Customer Satisfaction

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An Overview of Customer Satisfaction Models

Willard Hom, M.B.A. Interim Director of Research Policy, Planning & External Affairs Division Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges

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. Such models clarify various theories about customer satisfaction, making research and analysis in this topic more focused and less wasteful of research resources. In this paper, the emphasis is on two levels of models. Macro-models of customer satisfaction theorize the place of customer satisfaction among a set of related constructs in marketing research. Micro-models of customer satisfaction theorize the elements of customer satisfaction. This paper gives an overview of various models of customer satisfaction from the perspective of the marketing research discipline. Coverage is thus limited to material published in the marketing research literature. However, this paper discusses the relevance of this material from marketing research for the design of research in the public sector, specifically the domain of the community college (public, two-year institutions).

Customer Satisfaction Models


RP Group Proceedings 2000

Introduction Both public and private sectors have given much attention to the concept of 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 for any measurements to have validity, 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. In this paper, we try to provide the analyst an overview of models of customer satisfaction. These models come from a vast literature from the marketing research discipline. This pool of research includes models that integrate the concept of customer satisfaction in a network of related concepts, such as value, quality, complaining behavior, and loyalty. In this paper, we will label these kinds of models as “macro-models.” Macro-models have special importance for the policy-level implications of an organization’s research in customer satisfaction. Macromodels give the researcher the strategic context of the design and of the results for a study of customer satisfaction. The marketing research literature extensively covers the elements that make up the concept of customer satisfaction, such as disconfirmation of expectations, equity, attribution, affect, and regret. Because these elements explain the composition of the customer satisfaction concept (or “construct”), we will label these kinds of models as “micro-models.” Micro-models enable an analyst to properly operationalize measurements of customer satisfaction, thus helping her/him to achieve construct validity in the eventual satisfaction survey. Finally, for didactic purposes, we hypothesize how one type of public-sector organization, the community college, can apply these models that were originally designed for private sector activities. Macro-models To begin this discussion about customer satisfaction it will help to define customer satisfaction. A widely accepted definition would be the following: “Satisfaction is the consumer’s fulfillment response. It is a judgment that a product or service feature, or the product of service itself, provided (or is providing) a pleasurable level of consumption-related fulfillment, including levels of under- or over-fulfillment…” (Oliver, 1997). This is a remarkable definition. First, the focus is on a consumer rather...
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