Determinants of client loyalty amongst outpatients at the Meridian Equator Hospital
The private health sector continues to grow exponentially across low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya, which has caused increased competition. This creates a strong need for understanding client preferences and drivers of loyalty. This study proposed to identify the determinants to outpatient client loyalty at a mid-sized private hospital in Kenya. The study measured loyalty among clients visiting the outpatient department of the Meridian Hospital and identified the factors that clients consider most important on where to seek services. The study further described the patterns of association between selected client and disease characteristics and factors identified by the clients as most important for loyalty. A mixed methods cross-sectional study design was used to collect primary data from eligible outpatients attending the Hospital over a two week study period. An average of 13 outpatients were sampled each day using a systematic sampling approach. Data was collected through a self-administered questionnaire. Analysis was done and descriptive statistics presented. Inferential statistics were used to measure the strength of the association between the patient characteristics and the factors identified by clients as most important for loyalty. The results showed that the physical factor, location of facility was most important, followed by service factors and cost factors. Behavioural and cultural factors weighted the least in client considerations for loyalty. Most patients perceived the quality of the health care services to be high, with tangibles as the highest rated service dimension and empathy having the lowest rating. It was found that there is a positive association between perceived service quality and both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. It was also found that customer satisfaction has a very strong association with customer loyalty. The findings of this study will inform decision making by helping the management of Meridian Equator Hospital to prioritize for quality improvement the dimensions of quality with the greatest impact on customer attraction and retention. Study findings will also inform policy and practice on ways of attracting and retaining clients with different socio demographic and disease characteristics.