School reputation and its relation to parents' satisfaction and loyalty

Summary

Introduction

There is a growing recognition among both academics and educational practitioners that a school’s reputation is becoming increasingly important. Schools are identified, in part, by their reputation, which requires managerial consideration. School reputation, as understood by a range of stakeholders, is critical because it positively influences stakeholders’ attitudes towards the school.

 

Research within the fields of marketing, management, and corporate strategy clearly indicates that a corporation’s reputation is an important factor influencing its success. In particular, it has been found that the possession of a good reputation provides organisations with a competitive advantage, making them likely to attract more customers. The concept of corporate reputation has been adapted to the field of educational management in the anticipation that if a school has a good reputation, it would have similar positive effects.

 

Antecedents of school reputation that are related to parents’ behaviour can be examined. Parents’ evaluation of school performance and what is known about a school suggests that parents’ school satisfaction is a key antecedent of their perceived school reputation. The consequences of a school’s reputation, as well as the antecedents, need to be examined. One important consequence addressed here is parents’ loyalty to a particular school. The intangibility of educational services makes them difficult to evaluate by parents. Schools, as well as other service providers, may be more likely to feel the effects of a loss of reputation than providers of goods. It can therefore be argued that the importance of school reputation is greater because parents cannot rely on physical evidence, but have to rely to a greater extent on anecdotal evidence (Zabala et al., 2005).

 

In order to manage their reputations, schools need to be able to assess or measure them and analyse the connection between perceptions of reputation and important input and outcome variables. This study attempts to assess the existence, direction and strength of these relationships using a measure of school reputation as perceived by parents.

 

Reputation is based on a favourable general estimation that the public has of an organisation, which can positively impact on the public’s attitude and behaviours towards the organisation. With respect to schools, parents can be viewed as schools’ most important stakeholders as the primary source of pupils and consequently income.

 

The Reputation Quotient scale developed by Fombrun et al. (2000) consists of six dimensions, namely:

(1) emotional appeal;

(2) product and services;

(3) vision and leadership;

(4) workplace environment;

(5) social and environmental responsibility; and

(6) financial performance.

 

A customer-based reputation scale developed by Walsh et al. (2009a) consists of the following five dimensions:

(1) customer orientation;

(2) good employer;

(3) reliable and financially strong company;

(4) product and service quality; and

(5) social and environmental responsibility.

 

Parents’ school satisfaction as an antecedent to reputation

 

Does corporate reputation influences consumer satisfaction or does satisfaction influence reputation? Balance theory (Heider,1958) and the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957), assumes that an individual with positive experience of a firm’s services perceives satisfaction. The same individual will ascribe the firm a good reputation because ascribing a bad reputation will create a state of imbalance and therefore cause cognitive dissonance.

Adapting the opinion about the firm’s reputation to the existing level of satisfaction is a way to avoid this disequilibrium and maintain or re-establish cognitive consonance (Helm et al., 2009). The same arguments can be applied to the relationship between parent satisfaction and parent-based school reputation by measuring school reputation as the estimation of a generally favourable post-experience perception of the school influenced by satisfaction (Oliver, 1980; Johnson et al., 2001).

There is a strong indication that parents are likely to attribute a good reputation to a school that fulfils or surpasses their expectations.

 

We hypothesise that:

-       Parental satisfaction has a positive effect on parent-based school reputation.

The corporate reputation literature shows that a good reputation positively affects financial performance, positive word of mouth behaviours, and customer loyalty.

 

We address parents’ school loyalty intentions in a similar way. Loyalty is defined as a deeply held commitment of parents to continue to have their children attend the school consistently in the future, regardless of situational influences and other schools’ efforts or attempts to induce them to change behaviours. Commitment is a necessary condition for school loyalty to occur. Loyal parents enrol their children at the same primary school and act as good advocates by recommending the school to other parents and thus helping to attract new pupils. Good reputation signalling of good quality and sound behaviour towards the parents, reduce parents’ risks and encourage parents’ future loyalty.

Reputation management is therefore seen as an important activity for attracting and retaining students.

 

H2. Parent-based school reputation has a positive effect on parents’ loyalty

intentions.

 

To summarise, this paper proposes parent-based school reputation as a multidimensional construct, with parents’ perceptions of school satisfaction hypothesised as antecedent to parent-based school reputation, and parents’ school loyalty as a consequence.

 

Results

 

The results reveal a consistent pattern between parent-based school reputation and its investigated antecedent, that is, parents’ school satisfaction. The more satisfied the parents are the better they perceive the school’s reputation. The direction is positive as expected and the relationships are strong. Regarding the expected consequences of school reputation, two dimensions are significant predictors of parents’ loyalty intentions, in particular, assessments of the school having a parent orientation, and assessments of the school as having good teachers. This is consistent with corporate reputation work that find a strong reputation-loyalty link.

We have clearly demonstrated the relevance of parents’ satisfaction to school reputation.

 

Conclusions

First, this study demonstrated that the parent-based school reputation measure consisted of four dimensions, namely, parent orientation, learning quality, safe environment, and good teachers. Further, the study examined the impact of parents’ satisfaction on parent-based school reputation to determine the direction and strength of the relationship, hypothesising a positive relationship (H1). Parent satisfaction was positively and significantly related to all four dimensions, providing compelling support for H1.

 

The strongest effect of satisfaction was on parents’ views of learning quality (0.87), followed by a safe environment (0.84) and good teachers (0.84). The weakest effect was on parent orientation (0.64).

The link between parent-based school reputation and parents’ loyalty intentions was also examined, and a positive relationship was hypothesised (H2). Two of the school reputation dimensions were positively and significantly related to parents’ loyalty intentions, providing partial support for H2. Parents viewing the school as having good teachers had the strongest effect on parents’ loyalty intentions (0.43), followed by parent orientation (0.24). Learning quality and a safe environment did not affect parents’ loyalty intentions. Good teachers and schools having a parent orientation appear to be related to the management of the school and thus may influence the likelihood of choosing the school in the future. Learning quality and a safe environment appear to be related to the present child at the school and therefore did not significantly affect future choices.

 

The results showed that high levels of parent satisfaction positively impacted parent-based school reputation, supporting a causal clarification of the satisfaction-reputation relationship in an educational context. School reputation can be used as a valuable means of assessing the results of the school’s multiple activities. School reputation may even be considered as a stable and reliable indicator of schools’ ability to satisfy parent’s expectations. Parent-based school-reputation has a positive impact on parents’ loyalty.

 

For managers of educational institutions, an important insight gained from this study is that parent-based school reputation can be easily assessed using an inexpensive measurement tool. Conventional astuteness holds that attending to school reputation makes good sense because relevant school activities are affected. It is shown that parent-based school reputation not only has an impact on important variables indicative of parent behaviours (i.e. parents’ loyalty), but also is impacted by parents’ school satisfaction.

 

These results may help schools to utilise their resources more successfully by focusing their efforts on strategically important antecedents such as parents’ school satisfaction and consequences such as parents’ loyalty. School managers who want to obtain or maintain a good school reputation should emphasise the importance of ensuring parent satisfaction in order to accomplish that goal. Parents who are satisfied with the school services provide more favourable ratings of the schools’ reputation. In that way, satisfaction is casting a “halo” effect onto the reputation items. Parents derive their sense of a school’s reputation from their contacts with its staff. This mean that schools should make sure that staff are empowered to act in the way parents want and that leads to satisfaction. Methods to ensure high levels of satisfaction include staff training and satisfaction monitoring.

 

Another implication for school managers is that a good reputation has an effect on parents’ loyalty, and increased loyalty is important with regard to retaining existing pupils and attracting new ones. A school’s reputation acts as a gatekeeper to further elaborations by the parents. A favourable reputation increases the likelihood that a school will be chosen by parents. However, with a poor reputation, the school may be better off expending effort on increasing parents’ satisfaction with the services provided by the school and focusing on service improvement goals, as well as identifying sources of dissatisfaction for the parents. A carefully crafted and implemented program for increased parent satisfaction and school reputation appears to be an important tool for schools’ success.

 

Reflections

What reputation does your school have?

 

How can we increase parent satisfaction in order to increase school reputation?

 

How can a school change a negative reputation?

With school finances the way they are schools need to fill their places- does a good reputation help with this?

Ethical considerations need to be made when looking at reputation in terms of how schools support each other. Do we want schools to collaborate or compete?

How can we fulfil or surpass parent expectations?

How are the four dimensions (parent orientation, learning quality, safe environment, and good teachers ) perceived in your school?

 

Reference

Skallerud, Kåre. (2011). School reputation and its relation to parents' satisfaction and loyalty. International Journal of Educational Management. 25. 671-686. 10.1108/09513541111172081.