Thursday, August 28, 2008

Measuring Customer Satisfaction in Korea

One of the joys of working in South Korea is that there are more barriers to doing good research than language. If I consider just my role as a contract worker I have two sets of customers. Supply managers, as in the owners or superiors managing my contract employment and my fees-paying students. So I attempt to be creative.

The easiest to rely upon factors include:

- monitoring and actively soliciting improvement suggestions from the student clients. This can be effective but especially difficult with school-aged students as many are already forced to attend training institutes without any internal motivation and Confucian values systems do not encourage critical comments be made to teachers who are viewed as superiors. Serious warning signs would be empty classrooms and a decreasing pay packet.

- feedback from superiors which are more likely to receive critical customer comments from students and parents than a foreign instructor. Generally it is is best o be seen and not heard in respect to superiors. The silence is generally only broken if there are unanticipated customer service problems.

- direct comments in student evaluations and reviews. These are a critical portion of instructor contract satisfaction measures at colleges and universities. However they often more accurately reflect a student level of satisfaction with their grade. It is best to be rated in the middle to upper level of one's peer group or similar to a middle position if one were to compare evaluations relevance to being among a group of penguins diving into known whale infested waters.

For example, in the case of private institute enrollments, service quality customer satisfaction can often be measured by rate of enrollments increasing or decreasing on a monthly basis. However cyclical or seasonal rates apply to university students and corporate clients. While price is a factor often regulatory measures to fix prices in the private educational industry in Korea have faced mixed results thus usually legislated but unenforced. Price factors have determined to some extent the level of professionalism of ESL as an industry within Korea. For example, employment and hiring procedures have only recently become more stringent as of the last couple of years concerning criminal records checks of new hired employees as this facet of supply has faced increased scrutiny concerning the case of Christopher Neal, a Canadian who was charged and convicted on pedophile charges in Thailand. As a result demand only increasingly exceeds supply of native ESL instructors. Such basic screening measures have been in place in the majority of major ESL markets in Asia for sometime. At a basic level institutional measures of customer satisfaction are often rudimentary and any increase in procedural requirements results in two scenarios:

1. Increased costs of hiring and placement of foreign instructors.
2. Decreased supply of young inexperienced instructors.

Functional lecturers of core disciplines other than ESL face customer satisfaction measures beyond the base level of proper qualification. Essential qualifications in the past included BA degrees in English Literature however as customer demand increased, and arts degrees graduate enrollments fell throughout the early nineties in many western nations in response to net decreases in government employment positions, such customer demands were difficult to fill and general arts degrees positions became open to all major disciplines. Higher graduate degree holders in disciplines other than English as a Second Language are arbitrarily handled by immigration at the moment however increasing university educational focus is in specialized knowledge categories, for example, international business, trade or law which the average Master's program in ESL might not adequately prepare a teacher to lead.

As far as identifying trends and uncertainties regarding teaching opportunities in my discipline in Korea the most cost-effective tool has remained the internet. My current management encourage further and continued studies in the topic of international trade --- so here I am!

No comments: