ASSIGNMENT 2: REVIEW THESIS

1)     What is the research problem, how
it is chosen and motivated. How well it is defined?

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The
problem of the research has been stated out from the beginning of the thesis,
in a clearly and transparent way:” How can Oppilastalo Ltd improve customer
service with its current and future foreign and Finnish customers?” Oppilastalo
is the operating student housing company in Lahti region. The company was
established in Lahti on 11th of September 1969 in Lahti by the
vocational institutes’ student associations. The vision of the company is to
build, administer, and lease student and lease housing for competitive price in
Lahti region and to fulfil the requirements concerning quality, location and
number of housing set by student and educational establishments. The company
practices building, management, administration- and maintenance activities of
real estate and buildings. (Oppilastalo 2015.)

The
topic and problem of this thesis is “Improving the effectiveness of customer
service- case: Oppilastalo Ltd”. The author chose this thesis topic when she
was working for Oppilastalo Ltd during summer 2013 and 2014. She also
interested in real estate since she worked for this company. This topic has
been accepted by the CEO of Oppilastalo Ltd, the CEO showed interest to the
topic and the company wanted to stay connected through this thesis project.

The
author understands the demand of housing in Lahti for student who exchange or
study abroad, the author has provided many statistics, number and graph to show
the need of housing in Lahti region as well as the number of students come to
Lahti every year. Especially, the writer focus on the Lahti University of
Applied Sciences (Lahti UAS) to be the main target of the customer services of
Oppilastalo. It means that it is easier and more accurate to interview or to
collect data information from those students who actually experience the
services of the company.

The
author chose Oppilastalo even though there are also other private house company
is because normally the private renters will want to make the housing contract
for at least one year. However, students have a time limit that for example,
exchange student that from another country just move to Finland to stay for
short term (about 6 months), they cannot make a house contract for one year.
Student housing company is more focus on student and their living. Therefore,
when student making the contract to Oppilastalo, when student wants to
terminate the house contract, they just need to inform the company before one
month and they can move out the next month. It will be more flexible and easier
for student than a private renting company with a long-term contract.

Although
Oppilastalo has the competitive advantage that it is the only student housing company
in Lahti region, but the author realized that it is important to a company to
develop their activities, she understands the customer need for more customer
services so she chose this topic to research.

The
problem is well defined because the author stated out the research objectives,
goal. All the questions and limitations is also be carried out.

 

2)     How are the research goals defined?

 

The
research was made for the Oppilastalo’s foreign customers and also for Finnish
customers. The thesis goal is to understand the different customer targets and
the effectiveness of customer service in the oppilastalo office to make the
living for both foreign and Finnish tenants become more pleasant, satisfied and
comfortable. The final output result of the research is to offer the company
advices and suggestions of how to improve and provide more effective service
for the customers.

 

The author
divided the main question “How can Oppilastalo Ltd improve customer service
with its current and future foreign and Finnish customers?” into many
sub-questions to help to answer the main question.

The
sub-questions are the following:

1.     
What is
effective customer service?

2.     
What do foreign
customers expect from their student apartment/student apartment staff?

3.     
What do Finnish
customers expect from their student apartment/student apartment staff?

4.     
What are
foreign customers satisfied with, what more could be included and what are the
main improvement wanted?

5.     
What are
Finnish customers satisfied with , what more could be included and what are the
main improvements wanted?

The
author showed the limitation of this research is the limited region area, the
study is only cover in Lahti region. The research is focus on student but not
everyone else in the renting apartment. The research data is collected based on
the students of Lahti UAS and Lahti’s student housing. It also based on
Oppilastalo Ltd, it means that it is not only based on the facts from other
renting companies.

 

3)     What are the basic term and
concept? How well they are defined?

 

The author
use the SOSTAC Planning System is created by PR Smith. Which is stand for
Situation analysis, Objective, Strategy, Tactics, Actions, Control. SOSTAC can
be used in marketing planning, marketing communication planning or boarder
business planning. (Smith 2016.)

 

Research
approaches include the inductive approach and deductive approach. In deductive,
the study begins with the general knowledge and then moves to the detailed
information, from general to specific. The inductive study starts with the
topic first and then developing into a more general theory at the end of the
research. (Myers 2013, 23.)

 

The author
also present two types of the research method are quantitative and qualitative.
The qualitative research is often inductive and it describes people’s particular
situations and it is flexible. The quantitative research is more deductive. The
quantitative research involves statistical analysis in contrast to the
qualitative research involves, for example, texts, images, and data collection
from interviews. (Frankel & Devers 2000.)

 

Qualitative
research methods were developed originally to study nature phenomena, when
qualitative research methods were developed to study social and cultural
phenomena. (Myers 2013, 7-8).

 

The mix
between quantitative and qualitative research is called mixed methods and it is
the third approach to research. The mixed method includes gathering both
numerical information and text information, and the final database
characterizes both quantitative and qualitative information. (Creswell 2003,
18-20.)

 

Data
collection are from primary data and secondary data. Primary data means the
original data collected for a specific research goal. Secondary data means
material created by other researcher, which is available for reuse by general
research community. (Hox & Boeije 2005, 593.)

 

The author
also used Porter’s five forces model, which is include threat of new entrants,
threat of substitute products or services, bargaining power of customers,
bargaining power of suppliers and intensity of competitive rivalry. This model
use to define the current market situation. SWOT analysis is used in the
research to show the company evaluation of their own strength, weaknesses,
opportunities, threats to keep up with the changing environments.

 

Other basic
concepts have been carried out are current market, objective, strategy,
segmenting, targeting, positioning, tactics, actions, control. These conceps
are being well defined by stating out the theories from books, author also use
graph and pictures to show example and explain it for reader to keep up and
understand easily, she also shows the way to obtain each of the concept. For
example, in the Objective concept, the author informed us about the basic
concept, then she point out many types of objectives and finally she showed the
way to make an objective, by follow S.M.A.R.T goal method (which is stand for
specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based).

 

Another
important key concept of this study is “Customer service”. “Customer” is anyone
with whom we exchange value. For example, when we exchange money for a service
or product, we are customers. (Timm 2007, 3.)

 

The writer
used very simple term to describe the concept of customer service- which make
reader easier to remember. Customer service is “Attention, Smile, Enthusiasm,
response, understanding, patience, remembering details, facts, giving, action”
and Customer service is not “Neglect, bored looks, dullness, indifference,
closed mind, irritation, forgetting details, arguments, receiving or delay”.
She also stated out the official concept of Customer Service : Is the act of
taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional,
helpful, high quality service and assistance, before, during and after the
customers’ requirements are met. Customer service is meeting the need and
desires of any customer. (Business Dictionary 2016.)

 

 

 

4)     What is the research approach and
methods? How the data is collected?

 

In this
research, the author adopted the deductive approach and the qualitative method
is used in the study. The data is collected from primary and secondary source
such as interviews, questionnaires, academic books and e-sources.

 

Most of
the data for this thesis was collected by interviews. The author interview
customers of the company who are exchange students, foreign degree students and
Finnish degree students. The interview includes on phone interview, two group
interviews, two mail inquires and four face-to-face interviews. Sum up there
are nine interviews were conducted. The phone interview was done with the
assistant of international affair. Group interviews including exchange student
and with company’s employees also. Email inquiry was sent to a foreign customer
and the other to a Finnish customer. One of the face-to-face interviews was
conducted with a foreign customer and the rest were done with Finnish
customers.

 

The author
conducted a meeting with the CEO and the leasing manager. The interview with
the leasing manager was a face-to-face interview at the company’s office. The
interview for the employees of the company was also a face-to-face and
recorded. It was a group interview with three employees. The list of the
question was sent before handed to the employees. Both of the interviews last
for an hour.

 

The author
also makes the interview to the secretary of the international relations (by
phone), the aim is to make a better understanding from the school side and how
they work with the exchange student and with the housing company.

 

The data
information is collected from the desk research, design interviews, going
through feedback forms, data analysis and show the results.

 

The author
interviews different group of people to understand more about the current
situation, to know about changes has been made and what is coming up in the
company. The interview to customers show what the customers want the company to
improve or install in the house or in the customer service.

 

5)     How well the data is analysed? Are
the conclusions logical and do they base on the data collected?

 

As
mentioned above, the author had conducted many interviews and email feedback
also to collect data for the study. And she analysed data through every single
interview. First is the company interview analysis, from this the author found
out that during summer 2015, Oppilastalo has a change of ownership and now they
are a part of Lahden Talot Company. Due to this change, many student houses are
under renovation. A new intranet is designed and it will be put into used after
being tested. The intranet called “Nettikoti” and it will make the
communication between the company and customers much easier than it is now.
From the customers interview

 

 

analysis,
the result is that student want the company to install more laundry machines,
more available times for sauna, the heating problem, student want to have
coffee machine, microwave, darker curtains, … the most common reason for
student to choose Oppilastalo is because it has good reputation and the prices
are good compared to other rental companies. The customer service is not always
satisfying, there is some dissatisfies about the heating system inside the
house, it very cold in the winter even inside the house. The students prefer
small studio apartments located near to the school or to the centre. Finnish
customers is likely to be more satisfied with the services of Oppilastalo than
the foreigner customers due to many differences in cultural.

 

For the
interview of the secretary of international affairs interview analysis, the
author found out how Lahti UAS take actions to help students to connect with
the house company. Lahti UAS arranged an orientation day for the exchange
students and for the foreign degree students too.

 

The
Feedback form analysis showed that some foreign customers complained about the
maintenance man’s language skills and some said that the service was really
friendly and fast.

 

After
analysed all the data collected, the author went to the conclusion and answered
the research question “How can Oppilastalo Ltd improve customer service with
its current and future foreign and Finnish customers?” by answered first the
sub-questions.

 

First is
the question “What is effective customer service?” and the author has showed
the basic concept and the important of the customer services. Patience, smiles,
attention, and appearance are some key elements to good customer service.

 

Second
question is “What do foreign customers expect from their student
apartment/student apartment staff?” In this question the author found out that
customers are expected to be treated with respect, fairness and friendly
gestures. Working Internet is also very important. Finland is very cold in
winter so the company has to work on the heating system.

 

Third
question is “What do Finnish customers expect from their student
apartment/student apartment staff?” it showed that they expect the same value
with foreign customers but the Finnish customers understand that communication
can feel impolite for the foreign customers as the Finnish customers see it as
normal communication. Finnish customers expect the student apartment to be
clean, quiet, and it has to have low rental price. The internet connection is
expected to be fast and working all the time.

 

The fourth
question is “What are foreign customers satisfied with, what more could be
included and what are the main improvements wanted?” For this question, the
author’ data analysis has stated out that the exchange students are satisfied
with the

 

 

furniture
in the student house. They expect to add things such as coffee machine,
microwave and darker curtains, vacuum cleaner to the room as mentioned above.
In general, customers were satisfied with the customer service but the written
communication got negative feedback.

 

Finally,
the last sub-question is “What are Finnish customers satisfied with, what more
could be included and what are the main improvement wanted?”. For this
question, it was said that the price is the main reason why they chose
Oppilastalo Ltd instead of the private renters in Lahti. They hope that there
will be more apartment building that locate in the centre or near the centre.
The Finnish customers were satisfied with the customer service and there were
no negative feedback or comments appeared.

 

For the
final main question, the author used SWOT analysis and Porter’s Five Forces
Model to analyse the situation of the company. After the data analysis, in
general, it can be seen that most of the customers are satisfied with the
customer service of the company and the Finnish customers is more satisfied
than the foreign customers. The company should focus on improving the
communication with the foreign customers. The written information should be
given as clearly as possible and briefly. And it is even better if they can
arrange a face-to-face meeting to present information about the housing issues.

 

The
conclusion is logical and they do based on the data collected of the research.

 

6)     How are the reliability and
validity dealt in the thesis?

 

The author
stated out the purpose of the study was to find out the answer for the research
question. The secondary data for the theoretical part was gathered from
literature, such as academic book and e-sources. The primary data was collected
by interviewing and analysing feedback form from customers and also through
author’s observations. Based on these facts, the research is valid and
reliable.

 

7)     What is the contribution of the
research result and for whom?

 

The study
is focus on the customer service and through the interviews, the result showed
that new apartment buildings are wanted from the customers and from the
company’s side. Further research should be conducted to find out what kind of
apartment is needed to be built more. Studio apartment is most wanted among the
students. Internet is the crucial factor that should be focus on and always
available in the student apartment. This result helps the company to understand
more about weakness in customer service, what it has to improve and focus more
on. It also gives advises to Oppilastalo Ltd about what should be done to
develop and gain more customer loyalty to capture and create more customer
values. On the other hand, it also an opportunity for customers, especially
students in Lahti has a chance to tell the company what they want and they will
truly be listened to. Therefore, this study help both company and customers in
the win-win way, which bring benefits to both sides.

 

8)     How is the thesis likes from the
view point of a reader? Do the abstract, introduction and conclusion include
all what is necessary?

 

From the view
of reader, thesis is clear and transparent. At the beginning, the research
included the brief summary, the table of content and the structure to help
readers to read easier. The research follows the academic thesis format, all
the abstract, introduction and conclusion provide all the necessary
information. In the introduction part, the author stated out the research
problem, and how to approach to answer all of them. It also showed what are the
thesis objectives, limitations, the theoretical framework, the research
methodology and how the data are collected. She also informed readers about
what research methods, , research approaches she will use in the report so that
readers will have a clear view of the direction of the research. At the end of
the research, the author again emphasized all the main important information,
and stated out the research results by answering all the sub-questions and then
answer the main question. This make readers understand about the result, how
did the author come up with it and if the result is reliable. She also gave
some suggestions for the company about what should be done to solve the
research problem, what is the aspect that the company should improve and focus
on. The list of reference is at the end of the conclusion, which includes all
the link and the book title that the author used in the research. The
references are marked correctly, divided into Published references, Electric
sources and Oral references (giving title, year and date of the interview) and
follows the alphabet order. By doing this, the reader will find it easier to
search for the reference they want.

 

9)     What are the good and bad points?
How could you make it better?

 

The first
good point of the thesis is the author use simple words, she did not use so
many academic words and that make it easier for many types of readers to
understand ang keep up with the research. The author also uses a lot of figures
and graphs to indicate all the concept, the frame work. By adding many figures,
reader will tend to remember it better than only with words. Many titles and
sub-titles are in the research. The writer has many references, she uses many information
based on many official published books, that make the information more
reliable. The author found out the answer for the problem and that is clear
from the point of readers. However, the research will become more practical if
the author tell more about the reaction of the company after the result is
found out and what will be the next action of the company to give an answer to
the customers. What promises can the company provide to the customers to gain
their trust and their satisfaction.

 

Another
bad point that need to be improved is the number of student interviews, there
are more than just some interviews should be conducted to make sure that the
data collected are good enough to go to the conclusion. The best way to collect
data from student is to use feedback and survey form. More information will be
collected and it will be more accurate to hear from many different customers.
Another good point of the author is her result is true, at least from my all
point of view. The Oppilastalo should improve the communication between them
and customers

 

 

because
there is one time that when I send many email about the house problem and they
did not answer the email after nearly one month and because of that many things
have happened and it cause inconvenient for both me and the company. So I did
appreciate the author for this topic, she did really good job on this research.

 

References

 

Creswell,
J. 2003. Research Design. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed methods
approaches. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

 

Frankel, R
& Devers, J . 2000. Study Design in Qualitative Research. Second edition.
Education for Health.

 

Hox, J.
& Boeije, H. 2005. Data Collection, Primary vs. Secondary. Encyclopedia of
Social Measurement, Volume 1, 593-599.

 

Myers, M.
2013. Qualitative Research in Business & Management. 2nd Edition. London:
Sage Publications.

 

Timm, P.
R. 2007. Customer service: Career success through customer loyalty. 4th
Edition. Prentice Hal

 

 

Business
Dictionary, 2016. Definition of customer service. referenced 03 February
2016. Available: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/customerservice.html

 

The research
link:

Improving
the effectiveness of customer service- Case: Oppilastalo

https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/112061/Turunen_Mervi.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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