The Role of Cognition and Affect in the Formation of Customer Satisfaction:
A Dynamic Perspective
University of Mannheim
University of Mannheim
Wayne D. Hoyer
The University of Texas at Austin
Consumer researchers have long recognized that customer satisfaction is a dynamic concept, that is, it develops over time and repeated purchases. However, little is known about how the satisfaction judgment develops over time. This includes both judgments about how the product/service performs in terms of product features (cognition), as well as judgments about how the product/service makes the consumer feel (affect). In response to this gap, we provide a dynamic analysis of the simultaneous influence of cognition and affect in the satisfaction formation process. We report the results of a study which measures consumer evaluations in response to a real consumption experience (i.e., the evaluation of a CD-ROM tutorial) over three time periods. Our key finding is that the impact of cognition on satisfaction increases as experience increases. The influence of affect is highest initially but then decreases over subsequent experiences. Plus, these effects become less pronounced when consumers’ experience with the product is inconsistent (there are both good and bad experiences). Finally, our study shows that as experience builds with a product or service, cognition and affect together explain more of the variance in customer satisfaction.
The topic of customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction has been of great interest to marketing and consumer researchers for many years. This interest is driven in part by the fact that satisfying customers can have long term benefits, which include customer loyalty and increased profitability. Previous research has recognized that both cognition (perceived functional performance) and affect (feelings) significantly predict satisfaction judgments. However, only a few studies have investigated the impact of cognition and feelings at the same time.
Furthermore, a key issue is that previous work has largely been static, examining satisfaction at only one point in time. This represents a significant research gap since it is a well established fact that customer satisfaction is dynamic and should be studied over time. Against this background, our study simultaneously examines how the role of cognition and affect change over time in influencing satisfaction. More specifically, we argue that affect plays its strongest role at early stages of satisfaction development when customers have little knowledge about the product or service. As experience with the product accumulates, however, the impact of cognition should increase. In addition, we examine this process in the context of moderately complex, utilitarian products.
Implications for Marketing Practice
Further, it is common in practice for managers to think of customer satisfaction in a logical, rational manner (i.e., if the product or service performs well, satisfaction will be higher). We point out that feelings can play a critical role as well, particularly in the early stages of the satisfaction formation process. In order to achieve customer satisfaction, it is important to focus not only on product performance but also the feelings that surround the consumption of the product/service. This point is particularly important when companies are in the early stages of establishing a relationship with a customer. Thus, for new relationships or new products managers must pay close attention to affective aspects and be careful to manage them effectively.
Finally, our study provides insights for managing customer satisfaction. For example, it shows how important it is to manage affect when customers have inconsistent experiences over time. If companies are trying to recover from a situation where their products or services have suffered from inconsistent performance, it is very important to manage the affective factors surrounding the satisfaction in addition to product/service quality considerations. In addition, providing customers with consistent, positive experiences is critical to the development of stable satisfaction judgments.
Homburg, Christian, Nicole Koschate, and Wayne D. Hoyer (2006), “The Role of Cognition and Affect in the Formation of Customer Satisfaction- A Dynamic Perspective,” Journal of Marketing, 70 (3), 21- 31.
Homburg, Christian, Nicole Koschate, and Wayne D. Hoyer (2005), “Do Satisfied Customers Really Pay More? A Study of the Relationship Between Customer Satisfaction and Willingness to Pay,” Journal of Marketing, 69 (April), 84- 96.
Homburg, Christian, Wayne D. Hoyer, and Nicole Koschate (2005), “Customers’ Reactions to Price Increases: Do Customer Satisfaction and Perceived Motive Fairness Matter?” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 33 (1), 36- 49.
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