Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer
eBook - ePub

Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer

A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer

Richard L. Oliver

  1. 544 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer

A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer

Richard L. Oliver

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Designed for advanced MBA and doctoral courses in Consumer Behavior and Customer Satisfaction, this is the definitive text on the meaning, causes, and consequences of customer satisfaction. It covers every psychological aspect of satisfaction formation, and the contents are applicable to all consumables - product or service.Author Richard L. Oliver traces the history of consumer satisfaction from its earliest roots, and brings together the very latest thinking on the consequences of satisfying (or not satisfying) a firm's customers. He describes today's best practices in business, and broadens the determinants of satisfaction to include needs, quality, fairness, and regret ('what might have been').The book culminates in Oliver's detailed model of consumption processing and his satisfaction measurement scale. The text concludes with a section on the long-term effects of satisfaction, and why an understanding of satisfaction psychology is vitally important to top management.

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What Is Satisfaction?
In 1965, the Rolling Stones produced a hit song titled “Satisfaction.” The lyrics contained the lament that, despite efforts to the contrary, the band members couldn’t “get no satisfaction” even though they “tried and tried and tried.” Just what is this quest that the Rolling Stones popularized with their hit? What, exactly, is that “satisfaction” that is so frustrating to attain? Even though these questions stem from the lyrics of a popular song, they do reflect the difficulties that individuals encounter when they “try and try and try” to get satisfaction from consumption, institutions and governments, and relationships.
Shifting emphasis to the business side of providing satisfaction, what did Sears mean to imply when it offered its explicit warranty in the catchy motto “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back”? Similarly, L.L. Bean, the formidable mail merchandiser in Freeport, Maine, offers a modern variation of this guarantee with a promise of “100% satisfaction in every way” by providing either a replacement or refund form of restitution.
These promises and others like them raise a number of questions. Can Sears, L.L. Bean, or any other firm guarantee satisfaction? Will a money-back guarantee provide an alternative means of satisfying customers? Are there strategies at the firm or individual consumer levels that can prevent dissatisfaction from occurring or that can turn dissatisfaction into satisfaction? Addressed specifically in later chapters, these and other questions contribute to the focus of this book.
This introductory section sets the stage for the book, describing its unique behavioral focus. In contrast to the specific approach taken here are a number of publications on “how to” satisfy customers. Some do not necessarily address satisfaction directly, but focus on related concepts such as value, quality, and loyalty. Others discuss specific strategies or activities that are thought to be satisfying to consumers, as opposed to framing the activities within the consumer’s psyche.
Still other popular writings available in the marketplace attempt to describe organizational strategies and changes that are thought to make a firm more “customer-friendly.” This movement, sometimes described as total quality management (TQM) and quality function deployment (QFD), has many adherents and has been institutionalized with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Deming Prize. In this context, customer satisfaction is thought to be a natural outgrowth of optimal organizational design and of instilling the appropriate organizational culture, personnel training, and customer responsiveness within employee ranks. In short, it is believed that the attainment of satisfaction will be enhanced if these practices are followed.
As will become evident throughout this book, however, these managerial practices cannot guarantee satisfaction any more than the best efforts of a good coach can guarantee consistent victories in sport. The reason is that, like the coach viewing the opposition across the field, management cannot see inside the heads of its constituents. Managers can only devise strategies that they hope will work based on the best data available at the time. By adopting a behavioral focus, however, management may be able to “see” the workings of the consumer’s mind and thus be able to better satisfy customers.
This introduction begins by explaining satisfaction in evolutionary terms, describing how it was first construed as simple satiation and, given the added meaning of goods and services in industrialized economies, how it has now taken on more modern proportions. Essentially, consumers are now described as wanting more “satisfaction from their satisfaction” since “merely satisfying” the consumer may no longer provide a competitive advantage. Companies must struggle in today’s markets to define what this means in the context of their industry.
This section also discusses various definitions and views, defining the pursuit of satisfaction in current terms as an essential human desire for fulfilling experiences in life. The discussion goes on to distinguish satisfaction from other provisions by business and society, such as quality, and also from other psychological responses, such as attitude and (perhaps surprisingly) loyalty and concludes by showing how involved the psychological mechanisms underlying satisfaction are and how the remaining chapters in the book will address these processes. A “map” in graphic form is provided, further illustrating the structure of the book and how it unfolds the satisfaction response. Part I of the book, which follows this introduction, will begin examination of the essential components of this response.


In a word, satisfaction is fundamental to the well being of individual consumers, to the profits of firms supported through purchasing and patronization, and to the stability of economic and political structures. All of these entities benefit from the provision and receipt of satisfying life outcomes, particularly in the marketplace. Some reasons follow.

The Consumer’s Perspective

Satisfaction can be likened to an individual pursuit, a goal to be attained from the consumption of products and the patronization of services. Few would disagree with the premise that consumers want to be satisfied. Why? Here are three possible answers:
Satisfaction itself is a desirable end-state of consumption or patronization; it is a reinforcing, pleasurable experience.
It obviates the need to take additional redress actions or to suffer the consequences of a bad decision.
It reaffirms the consumer’s decision-making prowess.
In this latter sense, a satisfactory purchase is an achievement; it signals that the consumer has mastered the complexity of the marketplace. Of course, not all purchases are achievements, but they are instances of reinforcement that provide stability and serenity in the consumer’s life.
Additionally, satisfaction is one of the many life outcomes that provides a means of understanding the environment. In the human desire to make sense of reality, consumers can be viewed as drawing on their highly developed processing skills to update prior information and to discover new knowledge. One way of doing so is to rely on the occurrence and nonoccurrence of events (data) and to search for the reasons about their causes. Satisfaction (or the lack of satisfaction) is one such event that appears almost inevitably as a consequence of purchasing and consumption. While some purchase outcomes may be given little thought, those that are processed for the satisfaction they provide bring powerful insight into the workings of the marketplace.

The Firm’s Perspective

Firms exist in capitalistic societies to make a profit. If the firm’s product were viewed as a one-time-only purchase by consumers (e.g., novelty items such as the pet rock), if the level of performance were not subject to regulation, and if only limited cross-communication channels were open to consumers, then customer satisfaction would be an unimportant goal for the purely profit-oriented firm. Few producers, however, encounter these conditions. Most find that repeat purchasing is essential to a continued stream of profitability. Even for products with long purchase intervals (e.g., major appliances, automobiles), satisfaction is important because of word of mouth and the activities of numerous watchdog organizations, such as Consumers Union, that track reports of satisfaction over time. Now becoming more available, empirical data on the influence of satisfaction, quality, and other such measures are substantiating the long-held assumption that customer satisfaction is one key to profitability. Further elaboration is presented here and in Chapter 15.

The Industry Perspective

Entire industries, including, of course, the firms making up individual industries, have long been a subject of scrutiny for their ill or benign effects on consumers. Generally, the government has relied on documented harm to determine the extent of consumer “satisfaction.” Many laws, such as the Agricultural Meat Inspection Act, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Flammable Fabrics Act, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the Child Protection Act, are a result of this process. Clearly, a consequence of consumer discontent directed at an industry is regulation and its attendant costs. Additionally, taxation (which is ultimately borne by the consumer) is another likely consequence, as in the raising of cigarette taxes to offset smoking-related health-care costs. Recently, a program to monitor industry satisfaction has been implemented in a number of countries by the University of Michigan’s National Quality Research Center via its American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI);1 other world locales and governments are beginning to follow suit, thereby making satisfaction with entire industries across countries a measurable phenomenon for input to regulatory policy.

The Societal Perspective

Research on the quality of life suggests quite strongly that satisfied members of society demonstrate better life outcomes, whether in health, social and mental adjustment, or finances.2 While it is difficult to distinguish the direction of effect between favorable life outcomes and perceived quality of life, life satisfaction continues as a worthy goal for individuals in society and for governments desirous of reinstatement by constituents.3 The previously mentioned customer satisfaction indices, now expanded beyond products and services to public sector organizations (e.g., postal services), is a step in the direction of monitoring broader arrays of satisfaction-inducing elements in life.
As mentioned, quality of life issues are inextricably intertwined with consumers’ (citizens’) satisfaction with public agencies. These include all government renderings including social security, defense, the legal system, the environment, taxation, and the like.4 The issue takes on added complexity when the overlapping and sometimes overriding arenas of jurisdiction come into conflict, as with federal versus states’ rights in the United States (e.g., controlled substances). Interestingly, a number of boundary-spanning agencies and regulated industries are beginning to recognize the wisdom of serving customers satisfactorily as the public is becoming more active in this regard. Public utilities, regulatory agencies (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration), and even the Internal Revenue Service are beginning to take note, and it is only a matter of time before the quest for satisfaction becomes part of their “business” model.


While most people would agree with the premise that satisfaction with consumption benefits consumers, firms, industries, and governments, few agree on what this concept called “satisfaction” is. Without a sense of resolution on this issue, little reason would exist to continue with the present discussion. Thus, it would be useful if some consensus existed on an early definition of what a promise of “satisfaction” means.
Satisfaction is derived from the Latin satis (enough) and facere (to do or make). Thus, satisfying products and services have the capacity to provide what is sought to the point of being “enough.” Two related words are satiation, which loosely means enough up to the point of excess, and satiety, which can mean a surfeit or too much of enough, as if to say that too much is necessarily undesirable. These terms illustrate the point that satisfaction implies a filling or fulfillment, perhaps up to a threshold of undesirable effects (e.g., overindulging, such as credit purchasing beyond one’s financial means).
As readers are no doubt aware, interpretations in the consumer domain allow for a greater range of favorable (and unfavorable) responses than mere fulfillment. Fulfillment implies that a satiation level is known, as in the basic needs of sustenance. ...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover Page
  2. Half-Title Page
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Table of Contents
  6. List of Tables
  7. List of Figures
  8. Preface
  9. Dedication
  10. Part I. Basic Satisfaction Mechanisms
  11. Part II. Alternative and Supplementary Comparative Operators
  12. Part IV. Satisfaction’s Consequences: What Happens Next?
  13. Name Index
  14. Subject Index
  15. About the Author