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This paper is aimed at discussing the expectations that international students, living in Western Australia, set for mobile network operators. At the given moment, there are more than 6 000 00 thousand learners who attend Australian colleges and universities. For these people, the ability to communicate with their friends and relatives is of crucial importance. It is often argued by many market researchers that mobile phone service providers have to pursue aggressive pricing policies to attract and retain customers (Wright, 2003, p 289).
We are not going to refute this argument, however, it does not fully explain the purchasing decisions of people and especially international students. At this point, we are going to advance a hypothesis that these customers pay most attention to such criteria as the price of international phone calls, the ease of use, the variety of mobile services, offered by an operator. While conducting this research, we will rely on both primary and secondary data.
The secondary sources will include those studies which examined the purchasing decisions of people who try to select a mobile network operator. To obtain primary information, I will use such research method as an unstructured interview. The results of this research can benefit many companies that operate in this particular field. On their basis, they will be able to develop more effective marketing policies. However, the most important thing is that this study can ultimately benefit international students living in Western Australia; in the future, these people will receive a better quality of services.
Secondary Research Findings
Numerous studies have been carried out in an effort to understand the reasons why customers choose mobile network operator another. It is argued that companies representing the service sector have to develop their methods of marketing and customer retention which are often different from those employed by manufacturing companies. (Crosby & Stephens, 1987). For example, in their research Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml (1992) propose the so-called SERVQUAL model which helps to measure the quality of services.
According to these scholars, customers focus on such aspects as the appearance of the telephone company (equipment, personnel, facilities), willingness of this assist the customer, courtesy of its employees (Parasuraman, Berry & Zeithaml, 1992, p 447;). SERVQUAL model is a good tool that should be used by service companies and especially mobile network operators to improve the quality of their services and attract new clients (Rao & Kelkar, 1997). In the future, the SERVQUAL model will help with my research because I will be able to develop a survey of the respondents.
To some degree, this model can apply to modern international students; however, one should bear in mind that perceptions of mobile phone have changed over recent years. Overall, a contemporary cell phone can hardly be imagined without the ability to access Web-based information (O’Dhoherty, Rao, & Mackay, 2007, p 257). Market researchers should take this change into account while examining the preferences of international students.
The result of a recent study by Tosun, Gungor and Topcu indicate that customers attach great value to such characteristics as coverage area, the design of the company’s official website, after-sale services, and speed of services (2008, p 320). Certainly, no one can deny the fact that the price of services does affect their decision-making but it is not the only factor. Apart from that, the existing research suggests that perceived ease of use or user-friendliness is of great value to customers (Gao, Moe, Krogstie, 2010).
To some extent, this claim is supported by the findings of other researchers; in particular, En Mao (2005) et al argue that clients, whose age ranges from 18 to 24, pay attention to such criteria as the efficacy of services, their variety, ease of use, etc (p 15). Most importantly, for the majority of the price is not of the highest priority; it occupies the fourth place on their list (Mao et al, 2005, p 15). Therefore, we can say that mobile network operators cannot win the trust of international students only by lowering the prices for their services. These research articles have been of great use to me since they gave me deep insights into the behaviour of modern users and their purchasing decisions.
However, there are several peculiarities of this target group which distinguish it from others. These people have to struggle with the effects of cultural shock and the ability to communicate with their friends, parents, and relative is of crucial importance for them (Ong, 2009, p 117). This is why it is quite that they will be paid attention to the price of international phone calls. While developing their pricing policies, mobile network operators should pay attention to the cost of international calls, since it can be unaffordable for many of these people. By lowering these prices, they will manage to increase their customer base.
Another distinctive characteristic of this group is the lack of English proficiency. Certainly, this assumption cannot be applied to every ESL students but for many of the language barrier constitutes a very significant problem. When these people use the services of mobile network operators, they cannot always grasp the meaning of the information communicated to them in English. These problems often occur when they try to learn more about the services of different mobile network operators.
Therefore, these companies should offer information in other languages, for example, Chinese or Arabic. This will give rise to positive emotions which increase customer loyalty (De Ruyter, 1999; Bloomer & De Ruyter, 1999). This is how mobile network operators should adjust their work to the needs of these people. Overall, the books and articles, which examine the challenges, faced by international students throw light on the buying preferences of these people. These sources have allowed me to make the research more focused. At this point, we need to compare these findings with the results of exploratory research.
To some degree, the findings of scholars and researchers are supported by the exploratory research that has been carried out. I interviewed several international students and asked them about their use of mobile phones. I preferred to use unstructured interview without multiple-choice questions because in this way I was better able to understand the opinions of these people and, most importantly, their needs.
I asked them about the price of international phone calls, the quality of services, and the reasons why they prefer to use the Internet, instead of a mobile phone. These questions are largely based on the information provided by other researchers. My major intention was to learn more about those aspects of mobile communications that are of the highest priority to international students. Moreover, I intended to determine why this group of people can be dissatisfied with mobile network operators. Finally, it was necessary to understand why customers prefer to use Internet-based technologies instead of mobile operators.
As it has been pointed out before, these individuals attach great importance to the ability to communicate with their friends and relatives. The respondents complained about the excessive price of international phone calls and poor quality. As a result, they have to rely on text-messages and this is not very convenient. Furthermore, the exploratory findings indicate that these people see the Internet as a viable alternative for the internet.
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This view can be explained by the fact that IT solutions and especially social networks offer a better price-quality ratio in comparison with mobile network operators. Nonetheless, these people also point out voice communication via the Internet requires a good internet connection. Apart from that, the respondents admitted that there are less expensive operators but in their opinion, the quality of their work leaves much to be desired. The results of this interview suggest that international students cannot fully benefit from already-existing technologies. This is one of the key conclusions we can come to.
These exploratory findings will lay the foundations for my future research. First of all, it has shown to me why international students have to use mobile phones and what they expect from mobile network operators. More importantly, this interview has enabled me to understand why these customers cannot retain this group of customers. Thus, I will know what kind of questions should be asked to the respondents. It has to be admitted that these exploratory findings do not give any definitive explanations of the expectations set by international students and their buying preferences. Moreover, the sampling is not sufficient. However, in part, they confirm the initial hypothesis that these people are very sensitive about the price of international phone calls.
At this point, we must single out the main objectives which we must achieve in the course of this study.
- The first and most important task is to understand what kind of expectations international students set for mobile network operators. When speaking about expectations we will focus on such aspects as pricing, the variety of services, the reliability of the network, efficiency of the personnel etc.
- Secondly, we need to find out which of these characteristics is of higher or lesser importance for international students. This information will be particularly useful for the managers, who try to promote their services to the customers.
- The third task is to understand why these customers can be dissatisfied with their mobile network operators and why they refuse to use their services.
- Furthermore, we need to learn more about the reasons why these people prefer to use other technologies, other than the internet. As it has been mentioned in the previous section, these customers prefer them because of them offer a good price-quality ratio. However, it is quite probable that the tendency can be explained by the fact mobile phone networks do not provide them with the same opportunities.
- Finally, we need to pinpoint some other factors that may impact the decisions and expectations of international students. We are going to focus on such variables as age, sex, and the number of years which these people have lived in Australia. The thing is that the needs and expectations of international students can change with time passing, especially when they overcome the effects of culture shock.
These are the main objectives that this research has to attain. Each of the above-mentioned tasks is essential for our understanding of this target audience, and none of them should be disregarded.
At this point, it is vital to draw a conceptual diagram of this research. It will enable us to identify the steps that should be undertaken in the course of this study.
This diagram illustrates the sequence of the steps that are going to be taken.
The future research will primarily rely on quantitative research methods. I intend to survey at least 100 hundred international students; they will need to answer multiple-choice questions (with Likert scale items) about those characteristics of mobile network operators which they value most, for instance, pricing, quality of services, reliability of the network, politeness of the personnel etc.
Moreover, I would like to interview each of the respondents and focus on the reasons why they choose to switch from one service provider from another. In this way, I will be able to understand the requirements which people set for these companies. While analyzing the data, I will rely on the ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) model. The thing is that purchasing decisions of international students may also depend upon such characteristics as age, sex, and the number of years this person has lived in Australia. ANOVA approach will enable me to better explain the behaviour of this target audience.
Managerial and practical contributions of the research
The results of this research will have both theoretical and practical value. On the one hand, this study will increase our awareness about the purchasing decisions of customers, who try to select the best mobile service provider. We will be able to understand what exactly these people value and they prefer one operator to another. Furthermore, the findings of this study can be used by the companies which currently work in Western Australia.
International students can greatly increase their customer base. Mobile network operators can use this information for the following purposes: 1) the development of marketing strategies; 2) improvement of the services offered to their clients; 3) advertising; 4) the development of pricing policies. This study will help them understands why they cannot retain many of their customers and why they prefer to use other technologies. On the whole, such an issue as the purchasing decisions of international students still requires further research, and this study allows us to gain a better understanding of this issue.
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