SEAHO Report - Winter 2023 - 37

The Student Experience:
Impacts of Educational Experiences versus
Customer Service on Student Satisfaction
By Emily Styles, University of Mississippi
As a Higher Education professional and previous
employee of a large hospitality organization, when
my university decided to offer an online Masters in
Hospitality Management degree, I knew it was the
right choice to pursue this professional development
opportunity to learn more about customer service.
During the program, I had multiple opportunities
to explore customer service within different
organizations. However, in the back of my mind, I
was continuing to think about the debate that often
comes up in student affairs related to providing
educational moments versus customer service to
students. Being a housing professional, I hear this
debate frequently. I decided it was important to
look into research on this topic further and wanted
to share the research with others in student housing
who may have the same question arise within their
organizations.
with the university. Watjatrakul (2014) discusses how
students are paying for their education, therefore
should be treated like anyone who is paying for a
service. On the other hand, Sax (2004) indicates
that students are paying customers but do not often
understand the concept of academic integrity and
expect customer service to apply to all aspects of
their experience including when complaining about
grades.
Even though higher education institutions are
organizations that provide services, providing
educational moments versus providing customer
service is often debated between the institution's
professionals and customers. Students attend higher
education institutions to gain knowledge and learn
about specific areas of interest to help them grow
professionally. While the primary reason to attend a
university is to gain a degree, students should still
be provided good customer service throughout their
learning experience just as they would when using a
service at any other organization.
Research shares conflicting ideas on this concept;
however, most research indicates students should, in
fact, be considered customers during certain times
Another research study indicates that faculty and
staff feel that " students are NOT customers " while
students " view themselves as customers " (Guilbault,
2018, p. 295). This research shows that students want
to be customers in certain aspects of the educational
experience by providing feedback as well as through
communication. It is helpful to understand this aspect
within the debate of providing educational moments
or providing customer service to students while at
a higher educational institution (Guilbault, 2018).
Xu, Lo, & Wu (2018) also agree that students should
be considered customers in some respects since
they are paying customers; however, this concept
should be considered since " education is not pure
business " (p. 254). Since students hold a variety of
roles while attending a higher education institution,
they may be customers in some respects, but in
other situations may play a different role (Xu, Lo, &
Wu, 2018). Boyd (2012) shares that " the focus should
deliberately shift to helping students make the most
of their experience " which indicates students should
be considered customers in most situations (page:
conclusion section). Ultimately, there should be an
understanding between students, faculty, and staff
during which situations a student is considered a
customer.
37

SEAHO Report - Winter 2023

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Contents
SEAHO Report - Winter 2023 - 1
SEAHO Report - Winter 2023 - Contents
SEAHO Report - Winter 2023 - 3
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