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What are the mechanisms leading a consumer to be satisfied (or not)

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Customer satisfaction is one of the main construct of modern marketing and an important pillar of firms’ strategies. Yet few business people actually understand how satisfaction works in the heads of their customers.

Although it is still being debated experts agree on the process of expectancy disconfirmation to explain of customers become satisfied or unsatisfied.


What is the role of expectations in the customer satisfaction process

Expectations not only cover anticipated future performance but can be of higher-order depending on what the consumer is focusing on. Expectations are forged in the consumer’s mind by a series of external sources such as advertising, third-party information and/or recommendation, product cues and by internal sources, namely the consumer’s own experience with the product or service. The confirmation bias posits that expectations predispose the consumer’s future satisfaction.

The role of expectations has traditionally been modeled in one or two ways: the role of expectations as anticipations, and as comparative referents. When actual performance is not subject to assessment or comparison, expectations have a direct influence on satisfaction. When a comparison takes place, the expectancy disconfirmation construct applies.


How does expectancy disconfirmation influence satisfaction

The expectancy disconfirmation mode is widely acknowledged for its relevance and the percentage of variance it explains in the customer satisfaction construct.

In the expectancy disconfirmation model the consumer is believed to form expectations of product performance characteristics prior to purchase. The comparison process is based on using a better-than, worse-than heuristic and eventually results in positive disconfirmation when performance exceeds expectations, simple confirmation if it meets expectations and negative disconfirmation when expectations exceed actual performance. Confirmation and positive disconfirmation are assumed to lead to satisfaction whereas negative disconfirmation is an antecedent of dissatisfaction.

Meeting expectations will at best result in avoiding dissatisfaction; extreme disconfirmations will induce exceptional emotional states (either positive or negative) which have been reported to be linked to loyalty or complaining behaviors.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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