Customer satisfaction reflects the expectations and experiences that the customer has with a product or service. Expectations reflect both past and current product evaluation and use experiences.

Think about any major purchases you’ve made recently. Did you research your purchase? Did you collect information from advertising, salespersons, friends, associates, or even test the product?

This information influences our expectations and gives us the ability to evaluate quality, value, and the ability of the product or service to meet our needs.

Customers hold both explicit and implicit performance expectations for attributes, features, and benefits of products and services.

The nature of these expectations will dictate the form and even the wording of customer satisfaction survey questions.

Let me repeat this: the nature of these expectations will dictate the form and even the wording of your satisfaction questions.

Understanding the following 7 customer expectations is critical before you set out to measure customer satisfaction.

1. Explicit Expectations

Explicit expectations are mental targets for product performance, such as well-identified performance standards.

For example, if expectations for a color printer were for 17 pages per minute and high quality color printing, but the product actually delivered 3 pages per minute and good quality color printing, then the cognitive evaluation comparing product performance and expectations would be 17 PPM – 3 PPM + High – Good, with each item weighted by the associated importance.

2. Implicit Expectations

Implicit expectations reflect established norms of performance. Implicit expectations are established by business in general, other companies, industries, and even cultures.

An implicit reference might include wording such as “Compared with other companies…” or “Compared to the leading brand…”

3. Static Performance Expectations

Static performance expectations address how performance and quality are defined for a specific application. Performance measures related to quality of outcome may include the evaluation of accessibility, customization, dependability, timeliness, accuracy, and user friendly interfaces.

Static performance expectations are the visible part of the iceberg; they are the performance we see and—often erroneously—are assumed to be the only dimensions of performance that exist.

4. Dynamic Performance Expectations

Dynamic performance expectations are about how the product or service is expected to evolve over time. Dynamic expectations may be about the changes in support, product, or service needed to meet future business or use environments.

Dynamic performance expectations may help to produce “static” performance expectations as new uses, integrations, or system requirements develop and become more stable.

5. Technological Expectations

Technological expectations focus on the evolving state of the product category.

For example, mobile phones are continually evolving, leading to higher expectations of new features.

Mobile service providers, in an effort to limit a consumer’s ability to switch to new technology phones, have marketed rate plans with high cancellation penalties for switching providers, but with liberal upgrade plans for the phones they offer.

The availability of low profile phones with email, camera, MP3, blue tooth technology, and increased storage will change technology expectations as well as the static and dynamic performance expectations of the product.

These highly involving products are not just feature based, but raise expectations that enhance perceptions of status, ego, self-image, and can even evoke emotions of isolation and fear when the product is not available.

6. Interpersonal Expectations

Interpersonal expectations reflect the relationship between the customer and the product or service provider.

Person to person relationships are increasingly important, especially where products require support for proper use and functioning.

Support expectations include interpersonal sharing of technical knowledge, ability to solve a problem, ability to communicate, reduced time to problem resolution, courtesy, patience, enthusiasm, helpfulness, assurance that they understood my problem and my situation, communication skills, and customer perceptions regarding professionalism of conduct, often including image and appearance.

7. Situational Expectations

In building a customer satisfaction survey, it is also helpful to evaluate why pre-purchase expectations or post-purchase satisfaction may or may not be fulfilled or even measurable.

The following conditions may be considered:

  • Expectations may not include unanticipated service attributes that are new to that consumer.
  • Expectations may be based on vague images, thereby creating wide latitude of acceptable performance and expected satisfaction.
  • Product performance expectations and evaluations may be sensory and not cognitive, as in expectations of taste, style or image. Such expectations are not only difficult to evaluate and understand, but may change over time and with consumption.
  • The product use may attract so little attention as to produce no conscious affect or cognition (evaluation). When measured, this results in meaningless satisfaction or dissatisfaction information.
  • There may have been unanticipated benefits or consequences of purchasing or using the product (such as a uses, usage situations, or features not anticipated with purchase).
  • The original expectations may have been unrealistically high or low.
  • The product purchaser, influencer and user may have each been a different type of individual, each having different expectations.

Your research study may also benefit from considering expectations related to perceived quality and value.

Customer Expectations

Remember to keep these 7 customer expectations in mind before you set out to measure customer satisfaction. Understanding these will ensure that your customer satisfaction research will provide accurate insights. Having a top-notch online survey software is one thing, using it correctly is another.

customer satisfaction surveyThis post is part of the Customer Satisfaction 101 series put together by Scott Smith Ph.D. Click here to see more.