Special Session Summary Is Satisfaction Research Dead? New Decision Making Perspectives Suggesting Aabsolutely Not!@

Baba Shiv, University of Iowa
Dilip Soman, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
[ to cite ]:
Baba Shiv and Dilip Soman (2000) ,"Special Session Summary Is Satisfaction Research Dead? New Decision Making Perspectives Suggesting Aabsolutely Not!@", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 27, eds. Stephen J. Hoch and Robert J. Meyer, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 252.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 27, 2000      Page 252



Baba Shiv, University of Iowa

Dilip Soman, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The status of consumer satisfaction in organizations has been on an ascendancy in recent years, with mission statements, marketing plans, and even marketing communications being extensively designed around notions of satisfaction. Research on satisfaction has also grown dramatically in recent years. Most work in this area has been carried out using the Comparison Standards (CS) Paradigm, which proposes that consumers form summary satisfaction judgments of services and products by retrospectively comparing actual performance to standards or expectations of the performance (see, e.g., Oliver 1989). The growth of research using the CS paradigm has been so dramatic that it is not uncommon, in doctoral seminars and conferences, to hear comments such as, "Have we learnt so much that there is little room for more work? In other words, is satisfaction research dead?" A broad purpose of this session was to put to rest such doubts by adding to an exciting new phase of recent research that goes beyond the traditional CS paradigm (e.g., Oliver 1996 and Westbrook 1987, who examine the affective nature of consumer satisfaction; Fournier and Mick, forthcoming, who examine the phenomenological aspects of consumer satisfaction) in an attempt to provide richer insights into this important construct.

A more specific objective of this session was to offer fresh insights into consumer satisfaction by examining three broad issues from a decision making perspective. First, how is consumer satisfaction likely to be affected when the experience with the service/product is vewed as a sequence of events progressing over time? Second, research on satisfaction has generally ignored the relationship between satisfaction and choice, and the implicit assumption has been that higher levels of satisfaction result in greater market shares and higher incidence of choice. Yet recent evidence from the business world shows that high satisfaction scores might not necessarily translate into greater performance in the market (Gitomer 1997, Griffin 1998). This session attempted to provide insights on this issue. Finally, in contrast to most previous work which has focused on retrospective satisfaction, this session also examined another type of satisfaction, "anticipated satisfaction," where the consumer makes decisions based on how satisfied s/he will be with a product or service. To address these issues and thereby offer new insights, three papers were included in this session.

The session began with a focus on retrospective satisfaction. Dan Ariely presented his paper titled, "The Importance of Duration in the Ratings of Experiences" (co-authored with George Loewenstein) that focuses on a phenomenon termed as "duration neglect." This phenomenon suggests that people’s satisfaction judgments of temporally extended experiences are not sensitive to the duration of the experience, but only to key features of the experience, such as improvement or deterioration over time and peak and end levels. Across four studies, Dan Ariely called to question the robustness of this phenomenon. He showed that "duration neglect" that has been demonstrated in a large number of studies is actually an artifact of the methodology used in these studies. He then elucidated the implications of the findings for consumer satisfaction research.

Dilip Soman then presented his work titled, "Modeling and Measuring the Judgments of Services Over Time: When High Satisfaction Might Not Imply High Choice" that called to question the validity of the implicit assumption made by marketers that higher satisfaction ratings will always result in higher incidence of choice. Building on the idea of sequences introduced by Dan Ariely, Dilip Soman presented results from four experiments which demonstrate that judgments of satisfaction (rather than likelihood of choice) are affected by when they are measuredBobstacles such as delays during the service encounter have a bigger impact on satisfaction judgments when the measurement of these judgments is in closer in temporal proximity to the obstacles than when it is distant.

The focus of the session then shifted to anticipated satisfaction rather than retrospective satisfaction. Baba Shiv presented his work with Joel Huber titled, "The Impact of Anticipating Satisfaction on Consumer Choice" that focuses on preference shifts that are likely to occur when consumers use anticipated-satisfaction-oriented goals rather than choice-oriented goals when making a purchase. Based on evidence garnered over five experiments, he showed that these shifts in preferences arise because, compared to choice, anticipated satisfaction results in the consumer forming mental images related to the different options, and then deciding based on which of these product-related images yields the greatest satisfaction. He also showed that the processing strategy involving mental imagery is less likely to be evoked by, and is distinct from the strategies associated with other tasks, such as choosing between options and judging the likelihood of a purchase.

Finally, Ziv Carmon, in the capacity of a discussant, brought to bear his expertise in areas such as the experienced utility of queuing (his work with Daniel Kahneman), the gestalt characteristics of experiences (his forthcoming paper in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making), and consumer dissatisfaction of waiting in lines (work supported by the Marketing Science Institute) to provide a synthesis of the different papers and to give directions for potential future research.


Fournier, Susan and David Glen Mick (forthcoming), "Rediscovering Satisfaction," Journal of Marketing.

Gitomer, Jeff (1997), "Just Satisfied or Loyal: Which are Your Customers?," South Florida Business Journal, 18 (11), October 31, p. 25.

Griffin, Jill (1998), "Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty Different Animals," Austin Business Journal, 18 (20), July, p. 20.

Oliver, Richard (1989), "Processing of the Satisfaction Response in Consumption: A Suggested Framework and Research Propositions, " Journal of Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 2, 1-16.

Oliver, Richard (1996), Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Westbrook, Robert A. (1987), "Product/Consumption-based Affective Responses and Postpurchase Processes," Journal of Marketing Research, 24 (August), 258-270.