you meet this so serious minded waitress who is all about her business. There is a tendency for you to return back to the small cafeteria and eat. It is psychological that smile alone gives you not just an internal satisfaction but also generates a sense of belonging for the customer. Hokanson (1995) notes that various factors affect customer satisfaction. Such factors include friendly employees, courteous employees, knowledgeable employees, helpful employees, accuracy of billing, billing timeliness, competitive pricing, service quality, good value, billing clarity and quick service.
According to Kotler (2003: 183) a consumer’s buying behaviour is influenced by cultural, social, personal and psychological factors. Personal relationship with consumers generates an intimate relationship with the consumer. The customer is thereby ready to generate dialogue on and relatively pardon short comings of the product of the organisation if any. While many critics of public relations will note that all consumers needs to be satisfied is good quality product at a reasonable and or relatively low price. True, but what attracts the organisation to the public first is its image. There is a tendency to lose its customers drastically if the right imagery for your organisation is not in place.
Scholars have argued that switching costs, is one of the key moderating variable that can significantly influence customer loyalty through such determinants as customer satisfaction, (Oliver, 1993). Schneider and Bowen (1999) advocated that service business can retain customers and achieve profitability by building reciprocal relationships founded on safeguarding and affirming customer security, fairness and self-esteem. It requires that companies view customers as people first and consumers second. Levitt (1986) says that trust, commitment, ethical practices, fulfilment of promises, mutual exchange, emotional bonding, personalization and customer orientation have been reported to be the key elements in the relationship building process. This means that the customer derives real value from the relationship which translates into value for the organisation in the form of enhanced profitability, customer sustainability as a result of loyalty generated by the satisfaction of the customer over a long period of time. Angelova and Zeriki (2011:1) note that “Service quality and customer satisfaction are very important concepts that companies must understand if they want to remain competitive and grow”
Smith, (1998) notes that consumption is the sole aim of production. This brings a question to our mind; who consumes the product? Hence, the importance of the consumer or customer in the production chain cannot be over emphasized and, therefore, there is not just a necessary but compulsory need for their maximum satisfaction as it will be key to the success of any organisation and without which the day-to-day running of the organisation may be a total failure.
According to Hansemark and Albinson (2004) “satisfaction is an overall customer attitude towards a service provider, or an emotional reaction to the difference between what customers anticipate and what they receive, regarding the fulfilment of some needs, goals or desire” Angelova and Zeriki (2011:1) “customer satisfaction has a positive effect on an organization’s profitability; satisfied customers form the foundation of any successful business as customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchase, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth”. Satisfied customers provide recommendations; maintain loyalty towards the company and customers in turn are more likely to pay price premiums (Reichheld, 1996). The significance of customer loyalty in this is that it is closely related to the company’s continued survival and to strong future growth (Fornell, 1992). Satisfied customers are more likely to repeat buying products or services. They will also tend to say good things and to recommend the product or service to others.
On the other hand dissatisfied customers respond differently. Dissatisfied customers may try to reduce the dissonance by abandoning or returning the product, or they may try to reduce the dissonance by seeking information that might confirm its high value (Kotler, 2000).
In recent years, relationships between an organization and its publics have been the focal interest in public relations research and practice (Bruning and Ledingham, 2000). Public Relations helps in cementing the relationship between customers and the organisation and it is a two-way flow of value. This means that customer derives real value from the relationship which translates into value for the organisation in the form of enhanced profitability and sustainability over a long period of time. The customer can be satisfied by an organisation when:
The world has come full circle from selling to marketing and from seller’s market to buyer’s market. The customer today has the option to buy what he thinks he should and from whom, being in his best interest. Product development, technological improvement, cost optimization and excellent service facility are very important for any organisation but their importance is only if the customer appreciates it. Hence, every business begins and ends with the customer (Sugandhi, 2002). Thus, service organizations are shifting their focus from “transactional exchange” to “relational exchange” for developing mutually satisfying relationship with customers. Customer-centred organisations have a superior understanding of customers’ needs and wants, and then translate them into the capability to give customers what they really need and want which relatively transforms into customer satisfaction as it is essential for corporate survival or existence.
Conventionally, researchers of consumer behaviour have noticed that customers have advanced choice making process from a rational standpoint (Levitt,1986; Gronroos, 1994; Morgan,1994; Gummesson,1994; Bejou et al, 1998). This leading school of thought views consumers as being cognitive and, to some extent, emotional.
There is a rising need for organisations to ensure they promote good relationship between it and its customers as satisfied customers form the foundation of any successful business because customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchase and brand loyalty. Zairi, (2000) note that, “the more customers are satisfied with products or services offered, the more are chances for any successful business as customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchase, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth marketing. Customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchases, loyalty and customer retention”. However, we must take into account that dissatisfied customers may quickly become lost customers as well as disseminators of negative impressions of the organisation.
Service value today has turned out to be not only the rhetoric of every organisation, but has also occupied a prominent position in every discourse and or research study. No business organisation can survive without satisfying its customers. Likewise no organisation can make a healthy living without meeting the needs of its customers.
Today, service quality in the telecommunication sector in Nigeria is subject to underdevelopment in such factors as technology. Hence the services provided are not satisfactory to consumers of the services. Due to this, there is a need to bridge the gap by creating a mutual and sustainable relationship that can enable the organisations nip in the bud looming troubles as well as create a dialoguing platform aimed at satisfying the need of the consumers. According to Angelova and Zeriki (2011), building customer relationship is a backbone for all organizations in general, and companies in service industries in particular. Creating customer value is a major source of competitive advantage for organizations. Companies need to develop strategies of how to handle dissatisfied customers. Businesses cannot afford under any condition to lose customers, because the cost of replacing the lost customer with a new customer is bigger.
There lies the relative need for a study of this magnitude poised to discover how public relations can be used as a mediator between organisations and their customers as it provides an in-depth understanding of how customer-organisation relationship can help stimulate and or act as fuel for customer satisfaction.
This study aims at showing
H – There is a significant relationship between public relations and customer satisfaction
H – There is no significant relationship between public relations and customer satisfaction.
H – There is a significant relationship between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
H – There is no significant relationship between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
1.6. Significance of the Study
As earlier stated, the sole reason for the existence of an organisation is the customer; Sugandhi (2002) further stressed that the customer is the beginning and the end of every business buttressing the point of prominent economist Adam Smith that the customer is the sole of production. All these point to the fact that achieving customer satisfaction is often the end target of all organisations.
This study will create an understanding of how the telecommunications industry can improve its business performance through service quality, customer satisfaction which leads to customer loyalty. This is aside becoming a reference point for further and future researches.
Furthermore, this study will enable organisations to better appreciate the significance and importance of various determinants of customer satisfaction in the industry.
This research presents a very useful source of solutions and information for managers and researchers in the field of public relations and customer satisfaction. The research provides new evidence on the practicality and usefulness of public relations to creating customer-organisation relationship which stimulates and or fuels customer satisfaction.
1.7. Scope of the Study
This study revolves around KKTC Telsim office in Ortakoy, Lefkosia as well as students of Cyprus International University, Nicosia who patronise the telecommunication company.
1.8. Operationalisation of Terms
Public Relations: Roger Haywood (1984:3 as cited in Adegoke, 2001:1) defines public relations as “the projection of personality of the organisation. It is the two-way communications between the organisation and the audiences critical to its success”.
Customer Satisfaction: customer satisfaction is the conclusion created as a result of the comparison of customer pre–purchase expectations with post-purchase evaluation of a product or service experience (Oliver, 1997).
Enhance: this refers to improving something through an action.
Roles: this refers to the functions a thing can play in an event.
KKTC TELSIM was the first GSM operator in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
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