A quality management perspective on customer service in the South African mobile telecommunication industry
The South African mobile telecommunication industry is a highly competitive industry, which is challenged by rapid changes such as declining revenues, price competition, high inflation rates, and increased technological advances and innovations. Consequently, these providers have turned to a value-added service approach in an effort to differentiate themselves from their direct competitors. Based on the literature review, it was uncovered that mobile telecommunication providers can adapt to these changes by managing the quality of their services throughout the business. In addition, customers' expectations and experiences of the service quality offered will determine whether these customers are satisfied with the quality of the services delivered. The primary objective of this study was therefore to investigate service quality (expectations and experiences) and customer satisfaction within the South African mobile telecommunication industry, and to determine whether the quality of services influence customers' satisfaction. This objective was realised by means of an in-depth literature review, as well as an empirical investigation into service quality and customer satisfaction as pertaining to the South African mobile telecommunication industry. A combination of exploratory and descriptive research designs was used, and a quantitative research approach was utilised to collect the data by means of computer and self-administered methods. A non-probability sampling method with a convenience sampling technique was used to reach respondents, and the self-administered questionnaire was distributed to mobile telecommunication customers in the North West Province who had been using the services of their provider for at least six months. A sample size of 300 respondents was realised. From the empirical results, it was established that respondents' service quality expectations differed statistically significantly in terms of gender. However, no statistically significant differences were uncovered between respondents' service quality experiences and satisfaction in terms of their gender or the type of subscription they had with their mobile telecommunication provider. In addition, respondents' service quality expectations differed statistically significantly from their experiences in all five of the dimensions of service quality, and it was uncovered that respondents had much higher expectations about service quality than compared to the actual quality of services delivered to them. From the multiple regression, it was determined that reliability and empathy were the only two dimensions of the five dimensions of service quality that influenced respondents' satisfaction. In addition, the reliability dimension had the strongest influence on respondents' satisfaction. Based on the results, it is recommended that in order to achieve sufficient customer satisfaction, mobile telecommunication providers should ensure that the quality of the services delivered matches the customer's expectations pertaining to service quality. In order to ensure the delivery of quality services, mobile telecommunication providers should specifically focus on providing reliable services (see Sections 6.3.3 and 6.3.6), as well as being empathetic in their service delivery process (see Sections 6.3.3 and 6.3.6). Recommendations for future research suggestions include the use of a continuous or omnibus design, whereby service quality and customer satisfaction can be measured on a continuous basis. Extending this study to other South African provinces to assess whether respondents differ in terms of their service quality expectations, experiences and satisfaction can also be done. Qualitative research can also be used to gather more insight pertaining to the reliability and empathy dimensions of service quality experiences.