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Customer Satisfaction Theory

What Is Satisfaction?

Satisfaction is an overall psychological state that reflects the evaluation of a relationship between the customer/consumer and a company-environment-product-service. Satisfaction involves one of the following three psychological elements: cognitive (thinking/evaluation), affective (emotional/feeling), and behavioral.

Expectations and Customer Satisfaction

Expectations are beliefs (likelihood or probability) that a product/service (containing certain attributes, features or characteristics) will produce certain outcomes (benefits-values) given certain anticipated levels of performance based on previous affective, cognitive, and behavioral experiences. Expectations are often seen as related to satisfaction and can be measured as follows:

  1. Importance: Value of the product/service fulfilling the expectation.
  2. Overall Affect-Satisfaction Expectations: Like / Dislike of the product/service.
  3. Fulfillment of Expectation: The expected level of performance vs. the desired expectations. This is “Predictive Fulfillment” and is a respondent-specific index of the performance level necessary to satisfy.
  4. Expected Value from Use: Satisfaction is often determined by the frequency of use. If a product/service is not used as often as expected, the result may not be as satisfying as anticipated. For example a motorcycle that sits in the garage, an unused year subscription to the local fitness center/gym, or a little used season pass to a ski resort would produce more dissatisfaction with the decision to purchase than with the actual product/service.

Measuring Expectations

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

  1. Expectations may not reflect unanticipated service attributes.
  2. Expectations may have been quite vague, creating wide latitudes of acceptability in performance and expected satisfaction.
  3. Expectation and product performance evaluations may be sensory and not cognitive, as in taste, style or image.
  4. The product use may attract so little attention as to produce no conscious affect or cognition (evaluation) and result in meaningless satisfaction or dissatisfaction measures.
  5. There may have been unanticipated benefits or consequences of purchasing or using the product (such as a use or feature not anticipated with purchase).
  6. The original expectations may have been unrealistically high or low.
  7. The product purchaser, influencer, and user may have been different individuals, each having different expectations.