Defining Satisfaction & Types of Customer Expectations

Overview: This article focuses on defining, measuring and managing customer satisfaction and service quality in service industries.  First since customer satisfaction is not an end, we examine the link between satisfaction and loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and other resultant benefits.

Defining Satisfaction

“Satisfaction is an affective or emotional state following an evaluation of the consumption experience”. Dictionary definitions describe satisfaction as ‘fulfilment’ or to ‘be content or pleased’.

  • Achieving mere satisfaction is not enough, the aim is to delight a customer if loyalty is to be achieved
  • Satisfaction and loyalty
  • Figure 4.3 depicts the benefits of having a highly satisfied customer

First, the model shows that consumers compare their pre purchase expectations (or some other comparison standard such as desires) with perceptions of post-purchase performance.  Next, it should be noted that the source of these expectations might come from advertising (or other forms of marketer-controlled communication) word of mouth, previous focal brand experience or indeed experience with competing brands.

Four other determinants of satisfaction.

Prior attitudes toward the brand are thought to influence expectations.  If previous associations and experiences are positive, customers will be more likely to forgive an unsatisfactory event.

  1. Consumer’s attributions to unexpected events.
  2. Control attribution – customer assess whether the dissatisfactory incident was within the control of the firm e.g. flight delay due to bad weather.
  3. Stability attribution – customer assess whether this is ‘one-off’ or likely to reoccur
  4. Equity theory – the perceived fairness of the situation. Try telling your class that all those students wearing wristwatches today will automatically get a High Distinction or A in your class.
Example of Measuring Expectations

If you were responsible for designing a research program (qualitative or quantitative) for a state or provincial tourism authority, which type of expectations would you measure?  Why?

The four types of expectations are explained early in this article.  To demonstrate the point students should give an example from their own experience where their expectations differ depending on whether they are considering’ could’ (ideal), ‘would’ (predictive) or’ should’ (equitable or deserved) expectations.

Understanding Tourists Expectations

Concerning the tourism authority, the answer may well depend on whether you want to simply understand visitor expectations or are going to use the results to model customer satisfaction or service quality.  If the former then understanding visitors desired or equitable expectations makes most sense – i.e., you are gauging what they feel they want, or desire as opposed to what they think will happen.

This would then allow new facilities, attractions, service levels etc. to be designed to meet customers’ ideal standards rather than simply satisfying by meeting minimum tolerable (what will happen) expectations.

Most past satisfaction research has tended to focus on measuring predictive expectations while service quality research has used ideal expectations.  But this is not to say that more valid and reliable results would not be obtained by using different expectation measures.

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