Research into the importance of staff in boundary spanning roles has significantly
increased in service firms in recent years. Academics are professionals
in teaching and research. Their activities in dealing with students directly
places them in the front stage of contact. They are the contact staff that
meet the students both in the lecture halls and also as advisers and academic
counsellors. This paper is an exploratory look at academics in their front-stage
contact with students and the support they receive from a range of internal
services. These internal services can be predicted to either directly or
indirectly affect the performance of academics in their teaching and research
activities. The purpose of this research paper is to investigate the impact
that the perceived quality of these internal services has on the perceived
self-assessed quality of teaching and research activities of academics.
One would a priori predict that the perceived quality of internal
services would affect the teaching/research performance of academics. An
exploratory survey was conducted identifying the attitudes of some academics
in two faculties of a local university on the quality and importance of
the various internal services that were provided to assist them in undertaking
their duties. An open-ended questionnaire was used to gather data. The
preliminary results indicate a hygiene-motivation attitude.
Academics are professionals in teaching and research. Their activities
in dealing with students directly places them in the front stage of contact.
That is, they are the contact staff that meet the students both in the
lecture halls and also as advisers and academic counsellors in their offices.
Therefore, academics in their roles as teachers/researchers can be considered
to be front-line personnel. The contact with students can be evaluated
using Lovelock, 1996 model of the service experience, the service delivery
system. For instance, using this model, a student would evaluate the teaching
performance of an academic, by taking into consideration the performance
of the academic, the interior and exterior of the lecture room, the equipment
used such as overhead and film projectors, and the behaviour of other students
(a similar scene can be described for the research contact). The evaluation
made by a student of an individual academic's performance will therefore
be based upon a number of variables which includes an evaluation of the
quality of the performance of the academic, tangibles such as the acceptability
of the physical environment, the performance of any equipment, the behaviour
of other students, as well as the student's own well-being. Each student's
evaluation will place different weights on the importance of each variable.
Overall, each student will evaluate their experience by comparing the performance
with their predetermined expectations. Students will either disconfirm
positively or negatively their satisfaction of their teaching or research
contact with an academic. Academics can, therefore, be considered to be
customer contact personnel whose performance in the service delivery
system will influence the perceptions of students.
As contact staff, academics are the recipients of a range of services
provided by internal departments such as the library, media, bookshop,
university administration, faculty administration, and school/departmental
administration. Extensive research in service organisations has investigated
the satisfaction of external clients in their dealings with service firms.
More recently, emphasis is being placed on the quality of the internal
'moments of truth'     . The performance of an academic
may depend to varying degrees on the quality of these internal services.
Academics can therefore be considered to be internal customers of these
internal services. The purpose of this research paper is to investigate
the impact that the perceived quality of these internal services has on
the perceived self-assessed quality of teaching and research activities
An exploratory survey was conducted identifying the attitudes of some academics
in the Business and Education Faculties of a local university on the quality
and importance of the various internal services that are provided to assist
them in undertaking their duties. An open-ended questionnaire was used.
The instrument was administered in part by the self-completion by some
academics and in part by personal interviews of others conducted by the
researcher. Academics were asked to identify the departments/ individuals
that provided services to them and to comment on their perception of the
quality of services provided. An attempt was made to identify whether the
identified departments/ individuals directly or indirectly affected the
perceived performance of the academic. Views were also obtained on the
expectations that the academic had of the internal services and on whether
the internal departments/individuals considered the academic as a customer.
Academics were asked to self-rank themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 as academics
and on what percentage of this rating was affected by the quality of internal
services. They were then asked to describe the factors that affected their
academic performance which were not affected by the quality of internal
Preliminary results appear to indicate that while some academics were critical
of certain internal services that were provided to them, the quality of
delivery in itself was not regarded as having a significant effect on their
performance as academics, teaching or research. Personal motivation, knowledge,
and communication skills were frequently mentioned as the main contributors
to performance. Dramaturgy with its emphasis on role and
script theories may explain this attitude of academics. Believable
performances based upon a common role expectation between students and
academics may be the basis for an academics to believe that their performance
vis a vis students was not significantly influenced by the quality
of internal services provided. The increasing application of the consumer
model to higher education may influence the academic to provide a 'believable
performance' irrespective of the quality received from the internal services.
Another explanation may be the hygiene-motivation model of Frederick
Herzberg . Academics may be more motivated by the responsibility, freedom
and independence that they have in the manner in which they can conduct
their teaching and research activities than in the quality of internal
services. The quality of the internal services may be considered a hygiene
factor, ie. provision of quality will alleviate dissatisfaction but will
not provide satisfaction. In other words, the factors that result in dissatisfaction
are not the same factors that result in satisfaction.
It will be interesting to further investigate whether this attitude
towards the quality of internal services is affected by whether the academic
believes themselves to be a good academic as perceived by students. An
academic may be more inclined to attribute a good 'believable performance'
to themselves but a bad performance may be attributed to the failures of
others (such as the quality of internal services received). That is, the
familiarity that academics and students have in their respective roles
may provide a common understanding of expected behaviour which are adhered
to. However, where 'obstacles and errors' interfere, the tendency for one
to attribute success to one's own efforts but to blame others for any failure,
may result in academics to blame others for any front-stage failure .
A consequence may be that dramatology loyalty is undone.
- Gronroos, C., Service Management and Marketing: Managing the Moments of Truth in Service Competition. 1990, Singapore: Maxwell MacMillan.
- Gremler, D.D., M.J. Bitner, and K.R. Evans, The Internal Service Encounter. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 1994. 5(2), 34-56.
- Bitner, M.J., B.H. Booms, and L.A. Mohr, Critical Service Encounters: The Employee's Viewpoint. Journal of Marketing, 1994. 58(October).
- Reynoso, J. and B. Moores, Towards the Measurement of Internal Service Quality. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 1995. 6(3), 64-83.
- Stauss, B., Internal Services: Classification and Quality Management. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 1995. 6(2), 62-78.
- Herzberg, F., Work and the Nature of Man. 1966, Cleveland: World Publishing.
- Schank, R. C. and R. P. Abelson, Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding. 1977, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
|Author: Peter Sanders, Senior Lecturer, School of Marketing and Tourism|
Edith Cowan University, Pearson Street, Churchlands, WA 6018
Phone: 61 08 9273 8241 Fax: 61 08 9273 8754
Please cite as: Sanders, P. (1997). Self-perceived performance of academics: Effect of internal services. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 1997. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/1997/sanders.html
[ Proceedings Contents ]
[ Forum 1997 Abstracts ]
[ WAIER Home Page ]
Last revision: 1 June 2006. This URL: http://www.waier.org.au/forums/1997/sanders.html
Previous URL 30 July 2001 to 16 May 2006: http://education.curtin.edu.au/waier/forums/1997/sanders.html
Previous URL from 13 Aug 1999 to 30 July 2001: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/waier/forums/1997/sanders.html
HTML: Roger Atkinson [email@example.com] and Clare McBeath [firstname.lastname@example.org]