Customer satisfaction takes a central role in current marketing theory and praxis. Customer satisfaction, correspondingly, has been the object of research in far more than As a result, a variety of theories was developed to explain this abstract construct. To this date, however, consensus on that matter has yet to be reached . This chapter examines different conceptions of the formation of customer satisfaction. Subsequently, a brief presentation and evaluation of existing methods for measuring customer satisfaction sets the focus for the following chapters.
This concept has reached broad support within the context of customer satisfaction measurement . Hence, its four main components are defined and discussed below. Therefore, additional concepts are presented to complement the overall picture of the formation of customer satisfaction. If those two performances match, confirmation occurs, while mismatches lead to either positive or negative disconfirmation, depending on which factor exceeds the other one . That means performance has a double impact on customer satisfaction: in a direct way on the one hand and indirectly through disconfirmation on the other hand.
A similar direct effect for expectations, however, could not be verified. Furthermore, perceived performance and comparison standard do not seem to be autonomous, but mutually depending on each other.
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Given a discrepancy between these two parameters, a belated correction of the expectations or the perceived performance, respectively, is in fact supposed to take place. Following this correction, the result is either a decrease or an increase of the disconfirmation depending on its initial extent. That is the object of investigation of the Assimilation Theory and the Contrast Theory presented further below.
Own illustration, loosely based on Anderson, E. In the literature, especially the following dimensions are discussed  :. While expectations relate to an anticipated level of performance  , experience is based on previous encounters with the same or similar products . The optimal performance level possible is taken as a basis when customers use ideals as the comparison standard. It is also assumed that customers can have more than one comparison standard to reach an opinion about their satisfaction.
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In addition, it is suggested that the type and intensity of the perception of comparison standards vary within different situations. Johnson even argues that with growing product experience, expectations and perceived performance become increasingly integrated . Figure 2 illustrates three different stages of experience and their impact on satisfaction. Using a product for the first time, consumers cannot rely on previous memories or accumulated experiences. Thus, expectations are not considered to have a significant effect on satisfaction or perceived performance.
The more encounters customers have had with a product, the better they are able to estimate the performance of it and, this way, close the information gap between these two constructs. Performance of a product or service, in contrast to expectations, attracts only minor interest in the literature. A distinction is made between objective and subjective performance . While objective that is actual performance is the same for all customers, subjective performance varies due to several effects on their individual perception. Within the scope of operationalizing perceived performance, subjective performance is preferred in the literature.
Disconfirmation is seen as the central variable among performance, expectations, and the resulting satisfaction . Concerning this comparison, the focus lies on the ratio between the performance and the comparison standard, with its three outcomes for disconfirmation as described above.
In order to measure the difference between the perceived and the targeted performance, researchers have commonly captured the targeted and the perceived performance separately. Afterwards, the difference was calculated by mathematical subtraction . This approach has received criticism due to its inability to capture individual differences .
Therefore, the subjective discrepancy between perceived and expected performance is increasingly measured directly in the recent literature .
Whereas this understanding of satisfaction was predominant in scientific publications for a long time, newer works base their satisfaction construct on a broader concept. Alongside the cognitive component, an affective component is included into the definition of customer satisfaction . The relevance of the emotional state of a consumer could be demonstrated in numerous studies .
Other theories, however, can be integrated into this concept to explain the formation of customer satisfaction in a more detailed way. The Assimilation Theory , the Contrast Theory and the Assimilation-Contrast Theory concentrate on the ex post alteration of the comparison standard or the perceived performance, respectively, in case of disconfirmation.
In addition, several approaches examine the relationship between disconfirmation and the degree of satisfaction. Prospect Theory , ultimately, explains why the relation from disconfirmation to satisfaction cannot be seen as linear. Table 1 provides an outline of those theories including their core statements as well as a selection of relevant authors.
Like any other investment, money spent on activities in order to increase customer satisfaction should eventually yield an economic advantage. Thus, a large number of studies have been conducted to investigate the influence of customer satisfaction on consumer behavior and, more directly, on economic performance.
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The bigger part of those studies focuses on the link between customer satisfaction and loyalty. Most definitions break customer loyalty down to three dimensions: repeat purchasing , cross-buying , and word-of-mouth recommendation . A positive influence of satisfaction on these aspects is generally held to be true. But while there is no doubt that a strong and positive link between customer satisfaction and loyalty exists  , the exact relation is still unclear and probably more complex than previously imagined .
Different empirical studies claim the relationship to be progressive  , saddle-shaped  , declining  or S-shaped  , respectively. Another aspect of consumer behavior is a customer attitude to price. Research in this area, however, is still in its beginning.
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A static view shows a negative relationship between customer satisfaction and price tolerance. Using a dynamic view over two years, on the other hand, results in a positive relationship. This suggests a more long-term perspective on the efficacy of actions relating to customer satisfaction. While the former studies concentrated on the consumer side, increasing efforts are made to directly measure the economic returns of customer satisfaction. Additionally, a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and cash flow as well as a negative one between customer satisfaction and the volatility of the cash flow could be proven .
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But, more is not always better. Fischer et al. Rather, spending too much money on customer satisfaction can result in decreasing profits or even losses, when the optimal level is exceeded. In the literature, the classification of customer satisfaction measurement methods by Andreasen has established itself and was refined over the years . According to it, measurement methods are primarily classified as objective or subjective.
Subjective methods can furthermore be broken down into several dimensions. Figure 3 serves as an orientation for the approaches discussed in detail below.
Among them, there are monetary quantities like market share, sales volume, EBIT, etc. And although studies show a positive link between customer satisfaction and these economic figures, there have not been any scientifically backed findings about a functional relationship . This is due to the problematic that these figures are also influenced by several unpredictable external factors like economic cycles, exchange rates, and competitor activities, to mention a few. The subjective satisfaction of a consumer may be very high for example, although EBIT and sales volume decline.
As an alternative, mystery shoppers and product tests by experts or independent institutions are discussed. But those test purchases cannot reflect the emotions that a real customer has buying a product. Additionally, test purchases are judged more critically most of the time .
In summary, objective methods are not considered to be suitable for a valid and reliable measurement of customer satisfaction because of the influence of other external as well as internal factors. For those reasons, this work will from here on concentrate on subjective methods only.
Subjective methods , contrariwise, rely on a pre-defined construct of customer satisfaction and attempt to measure it via indicators. These can be based on physical or psychological circumstances. Depending on the object of investigation, subjective methods are classified as either event- or attribute-specific. Those moments contain all kinds of routine and non-routine customer experiences such as a car workshop visit or bringing a new tooling machine into service for an industry customer . Most methods focus on important events, though, because they are stored in memory for a longer period of time.
And timing is a critical factor with event-specific methods because, on the one hand, customers need a certain amount of time to form an opinion of their recent encounter. On the other hand, the exact reminiscence of the event may fade as time passes. Concentrating on certain incidents of a customer contact is certainly helpful with regard to a selective improvement within the company, especially for services.
For a comprehensive view on customer satisfaction, however, event-specific methods are not well suited due to their relatively small period under review. They can comprise only one or a few single events and therefore cannot cover the whole extent of a customer relationship .
Related Beurteilung von Dienstleistungsqualität (German Edition)
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