A Literature Review and Critique on Customer Satisfaction

LIU Huiqun

, ZHAO Xin

1. School of Economics, Tianjin University of Commerce, Tianjin, China, 300134 2. Department of Economics and Management, Dezhou Vocational and Technological College, Dezhou, China, 253000 huiqunliu@tjcu.edu.cn Abstract: The concept of customer satisfaction has attracted much attention in recent years. Organizations that try to analyze this concept should begin with an understanding of various customer satisfaction models. In this paper, the emphasis is on reviewing the main concepts and models of customer satisfaction. Keywords: Customer satisfaction, Definition, Macro-models, Micro-models

1 Introduction
Both public and private sectors have given much attention to the concept customer satisfaction in the past couple of decades. Naturally, administrators have requested their staff to do customer satisfaction studies for their own organizations. An analyst or researcher must operationalize the concept of customer satisfaction in order to measure it. More importantly, in order to have validity for any measurements, the analyst needs to assume some model of the subject matter. The analyst must use very explicit conceptualizations of the subject matter (in other words, models) if she/he expects to do research and analysis that has relevance for organizational decisions. This paper is divided into several sections. First, a brief review of main concepts of customer satisfaction is provided. Next, we try to provide the analyst an overview of models of customer satisfaction. Finally, the article concludes with main research findings.

2 Consumer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction has been a popular topic in marketing practice and academic research since Cardozo's (1965) initial study of customer effort, expectations and satisfaction. Despite many attempts to measure and explain customer satisfaction, there still does not appear to be a consensus regarding its definition (Giese and Cote, 2000). Customer satisfaction is typically defined as a post consumption evaluative judgement concerning a specific product or service (Gundersen, Heide and Olsson, 1996). It is the result of an evaluative process that contrasts prepurchase expectations with perceptions of performance during and after the consumption experience (Oliver, 1980). The most widely accepted conceptualization of the customer satisfaction concept is the expectancy disconfirmation theory (McQuitty, Finn and Wiley, 2000). The theory was developed by Oliver, who proposed that satisfaction level is a result of the difference between expected and perceived performance. Satisfaction (positive disconfirmation) occures when product or service is better than expected. On the other hand, a performance worse than expected results is dissatisfaction (negative disconfirmation). Studies show that customer satisfaction may have direct and indirect impact on business results. Luo and Homburg (2007) concluded that customer satisfaction positively affects business profitability. The majority of studies have investigated the relationship with customer behaviour patterns (Dimitriades, 2006; Olorunniwo et al., 2006; Chi and Qu, 2008; Faullant et al., 2008). According to these findings, customer satisfaction increases customer loyalty, influences repurchase intentions and leads to positive word-of-mouth.

we will label these kinds of models as “micro-models. and loyalty. 2. Perceived performance often differs from objective or technical performance. room qualities and value are the top three hotel factors that determine travellers' satisfaction.1 Macro-models Figure 1 underlies much of the research in customer satisfaction over the past decade. product and service features). thus helping her/him to achieve construct validity in the eventual satisfaction survey. and by product/service type. 5. Barsky and Labagh (1992) stated that employee attitude. a negative effect (generally implying a dissatisfying result). or a zero effect. The phrase “mixed feelings” applies here. such as disconfirmation of expectations. attribution. safety and security. emotions) and objective factors (e. 3. complaining behavior. location and rooms are likely to influence travellers' satisfaction. value for money and courtesy of staff determine customer satisfaction. we will label these kinds of models as “macro-models. and friendliness of employees are important. Satisfaction feeling is a state of mind.” Macro-models have special importance for the policy-level implications of an organization’s research in customer satisfaction. Note the following: perceived performance comparison standards perceived dsconfirm 1. The marketing research literature extensively covers the elements that make up the concept of customer satisfaction. prompt service. cleanliness and timeliness. and when the consumer is unfamiliar with the product/service. 3. This pool of research includes models that integrate the concept of customer satisfaction in a network of related concepts. Choi and Chu (2001) concluded that staff quality.” Micro-models enable an analyst to properly operationalize measurements of customer satisfaction. especially when a product/service is complex. Knutson (1988) revealed that room cleanliness and comfort. an attitude. by situation. as a consumer may have different levels of satisfaction for different parts of a product/service experience. Disconfirmation can have a positive effect (generally implying a satisfying result). Because these elements explain the composition of the customer satisfaction concept (or “construct”). it is not surprising that a variety of research has been devoted to investigating the determinants of satisfaction. Perceived disconfirmation is the evaluation of perceived performance according to one or more comparison standards. there have been numerous studies that examine attributes that travellers may find important regarding customer satisfaction. 4. quality. affect. and regret. Applying to the hospitality industry. security. Comparison standards can come from numerous sources that can vary widely by individual. equity. In this paper. intangible. word-of-mouth (the consumer’s .Given the vital role of customer satisfaction. A study conducted by Akan (1995) showed that the main determinants of hotel guest satisfaction are the behaviour of employees. Atkinson (1988) found out that cleanliness. customer needs. Macro-models give the researcher the strategic context of the design and of the results for a study of customer satisfaction. g. Outcomes of satisfaction feelings may involve intent to repurchase. convenience of location. g. such as value. Satisfaction can be determined by subjective (e. 3 Customer Satisfaction Models Models of customer satisfaction come from a vast literature from the marketing research discipline.

as shown in Figure 4. extreme dissatisfaction will not necessarily generate complaint behavior. Later research has produced a new model shown in Figure 2. This model helps explain survey results that indicate different levels of satisfaction for a service that one individual may experience. Research for this model supports the conceptualization of perceived quality as a separate construct. we deal with narrower issues in customer satisfaction. Oliver (1999) provides another version of this model. 1994) 361 consequences of use feeling for consequences Figure 2: Model of Linkage of Customer Value Chain to Customer Satisfaction input quality performance outcomes cost-based value formation of stisfaction perceived service quality Service encounter satisfaction desired end . encounter satisfaction. which appears in an abbreviated form as Figure 3 below. Furthermore. value chain customer satisfaction product attributes feeling for attributes overall service satisfaction Figure 4: Model of Two Levels of Satisfaction and Perceived Service Quality (based on a study by Bitner & Hubbert. 1994). Because these models provide explicit detail about the formation of satisfaction itself. and perceived service quality. An important point about customer value models is the use of gross benefit-cost judgments by consumers.communication with her/his network of her/his approval/disapproval for a product/service). Another important macro-model would be the linkage of overall service satisfaction. For example. especially if the 360 perceived performance Figure 1: Traditional Macro-Model of Customer Satisfaction outcomes consumer believes complaining will be futile. These outcomes also are moderated by other variables. it highlights the construct of a “global” level of satisfaction (the overall service satisfaction) in contrast to the construct of a component level of satisfaction (the encounter service satisfaction). this paper refers to them as micro-models. The above models are a sample of the many models that give the analyst the context for the meaning and analysis of customer satisfaction. and complaints. distinct from satisfaction (Bitner & Hubbert. In the next section. This model highlights the concept of value as a driving force in product choice and satisfaction’s relationship to it as a brief psychological reaction to a component of a value chain (or “hierarchy”).

to perform in a better fashion.state feeling for end-state output consumption value extended value Value-based satisfaction Figure 3: Model of Link Between Satisfaction and Value (adapted from Oliver. the standard is not a predictive expectation. stability. 5. These are locus of causality. The Expectations Disconfirmation Model has been the dominant model in satisfaction research. the consumer uses what should happen as the comparison standard. the service provider gets the credit or blame) or internal (that is. consumers use more than one standard of comparison in forming a (dis)confirmation judgment about an experience with a product/service. 2. the consumer is responsible for the product/service performance). expectations originate from beliefs about the level of performance that a product/service will provide. 1999) 3. Attribution Models integrate the concept of perceived causality for a product/service performance into the satisfaction process. In this model. In this case. Rather than considering what will happen in the consumption experience. Multiple Process Models characterize the satisfaction formation process as multidimensional. This is the normative meaning of “should” rather than its occasional chronological connotation in the English language. and we will briefly comment on each type. Finally. The Perceived Performance Model deviates from the above model in that expectations play a less significant role in satisfaction formation. 4. and controllability. 3. . controllability affects attribution in that a poor outcome in a consumption experience may mean that the consumer will be unsatisfied with the product/service provider if the consumer believes the provider had the capacity. control. The locus of causality can be external (that is. The model performs especially well in situations where a product/service performs so positively that the consumer’s expectations get discounted in her/his post-consumption reaction to the product/service. that is. however. Consumers use three factors to determine attribution’s effect in satisfaction. Stable causes would tend to have more impact in satisfaction because consumers tend to be more forgiving of product/service failures that appear to be rare events.2 Micro-models Table 1 lists the seven types of models they review in their article. This is the predictive meaning of the expectations concept. That is. Table 1 Current Type of Micro-models for Satisfaction 1 Expections Disconfirmation Model 2 Perceived Performance Model 3 Norms Models 4 Multiple Process Models 5 Attribution Models 6 Affective Models 7 Equity Models 1. The model has consumers using pre-consumption expectations in a comparison with post-consumption experiences of a product/service to form an attitude of satisfaction or dissatisfaction toward the product/service. Norms Models resemble the Expectations Disconfirmation Model in that the consumer compares perceived performance with some standard for performance.

but the benefits of understanding customer satisfaction models may pay commensurate dividends in useful analyses in the future. the nothing standard denotes the situation where consumers form a (dis)satisfaction feeling without cognition. consumers evaluate whether a consumption experience gave them what they need. the perceived. In these models. We grouped satisfaction models into either a macro level or a micro level to simplify our presentation. Managing Service Quality. The standard of excellence refers to technical perfection. Answering the eternal question: what does the customer want? The Cornell Hotel and . Table 2 Basic Sources of Comparison Comparison Operator Resulting Cognition expectations discomfirmation 362 needs need fulfillment excellence(ideals) quality fairness equity/inequity events that might have happened regret nothing unapprised cognition In the needs standard. and overlap in concepts should occur. Table 2 introduces the comparison standards of needs.73200008) and the National Social Science Fund of China (No. liking. Of course. Logically speaking. some objective.6. Atkinson. the macro-models subsume the micro-models. The mountain of information that the analyst can review may consume a huge chunk in time and effort. Dimensions of service quality: a study in Istanbul. Affective Models differ from previous models in that it goes beyond rational processes. emotion. This commonly occurs when a consumer realizes that what she/he got in one encounter could well have been improved if she/he had chosen a different provider. widely recognized criteria. Fair treatment can use the concept of the equity ratio (that is. Acknowledgments: Supported by University of International Business and Economics’ “211 Project” (No. The standard of regret refers basically to the “what might have been” scenario for a consumer. Akan. use of the above material will supply a basic footing in any effort to understand customer satisfaction. An analyst who plans to do a customer satisfaction study could benefit from consulting the insightful works as well as the works previously cited. P. and mood influence (dis)satisfaction feelings following the consumption experience. regret. 4 Conclusion This paper has covered a vast pool of marketing research in customer satisfaction. that is. with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being just one typology for needs. 07BJL047). [2]. the amount of her/his return for her/his effort made) or the concept of social comparison (that is. At the very least. and nothing. and these appear in Table 2. References 363 [1]. A. Oliver (1997) also has summarized the comparison standards from his perspective. Equity Models emphasize the consumer’s attitude about fair treatment in the consumption process. relative level of product/service performance that other consumers experience). Finally. 7. 1995:5(6): 39-43. The coverage by necessity is partial. need can be defined in different ways. Other analysts may well approach the conceptualization of these models in an entirely different manner. The above listing is extensive but not all-inclusive.

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