The Marketing of Training Services Sector

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The services sector has been at the forefront of the rapid growth of the Indian economy. As per the Central Statistical Organisation, the services sector has continued to grow in the second quarter of 2009-10. Lead indicators suggest that the pace of expansion in the services sector activity is likely to be sustained even in the next financial year. The prospects for growth in the Indian services sector continues to be robust, according to a survey by KPMG, conducted across the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in the spring of 2009. The survey revealed that 31.3 per cent of Indian companies saw their activity levels improving. Around 37 per cent forecast new order growth in one year's time, compared with 16 per cent that anticipated a fall. Even capital expenditure at Indian services firms is anticipated to rise, with 43 per cent of companies saying they plan to increase spending on fixed assets.

According to a HSBC survey(2009), business activity among Indian services companies expanded at its fastest pace in 16 months in January 2010, rising for a second straight month on a sharp increase in new work orders.

Education Industry & its growth

Education is an important part of life. The amount and type of education that individuals receive is a major influence on both the types of jobs they are able to hold and their earnings. Lifelong learning is important in acquiring new knowledge and upgrading one's skills, particularly in this age of rapid technological and economic changes.

Education in today's world has become a full-fledged industry and India is an important educational center of the global education industry. In recent decades, the Nation has focused attention on the educational system, because of the growing importance of producing a trained and educated workforce. Many institutions, including government, private industry, and research organizations, are involved in improving the quality of education.

Computer technology continues to affect the education industry. Teachers use the Internet in classrooms, as well as to communicate with colleagues and parents; students use the Internet for research projects. Distance learning continues to expand, as more postsecondary institutions use Internet-based technology to conduct lessons and coursework electronically, allowing students in distant locations access to educational opportunities formerly available only on campus.

Training Industry

The game of economic competition has new rules. Firms should be fast and responsive. This requires responding to customers' needs for quality, variety, customization, convenience and timelines. Meeting these new standards requires a workforce that is technically trained in all respects. Training has increased its importance in this current scenario where jobs are complicated and changing quickly.

The term 'education' is wider in scope and more general in purpose when compared to training. Training is the act of increasing the knowledge and skills of an employee. Studies by Kalleberg and Moody (1994), Delaney and Huselid (1996), and Harel and Tzafrir (1999) suggest that training has a positive impact on perceived organizational performance while the study of d'Arcimoles (1997) indicates training is associated with effects on both productivity and profitability. Education, on the other hand, is the process of increasing the general knowledge and skills of an employee while doing a job. Studies show that individuals with more education and less labor market experience enjoy higher private returns from training experience than individuals with the same experience and less education (Giorgio Brunello, 2001). Education is imparted through schools or colleges and the contents of such a programme generally aim at improving the talents of a person. Whereas training is practical oriented and company specific. To survive and flourish in this current scenario companies should invest more in training the employees frequently. Research in this area suggests that companies invest in training their employees no matter whether the training is specific to the firm or more general in nature (useful to other firms), see for instance Veum (1995), Loewenstein and Spletzer (1998; 1999), Barron et al. (1999) and Autor (2001). However both have to be viewed as programmes that are complimentary and mutually supportive. Both aim at exploiting the power of the true potential of a person/employee. Two studies that have examined the effects of general company training also suggest substantial productivity gains for firms training specific to the firm(Barrett et al., 2001 and Dearden et al., 2000). The results of these two studies suggest there are larger gains for firms from general than specific training. Because of the empirical evidence that companies pay for and captures the returns to general training, the interest in company-based research has increased considerably in recent years.

In today's society the classical method of learning has undergone numerous changes. The emergence of the Internet has accelerated these changes due to its capacity to offer multiple possibilities of access to information, instruction, all based on dynamic technologies, transparency and open dialogue. It can be well said that the Internet is turning into an arbiter for the access to education and culture, while eLearning is a new form of education that suggests itself as an alternative with a view to the needs of continuing training and knowledge. The use of the term "eLearning" means the use of technologies to support students in achieving their learning outcomes. Hall and LeCavalier (2000b) summarized economic savings as a result of converting their traditional training delivery methods to e-learning. Using a blend of Web-based (80 percent) and classroom (20 percent) instruction, Ernst & Young reduced training costs by 35 percent while improving consistency and scalability. Rockwell Collins reduced training expenditures by 40 percent with only a 25 percent conversion rate to Web-based training. The eLearning programmes intends to improve the quality and efficiency of computer- assisted education area through offering a theoretical support and providing best practices, practical experiences and continuous updates regarding the area. E-learning has the potential to reduce the clock hour measures of learning and providing customized learning solutions. Nettles, et al., (2000) report that, while the majority of the 49 studies they examined reported no significant difference between e-learning and traditional classroom education, nearly 30 percent of the studies report that e-learning programs had positive outcomes based on student preference, improved grades, higher cost effectiveness. Serrano and Alford (2000) conducted research that clearly showed that incorporating technology across the curriculum acts as a catalyst for all learners. It is not just a web based instruction or distance learning but includes many ways by which individuals exchange information and gain knowledge. Today's job market demands higher levels of skills and knowledge. E-learning can be substituted to traditional training program. E- Learning enables instructors to develop materials using the world wide resources web thereby providing more information than in text-based education programs. Unilever claims that e-learning helped their sales sta_ produce more than US$20 million in additional sales (Hoekstra, 2001)- Level IV evaluation. In another example, Etera, a nursery supply company, uses e-learning to train its national sales force. Their headquarters claims that an Etera-certi ed dealer who has gone through the online training has 170 percent more sales than an untrained dealer (Zimmerman, 2001). E-learning has the potential to reduce skills gap which will help to attain organizational and individual success.

Marketing of Services

According to numerous thinkers, a customer is the fundamental reason for the existence of business (Drucker, 1973; Levitt, 1983) and to reach to this customer Marketing is needed. Marketing is the inevitable and very important aspect in business since it contributes greatly to the success of the organization. It is the process of introducing and promoting the product or service into the market and encourages sales from the buying public. Efficient marketing management is the pre-requisite for the successful operation of any business enterprise and the companies are trying hard to give customer satisfaction with good products and services. Kosaka (1990) identified the direct relationship between customer satisfaction and organizational performance. Customer Satisfaction is also found to be strongly correlated with repurchases intentions, the willingness to recommend the company and to improve cross-buying. Positive consumers' perceptions of service quality also contribute to enhance customer satisfaction (Durvasual and Mehta, 1998). The quality of service both technical and functional, is a key ingredient in achieving the customer satisfaction and in turn, in the success of service organizations (Gronroos, 1984). There is enough evidence that demonstrates the strategic benefits of quality in contributing a market share and returns on investment (Devling & Dong, 1996), lowering manufacturing cost and improving productivity (Garvin 1988). In the past few decades, many leading firms have added services to their existing product offerings in an attempt to provide total customer solutions and, thus, to improve their competitiveness and performance (Lusch, Vargo, and O'Brien 2007; Sawhney 2006; Wise and Baumgartner 1999). Academics add support to service transition strategies by arguing that to compete in the future, firms must shift from a "goods-centered paradigm" to a "service-centered view" (Vargo and Lusch 2004, p. 12).

Marketing of Training Services

Training Industry in India has grown by leaps and bounds in the last one decade. There are many training organizations now in India who are offering training to corporate and to individuals and they are offering different services as a part of their training. The way the services are marketed by these organizations have also undergone a sea change. With the coming up of web enabled technologies, the way the training is imparted and the way it is marketed has also undergone a change and the effort of the marketers is to create a robust system by which they can satisfy the customers and also keep their stakeholders happy. It is said that a system that fulfils the requirement of the external forces such as customers and at the same time applies to the internal forces to accommodate them is the true winner (Koslowski, 2006; Abdullah, 2006; Eagle and Brennan, 2007; Russell, 2005; Hill, 1995; Houston, 2008).

The Study

The major objective of the study is to understand how a training services company develop its services and market the same. It is also studied as to how do the training companies form strategic tie ups with other organizations and use e-learning methods to deliver their services. The use of social networking sites in marketing the services of training company is also explored.

For this study a qualitative research has been undertaken and as part of that a case based research has been done. An effort has been made to understand this process in a leading training services company located in Trivandrum called John & Mary International Training Systems Private Ltd. After the study it has been observed that the firm is using a e-learning software, Moodle which is an open source software to connect to its clients in the corporate and individual market and that the organization has gone for strategic tie ups with companies like Surgeforth Technologies, Chennai and organizations like RAI. In one year they have grown from 1 centre in Trivandrum to 3 centres in Kerala and in the next 1 year are planning to expand its operations across India. It has grown as a training and a people analytics company and diversified into offering consultancy and research based services. They are using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to market their services apart from the usual marketing techniques.

Key words

Services, Training, E-Learning, Social Media