Special Session Summary New Directions in the Study of the Consumer Satisfaction Response: Anticipated Evaluation, Internal Cognitive-Affective Processes, and Trust Influences on Loyalty

Richard L. Oliver, Vanderbilt University
[ to cite ]:
Richard L. Oliver (1998) ,"Special Session Summary New Directions in the Study of the Consumer Satisfaction Response: Anticipated Evaluation, Internal Cognitive-Affective Processes, and Trust Influences on Loyalty", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 14.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 14

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE STUDY OF THE CONSUMER SATISFACTION RESPONSE: ANTICIPATED EVALUATION, INTERNAL COGNITIVE-AFFECTIVE PROCESSES, AND TRUST INFLUENCES ON LOYALTY

Richard L. Oliver, Vanderbilt University

The study of consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction (CS/D) has moved much beyond the early traditional investigation of product/service attribute influences whereby feature ratings are correlated with summary product judgments. Beginning with the expectancy disconfirmation model of satisfaction and its variants, researchers have begun to explore the psychological mechanisms by which consumers process performance observations to arrive at a satisfaction conclusion. This body of "satisfaction psychology" research is now growing rapidly and greater numbers of papers addressing postpurchase issues generalizing to all products and services are appearing.

The intent of this session was to extend this new phase of postpurchase thinking with three new directions in the psychological mechanisms underlying satisfaction responding. The session began with a paper entitled "The Effect of Expecting to Evaluate on Satisfaction Judgments" by Chezy Ofir and Itamar Simonson. They proposed that, in the instance of the anticipation of evaluation, certain mental activities engaged by the consumer prior to product/service exposure may impact the satisfaction response. Specifically, Ofir and Simonson examined the impact on satisfaction judgments of: (a) expecting to evaluate, (b) articulating expectations or receiving information regarding the likely or standard performance level, and (c) observing the actual service/product performance. A series of 12 field experiments tested the effect of these factors on satisfaction and the manner in which they interact. The results indicate that evaluation anticipations lowered satisfaction ratings uniformly across four research contexts, that expectations and performance biased ratings in their respective directions, and that evaluation anticipations caused respondents to be less discriminatory across high and low quality performance. They attributed these results to the strong influence of task characteristics on subsequent judgments.

The second paper entitled "Cognitive, Affective, Cognitive-Affective, and Affective- Cognitive Sequelae in the Satisfaction Response" by Richard L. Oliver moved the session into the process of satisfaction formation itself. He extended the very recent finding of affect influences in satisfaction to a consideration of how cognition and affect interact and interplay in satisfaction formation. Based on cognitive theories of emotion (i.e., cognition-induced emotion), Oliver showed that affect appears reliably as a consequence of cognitive judgment C such as when surprisingly positive disconfirmation results in delight. In a further extension, he also showed that this sequence can be reversed. That is, affect resuling from consumption can be later interpreted in a cognitive sense (i.e., emotion-induced cognition) C such as when the experience of awe when viewing a monument is explained in terms of the monument’s architectural detail. Additionally, both cognition and affect can be seen as having multiple sources which are then "blended" by the consumer. A major point of the Oliver discussion is that most of these issues are unresearched and in need of conceptual and empirical effort.

In the last paper entitled "Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty, and the Trust Environment," published in this volume, Michael D. Johnson and Seigyoung Auh examined the enigmatic link between satisfaction and loyalty. Many practitioners in the popular press have commented on the unstable relation between these two concepts, observing that switching behavior occurs frequently amongst satisfied customers. Johnson and Auh propose that trust plays the role of a moderator and parallel influence on this satisfaction-loyalty relationship. In their paper, trust is conceptualized at multiple levels including the individual (firm) level as in employee-employer, the industry level as represented by competition, and the societal level where cultural norms come into play. They provide a model of trust influences on loyalty which explains many of the anomalies found in satisfaction-loyalty studies.

Ruth N. Bolton, the session synthesizer, emphasized the temporal thread of the three papers whereby each tackled an issue in the prepurchase, consumption, and post-consumption phases of usage, respectively. She noted that each addressed an unresearched aspect of the consumption environment and hoped that the papers would spawn new research programs. The session concluded with Ruth encouraging questions from the audience and engaging participants in a lively discussion.

----------------------------------------