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Dissatisfied parents do not change their children’s kindergarten

26.09.2007
Parents whose children have attended a particular kindergarten for a while do not remove them even if they are dissatisfied, maintains BI researcher Tor W. Andreassen. Inexperienced parents, on the other hand, will look for a new nursery if they do not like what they find there.

Do we have mechanisms that ensure that poor kindergartens instigate measures to improve themselves? – Or are they simply replaced by kindergartens that offer a better quality service?

The most important people concerned – the children – simply have to put up with the kindergarten that their parents send them to.

What about the parents? Do they look for another kindergarten if they are not satisfied with the first one? – Or do they leave the child where he or she is, in spite of their dissatisfaction?

Professor Tor W. Andreassen from BI Norwegian School of Management, in collaboration with Timothy L. Keiningham, Lerzan Aksoy and Demitry Estrin, conducted an extensive survey of the parents of 1000 children at kindergartens in the USA in order to discover the part played by satisfaction where loyalty to a kindergarten is concerned.

The results are presented in an article in the international publication Journal of Consumer Marketing.

Customer satisfaction in children’s kindergartens

The researchers divided the parents interviewed into five main groups according to the age of the child (from one to five years). The parents of the one-year-olds were reckoned as “inexperienced” kindergarten users. Parents who had had a child in a kindergarten for more than one year were reckoned to be “experienced”.

In general, the parents of the one-year-olds were satisfied with their kindergarten.

BI Professor Tor W. Andreassen, who has expertise in customer satisfaction, identified three factors that may explain the high level of satisfaction.

1) The parents are relieved that they have managed to obtain a kindergarten place. This can override small quality defects.

2) As inexperienced parents with regard to kindergartens, they lack the basis on which to judge the standard of what is on offer.

3) Their relationship with the kindergarten is that of a service based on trust.

Nevertheless it was among the parents of the one-year-olds that the research team found the strongest correlation between dissatisfaction and changing kindergarten.

”When the parents of the one-year-olds are dissatisfied, they do something about it. Put simply, they take their custom elsewhere,” declares Andreassen.

Experienced parents stay with the same kindergarten
For the experienced parents – those with children in the age group two-five years – the correlation between dissatisfaction and changing kindergarten weakens as the years go by.

The longer your child has been at a kindergarten, the less likely you are to remove him or her, even if you are dissatisfied.

According to Andreassen, this may be due to the disbenefits from changing kindergartens. “The kindergarten and its staff have got to know the parents and their child over the years – they have become connected with each other. Changing kindergarten means that the parents must spend time adapting to the new kindergarten’s staff, and not least, they also see the effects the kindergarten has had on the child.”

“Even if the parents are dissatisfied with the kindergarten, they can see that it has had a positive effect on the child’s development – which they will resist to avoid this being a negative factor against changing kindergarten.

He then points out, “Paradoxically we then have a situation in which the market for kindergarten places operates well for first time users, but less for parents whose child has been at the same kindergarten for more than a year.

“For kindergartens whose first concern is to ensure that the money follows the child, this can mean that first time parents receive more attention than the experienced ones, who they are more sure of – after all, they are not likely to go to another kindergarten.”

Parents’ learning curve
The study also shows that there is a difference in what matters most to the parents of the one-year-olds and what is important for those with more experience.

In their encounter with the kindergarten, the inexperienced parents place most emphasis on visible factors (e.g. staff, play apparatus etc), while the more experienced parents are more interested in how their child will develop while they are at the kindergarten.

“For a kindergarten which is concerned with the satisfaction of its users, it is important to be aware that the factors affecting parents’ satisfaction will change according to the length of the “customer relationship”.

Audun Farbrot | alfa
Further information:
http://www.bi.no

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