Due to the ever increasing competition, almost all organizations are now finding it hard to compete on price alone rather they are developing other strategies in order to survive the fierce competition. (Cook, 2008) states that most service sector organizations are depending on supreme quality customer care strategies in order to outperform their competitors.
According to Galbreath and Rogers(1999) almost 98% of dissatisfied customers opt for another competitor without going through the complaint procedure. On the other hand,(Bove and Johnson,2000) stated that fully satisfied customers are six times more likely to remain loyal to the company products and brand comparing to only just satisfied customers. Moreover, they pointed that a 5 % fall in customer defection can increase the overall profit by 30 to 85percent.
The primary objective of every business entity is to attract and retain the customers to maximise its revenues. Therefore, the fundamental responsibility lies on the management to design and develop the strategies that will help the organization to gain the competitive edge over its rivals (Dewit and meyer, 2004).The organization’s ability to deliver the excellent customer service to its customers is not only essential to attract new customers but it also plays a very important role in retaining existing customers as it is said by Drucker and Levitt,1992 that it would cost a business twice as much to acquire new customers than to retain the existing customers.
There have been a lot of debates going on what strategies and tools organizations can implement in order to improve the provision of services to its customers and it has been the central point in setting strategic objectives and mission statements in today’s rising companies (Mintzberg, H. et al. 1998).
There are a key number of strategic management literatures available which provides a range of competitive and non-competitive strategic and operational theories and models to enable organizations to achieve competitive edge over their rivals.
One of the very important strategies in this regard is positioning model which was presented by Micheal Porter who is considered as one of the most important theorist in the field of strategic management. Porter (1985) competitive strategy highlights that “competitive strategy not only responds to the environment but also attempts to shape the environment”
He argues that the there are five forces in the external environment which drive the competition and determine the returns in an industry. These forces are: the threat of substitutes, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of buyers, rivalry among the competitors and the entry of new competitors.
Porter(1985) Further presented a diverse range of generic strategies which he suggested will help an organization to gain and sustain a competitive edge over competitors. These generic strategies are: cost leadership, differentiation and focus strategies. Cost leadership strategy enables a firm to produce high quality products at significantly lower cost in the organization’s industry. On the other hand, differentiation strategy aims at producing unique products or services from its rivals. The third generic strategy is focus which facilitates a firm to streamline its production or services to a particular segment of the market where there is least amount of competition.
Porter (1985) further highlighted in his work that, “The goal of competitive strategy for a business unit in an industry is to find a position in the industry where the company can best defend itself against these competitive forces or can influence them in its favour…The key strategy is to delve below the surface and analyse the sources of each.” (Porter, 1998, pp.4). Therefore, an organization focusing on production of low-cost products or services in line with differentiation can effectively provide quality service to its customers.
However, Barney(1991) came up with a different strategy which is also known as resource based view which suggested that a firm can achieve and sustain a competitive advantage by improving its internal resources. Barney(1991) argued that Porter’s positioning model only concentrated on the external environment and its impact on the returns but he agreed that Porter’s model clarified our views on the external competitive environment. He suggested that by empowering firm’s resources, a firm can achieve competitive advantage over its competitors.
He categorized the resources into human capital, organizational resources and physical capital assets which are further divided into: firm’s assets, capabilities, organizational processes, knowledge, information and attributes. Therefore, further enhancing these resources will improve the firm’s efficiency enabling the firm to outperform its competitors thus these strategies differentiates firm’s resources and makes them difficult to imitate thus helping firm to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness. (Barney, 1991).
On the other hand, Prahalad and Hamel (1990) presented a core competence view. They argued that a firm can attain and sustain the competitive advantage through its core competence. They suggest that a firm’s true source of competitive advantage is the ability and capability of the management to merge the corporate technology and production skills into the competence that will enable the business to adapt the emerging opportunities more rapidly.( as cited in De Wit and Meyer, 2004).Therefore, developing quality as a core competence in customer service delivery, a firm can attain and sustain competitive edge in the market.
Conversely, (Kim and Mauborgne, 1999) argued that non-competitive strategies can also help firms to achieve a competitive advantage. They presented a knowledge based economy view which was different from the positioning models discussed earlier. They introduced a value innovation strategy which can help organizations to standout due to the new and innovative products and services they offer thus making the competition immaterial. Kim and Mauborgne, 1999 highlighted that the real challenge is to be perceived unique by innovating and designing new products rather than imitating other firms in the market.
Despite of these strategies been designed to improve the service quality in order to become more competitive and competent, there are always some possibilities of gaps in service quality. (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1990) pointed that, organizations fail to figure out whether the service provided by them is actually what customers expect from them or even they fail to exceed the customer expectations which results in little or no increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty to the organization.
Parasuraman, Zeithamel, and .Berry, 1988) came up with a five dimension service quality measuring tool called ‘SERVQUAL’ in order to find and fill the gaps between the customer perception/ expectation and the experience on the basis of customer ranking. This tool involve a set of five gaps which help firms to know the customer expectations in terms of service quality.
According to Parasuraman et al. (1988), that the capability and ability to identify the gaps in the service provided by the organizations and to take the necessary measures to fill these gaps in order to meet or exceed customer expectations, will enhance the operational excellence as well as overall organizational performance in a competitive business environment. In order to achieve desired targets and remain in the business, it is necessary for organizations to apply appropriate strategies and models presented by academic theorists.
2.1 STRATEGY CHOICE
For this research,Porter’s(1985:1998) competitive strategy together with Parasuraman et al. (1988:1990) Servqual gap model will be used to explore the gaps in the services provided by Mobilink Telecom Limited and possible ways to bridge those gaps to provide quality service to its customers
2.2 RESEARCH QUESTION
An exploration of improving the quality of customer service provided in the cellular industry of Pakistan. A case study of Mobilink Telecom Limited.
2.3 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
To investigate the service packages Mobilink offering to its customers to keep them loyal and satisfied.
To explore the logic behind the provision of quality customer service in telecom companies.
To study the strategies being employed by mobilink Telecom to improve the quality of service in order to attain and sustain the competitive edge.
To bring the appropriate research methods into practice by collecting primary data through interviews and to recommend suitable measures to fill the gaps in the service provided by Mobilink Telecom.
3.1 Philosophy of Research
According to Saunders et al(2007, pp.101 ) “research philosophy invariably relate to the nature of knowledge as well as the development of knowledge”. Therefore, the researcher wants to explore and appreciate the measures to improve the customer service employing the social-constructionism approach
Easterby-Smith et al. (2008) stated that there are two main research philosophies which are social constructionism and positivism and these are supported by epistemological and ontological assumptions. They further say that the ontological assumption from the socio-constructionism perspective is that the reality is not objective and it depends how people perceive it. Moreover, Saunders et al. (2007) pointed that the social interaction among social actors is a continuing process therefore, it ought to be reviewed and improved at regular intervals.
Positivist approach, on the other hand, has backed by an ontological assumption that the“the reality we make about nature of reality is objective and external” (Seddighi, 2008).
However, in this research, the social constructionist perspective will be employed as the philosophical stand to identify the gaps in the services rendered by the Mobilink Telecom Limited.
On the other side, the epistemological assumption from the social constructionist view argues that the “reality is subjective and it is socially constructed and given meaning by people and it is best explored through a clear focus on the ways people make sense of the world via the medium of language” (Seddighi, 2008).Therefore, this research approach appreciates the value of people’s experiences in the social environment. Saunders et al., 2007 suggested that this approach will help the researcher to find out people’s perception of customer service and find the measures to improve them to meet or exceed their expectations.
3.2 Research Approach
There are two basic research approaches in the field of academic research which are Inductive and deductive approach. According to Saunders et al. (2007) the inductive approach advocates “a more flexible structure to permit changes of research emphasis as the progresses by gaining an understanding of the meanings humans attach to events”. The inductive approach is based on human perception therefore the generalization is less important since the data is mainly qualitative. (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008; Saunders et al., 2007). On the other hand, the deductive approach focuses on scientific principles and transformation of theories into adequate data size in order to generalize the conclusions. (Saunders et al., 2007).
However, in this research, the inductive approach will be used to investigate, explore and analyze, how highest quality customer service can be attained and improved to achieve the competitive advantage. Therefore, qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews will be analyzed and interpreted to find the answer of the research question and to meet the research objectives. (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008)
3.3 Research Strategy
Saunders et al. (2007 p. 610) stated that the, “Research strategy is general plan of how the researcher will go about answering the research question. It will contain clear objectives, specify the sources from which you intend to collect data and consider the constraints you will inevitably have”. The strategy chosen to conduct this research is based on a single case study of Mobilink Telecom Limited .This qualitative research being qualitative in nature, will be based on people’s opinion and perceptions’ his clearly indicates that the prospective researcher has general idea about how to conduct this research.
3.4 Data Collection Method and Procedure
As it has been mentioned earlier ,that a qualitative approach will be used whereby semi-structured interviews will be the instrument to collect the primary data. This very method permits the researcher to get a direct response to the questions relating to the subject. The interviews will be conducted physically and by phone
The interviews will be conducted in a semi-structured way thus,the data will be collected in more structured way than the usual qualitative research(Saunders et al., 2007).The researcher will send the sample of interview questions to Mobilink Telecom limited before the interview and the suitable date and time for the interview will then be arranged with the consultation and approval of the interviewees.
The researcher will seek the permission of the interviewees to take the notes of their answers and responses and to record them on an electronic device. This interview procedure is in line with the interpretivist philosophy as stated by (Saunders et al, 2007) which enables the researcher to explore the responses and details where additional information is required as the questions will be asked physically and they will be open-ended.
Chief Executive Officer, Mobilink Telecom Limited:
The CEO was selected because he has 30 years experience in the field of strategic management. He has extensive knowledge about the telecom industry and has a vision to make Mobilink, a market leader. His perspective on service quality will be extremely important.
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