Gaining sustainable competitive advantage through service differentiation among private hospitals in Nairobi
Competition in both private and public hospitals in Kenya has become stiff. Hospitals therefore need to differentiate their services to remain competitive. Private hospitals especially have a challenge just like any other organization (profit or not for profit) of matching consumer preferences, providing quality service, managing productivity, controlling <Klsts and by so doing capturing and maintaining their customers. They depend entirely on the fees they collect from their clients for survival. The study objectives were to determine how private hospitals have gained competitive advantage through service differentiation. The specific objectives included a study on how these service differentiation strategies have contributed to customer satisfaction and loyalty. It was also a survey of the challenges customers face while seeking medical services from these private hospitals. This study was a descriptive survey. The population of study was private hospitals in Nairobi. The sample of interest included 30 out of the 64 private hospitals in Nairobi, according to Kenya Medical and Dentists Practitioners Directory 2012. Primary data was collected using structured questionnaires. The target respondents were the customers seeking medical services from these hospitals. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics by SPSS software. The findings indicated that service delivery as one of the service differentiation strategies was widely practiced to a great extent consistently across the industry hence contributed to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Other factors were service people, service processes and physical facilities; contributing to a great extent to customer satisfaction and loyalty; This implied that most of the patients with their families sought medical care in these private hospitals and were very willing to recommend these private hospitals to their friends. The main challenges faced by patients while seeking medical services from these private hospitals were long waiting time and high costs of services. It is therefore recommended that the hospitals should ensure that the patients are attended to in the shortest time possible so that can have value for their money and these can be achieved by the hospitals employing sufficient staff. The limitation of this study was that the survey was based on only private hospitals in Nairobi. A more regional representation would have provided better results. The researcher recommended that a study should be conducted to cover both private and public hospitals in Kenya as well as health management organizations (HMOs).