Consumer Satisfaction With Services: Integrating Recent Perspectives in Services Marketing With the Traditional Satisfaction Model

ABSTRACT - Russell's model of affect has been increasingly employed to model the experiential nature of services. The outcome variable employed in this stream of research is still the original approach/ avoidance response behaviour as developed by environmental psychologists. This is in contrast to much of the research in consumer behaviour, which uses satisfaction to evaluate consumption experiences. In this paper, a number of propositions are developed, and a conceptual model is proposed which integrates the march on the environmental perspective of service experiences with the standard satisfaction model.


Jochen Wirtz (1994) ,"Consumer Satisfaction With Services: Integrating Recent Perspectives in Services Marketing With the Traditional Satisfaction Model", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 153-159.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 153-159


Jochen Wirtz, National University of Singapore


Russell's model of affect has been increasingly employed to model the experiential nature of services. The outcome variable employed in this stream of research is still the original approach/ avoidance response behaviour as developed by environmental psychologists. This is in contrast to much of the research in consumer behaviour, which uses satisfaction to evaluate consumption experiences. In this paper, a number of propositions are developed, and a conceptual model is proposed which integrates the march on the environmental perspective of service experiences with the standard satisfaction model.


When purchasing a service, one usually receives very little one can take home and rarely acquires ownership of anything. Rather, it has been advanced that services are experiential in nature, and it has been suggested that the service consumption experience per se can be regarded as the major output of service organizations (Bitner 1990, Hui 1988). As Shorr, then executive vice president-marketing of Holiday Inns Inc, expressed it: "What I am selling, in terms of what people are buying, is a hotel experience" (in-Knisely 1991).

In contrast to product marketeers, service providers have considerable opportunities to manage the multitude of interactions that together makeup a consumption experience (Czepiel, Solomon and Surprenant 1985). For example, the service experience can be managed by designing and managing the interactive production process (Shostack 1984), by selecting, training and managing service employees (Berry 1981; Bitner 1990; Bowen and Schneider 1985; Schneider 1980; Shamir 1980), by designing and maintaining the service environment (Bitner 1992; Bruner 1990; Donovan and Rossiter 1982; Milliman 1986), and by selectively targeting, socializing and educating customers (Lovelock 1981; Mills and Moberg 1982).

Recent research in services has recognised the experiential nature of services and suggests that the affective state of consumers during consumption is therefore important and also potentially manageable. To model this affective state, Russell's circumplex model of affect (Russell 1980; Russell and Pratt 1980; Russell, Ward and Pratt 1981) has increasingly been employed. This model holds that affect, or the way people feel, is the mediating variable between stimuli, cognitive processes and response behaviour. In services marketing the model has been applied to explaining consumer behavior towards service environments (Bitner 1992; Donovan and Rossiter 1982), background music (Yalch and Spangenberg 1988), perceived choice, crowding and perceived control (Hui and Bateson 1991). There is growing interest in using this perspective to understand the environment-human and person-to-person interactions during the service encounter and to explain subsequent consumer behaviour.

The model was originally developed in the context of environmental psychology. The objective was to examine the impact of environment on individuals' emotional state and their response behaviour. The model was later extended to also include social situations, and then was adopted in services marketing. Unfortunately, the outcome variable employed in this stream of research is still the original approach/avoidance response behaviour as developed by environmental psychologists. This is not congruent with the vast majority of research in consumer behaviour, where usually satisfaction is used as the outcome variable to evaluate consumption experiences.

In the satisfaction literature, research has primarily focused on people as cognitive beings, whereby cognition refers to all those processes through which we organize information into knowledge (Kuhl 1986). Affect, which refers to the internal state of people such as feelings and emotions, has mostly been neglected by satisfaction researchers (Westbrook 1987; Westbrook and Oliver 1991). In particular, no research has yet addressed the relationship between confirmation/disconfirmation and the affective state of people during the consumption experience. The standard confirmation/disconfirmation model is essentially a model of cognitive processes and treats affective outcomes, if they are considered at all, as outcomes of the disconfirmation process occurring after consumption, or as rather vaguely defined parts of the satisfaction construct itself (Westbrook 1987; Woodruff et al. 1983).

The objective of this paper is to link these two bodies of literature and show how they can be integrated. Specifically, a conceptual model is developed that includes the experiential nature of services, or the way people feel while consuming a service, in the standard disconfirmation-of-expectations model of consumer satisfaction.


Consumer satisfaction is generally defined as an evaluative response to the perceived outcome of a particular consumption experience (Cadotte, Woodruff and Jenkins 1987; Day 1984; Westbrook and Oliver 1981, 1991; Yi 1990). All models used to conceptualize consumer satisfaction are based on a comparison process of one sort or another. The majority of these models are based on a comparison between perceived performance and a preconsumption comparison standard, such as expectations (Churchill and Surprenant 1982; Day 1977; Oliver 1980), ideal performance (Miller 1977; Sirgy 1984) and experience based standards (Cadotte et al. 1987; Woodruff, Cadotte and Jenkins 1983). The disconfirmation-of-expectations model, which uses expectations as the comparison standard, has been most widely applied and has received a lot of empirical support (e.g., Churchill and Surprenant 1982; Oliver 1980; Oliver and DeSarbo 1988; Westbrook and Oliver 1991; Wirtz 1993).

Research in psychology has shown that cognitive processes of all degrees of complexity can cause affective responses. In particular, research has shown that disconfirmation with schemata and moral standards (Mandler 1975, 1982; Hoffman 1986) can lead to affective responses. As disconfirmation-of-expectations is a cognitive process similar to disconfirmation of schemata, it is reasonable to believe that it can also cause affect.

Affect for the purpose of this study is conceptualized using Russel's circumplex model of affect, as adopted by many researchers in services marketing. Russell and his colleagues suggest that two dimensions, pleasure and arousal, describe the internal emotional state of people per se. Russell suggests that all other dimensions of affect that have been proposed are clearly interpretable as cognitive/perceptual in nature rather than affective (Russell and Pratt 1980; Russell et al. 1981). Examples of these dimensions are locus of causality and dominance, which are general information processing concepts. For example, Izards discrete emotion of "anger" can be the outcome of a process attributing a negative outcome to someone else which results in an affective state with relatively high arousal and displeasure. Russell's discomposition of emotions into their underlying cognitive processes and internal emotional states offers a means of replacing the commonly applied but broad and vaguely defined categories of affect with a conceptualization of more precise specification. This provides researchers with a well founded base for hypothesis development and testing (Russell 1980) which was considered crucial for this study.

Russell and Pratt (1981) explicitly stated the appropriateness of their model in capturing human-environment as well as social interactions. Since service encounters consist mainly of these interactions, the model would seem good for capturing the affective quality of service experiences. A growing number of researchers apply Russell's model in empirical research and unanimously agree on its appropriateness for modelling service experiences (e.g., Bateson and Hui 1987; Donovan and Rossiter 1982; Hui and Bateson 1991).

Services are chosen and expected to deliver bundles of benefits to consumers. Disconfirmation of expectations usually means that service performance falls short of (exceeds) what a consumer expected when making a purchase decision with negative (positive) implications for the service experience. Therefore, it seems plausible that a service performance exceeding expectations can cause pleasure, and a shortfall in performance can cause displeasure. Th is view is intuitively appealing, however, it has not been tested yet. Therefore the following proposition is put forward.

P1   The degree of pleasure experienced in a service encounter is an increasing function of the perceived disconfirmation-of-expectations. Disconfirmation is defined as being negative when performance is perceived as being worse than expectations, and positive when performance is perceived as being better than expectations.

Mandler (1975, 1982) suggests that arousal is produced by interruptions or unexpected events that alert the organism to cope with environmental contingencies. Specifically, arousal is proposed to be caused by disconfirmation of perceptual schcmata or by interferences in sequences of intended behaviour or goals. Applying Mandler's theory to satisfaction models, disconfirmation rather than confirmation can be considered as unexpected event, interruption of a service schema (or script as employed by Smith and Houston 1983), interruption of intended behaviour (customer participation in the production process), and interruption of intended goals (obtaining a specific bundle of benefits). According to this line of argument disconfirmation, whether positive or negative, causes arousal whereas confirmation does not.

This relationship can be argued from an alternative perspective. Mehrabian and Russell (1974) propose that the information rate of an environment or a situation directly drives the level of arousal. High information rates are suggested to cause high levels of arousal, and vice versa for low information rates. The researchers define information rate as the degree of novelty and complexity of the environment or situation. Novelty refers to "the unexpected, the surprising, the new and the unfamiliar," whereas complexity refers to the "number of elements and the extent of motion or change." Applied to consumer satisfaction, the information rate theory predicts the same impact of disconfirmation on arousal as Mandler's theory. In particular, as disconfirmation-of-expectations experiences arc more unexpected and surprising than confirmation experiences, the information rate theory would hold that disconfirmation situations have a higher information rate and cause higher levels of arousal than confirmation situations. Furthermore, the information rate theory proposes that an increased level of unexpectedness and surprise means an increased information rate which causes higher levels of arousal. On the basis of this discussion the following hypothesis is proposed:

P2  The level of arousal experienced in a service encounter is an increasing function of the perceived magnitude of disconfirmation-of-expectations, whether positive or negative.

Exceptions to the general neglect of affect in satisfaction research are two empirical studies by Westbrook (1987) and Westbrook and Oliver (1991) both of which show a link between affect and satisfaction. Westbrook (1987) conducted a field study of cable-TV and automobiles which showed that there is a direct causal link between affect and consumer satisfaction. The affective variables explained almost as much of the variance in consumer satisfaction (61% for satisfaction with cars and 48% with cable-TV services) as did the two cognitive variables (expectations and disconfirmation-of-expectations) together.

Westbrook and Oliver(1991) captured the affective reactions of 125 car owners to their newly purchased automobiles. An analysis of the relationship between the emotional response patterns and satisfaction clearly showed a high correlation, furnishing further support for Westbrook's (1987) proposition that satisfaction is not only driven by the cognitive comparison process as commonly assumed, but also by consumption related affective experiences. However, neither of these studies investigated the notion that the affective state of consumers could be caused by the cognitive confirmation or disconfirmation process.

These two studies used Izard's (1977) conceptualization of affect derived from facial expression research in psychology. Like other facial expression based concepts of affect, Izard's (1977) model has been criticized as being an unstructured collection of discrete emotions (Smith and Ellsworth 1985). In other words, our intuitions about the similarities and differences among emotions are not captured by these models. Furthermore, the measurement scales developed for these conceptualizations show problems of discriminant validity which contradict their claimed orthogonality (Holbrook 1986; Westbrook 1987).

In contrast, Russell's circumplex model of affect is empirically well corroborated, has no discriminant validity problems between its dimensions and can be used to describe similarities and differences between affective states (Russell 1979, 1980; Russell and Lanius 1984; Russell and Pratt 1980; Russell and Ridgeway 1983; Russell and Snodgrass 1987; Russell and Ward 1982; Russell, Ward and Pratt 1981). As it has not yet been used in the investigation of consumer satisfaction, it is hypothesized that Westbrook's (1987) and Westbrook and Oliver's (1991) results can be replicated with Russell's model of affect.

P3   Satisfaction is an increasing function of the pleasure experienced during the service consumption process.

Arousal has generally been described as an "amplifier" of the impact of pleasure on behaviour (Mehrabian 1980). Mehrabian and Russell's (1974) empirical findings show that there is a significant pleasure-arousal interaction effect on approach-avoidance: in pleasant environments approach is a monotonic increasing function of arousal, whereas in unpleasant environments approach is a monotonic decreasing function of arousal]. The same results were obtained in a study with retail settings (Donovan and Rossiter 1982).



In the context of consumer satisfaction, arousal is also commonly referred to as an amplifier of the impact of pleasure on satisfaction (Oliver 1989; Westbrook 1987; Westbrook and Oliver 1991). Again, this relationship has not been tested, and therefore, Proposition 4 is advanced. Figure 1 visualizes the hypothesized relationship.

P4  The strength of the impact of pleasure (displeasure) on satisfaction (dissatisfaction) is an increasing function of the level of arousal experienced during the service consumption process.

A direct causal link between disconfirmation and satisfaction is central to the classical disconfirmation-of-expectations model and has been supported empirically in a number of studies (e.g., Cadotte et al. 1987; Oliver 1980; Oliver and Bearden 1985; Oliver and DeSarbo 1988; Tse and Wilton 1988). This link was also confirmed in Westbrook's (1987) study on affect which showed that satisfaction was determined directly and independently by both disconfirmation and affect. Therefore the following proposition is put forward:

lSome caution needs to be raised for extremely low and extremely high levels of arousal, as the hypothesized impact on approach-avoidance can reach saturation and eventually reach a turning point (Mehrabian and Russell 1974). These situations were neglected, as it was not aimed to study extreme cases of affect.

P5  Disconfirmation is a direct causal antecedent of satisfaction and not all effects of disconfirmation are mediated through affect.

Figure 2 summarizes Propositions 1 to 5.

In the model developed so far, the confirmation/disconfirmation variable is the only determinant of affect, and all other potential causes of affect are disregarded. However, in the psychology and services marketing literature many other potential causes of affect during the service experience have been identified.

The literature in cognitive, social and environmental psychology shows that affect can be caused by cognitive processes of any degree of complexity (for a review of the affect literature refer to Wirtz 1994). For instance, extremely simple cognitive processes that have been shown to cause affect include sensations and the perception of stimuli (e.g., colours, temperatures, light intensities, sounds and odours). These processes can happen consciously or even unconsciously (Moreland and Zajonc 1982; Hoffman 1986). Examples of very complex cognitive processes that have be shown to cause affect are attribution of causes (Weiner 1982, 1985), appraisals (Hoffman 1986; Smith et al. 1990) and schema processing (Fiske and Pavelchak 1986; Fiske and Taylor 1984; Mandler 1975). Both simple and complex causes have strong analogies within services marketing, where attribution and script theory have already been studied. Table 1 provides an overview of the main categories of cognitive processes that have been shown to cause affect.

In the context of the service encounter, considerable work has been done which is consistent with the findings in the psychology literature. For example, consumer researchers have tested the following stimuli: perceived control, perceived choice, crowding (Bateson and Hui 1987; Hui 1988; Hui and Bateson 1991), the service environment (Donovan and Rossiter 1982), background music (Yalch and Spangenberg 1988) and interpersonal touch of hands (Fisher, Rytting and Neslin 1976; Hornik 1992). All of these stimuli were shown to he causal antecedents of affect.







P6  The affective state of consumers in the service encounter is a function of a multitude of cognitive processes. These processes can range from extremely simple processes, such as the unconscious perception of stimuli, to very complex processes such as the perception of control.

The psychology literature on affect suggests that more complex cognitive processes have a stronger and more enduring impact on affect than simpler cognitive processes (Hoffman 1986). For example, the unconscious perception of background music in a restaurant (a cognitive process of lower complexity ) has a potentially less powerful impact on affect than the attribution of a spoilt dining experience to the inappropriate behaviour of a waiter (a process of higher complexity). In Table 1 an approximation of the complexity of the main categories of affect eliciting cognitive processes is provided.

P7  The complexity of cognitive processes is positively related to their potential impact on affect.

Disconfirmation-of-expectations belongs to the more complex cognitive processes and has therefore a potentially stronger impact on affect than simpler cognitive processes such as the perception of background music or touch of hands. However, in a situation with no disconfirmation (which is the usual consumption experience!) and no other complex cognitive processes occurring at the same time (as it is the case for many daily routine service encounters) these processes with lower complexity might significantly determine the affective outcomes.

P8  In the absence of complex cognitive processes the simpler cognitive processes determine the affective state of consumers in the service encounter.

The extended model is shown in Figure 3.


This model has implications for both practitioners and academics alike. From an academic perspective the model is important because it allows us to bring together the recently proposed environmental perspective in services marketing with the main stream disconfirmation model of consumer satisfaction.

Managerially, this model provides a much broader perspective on satisfaction. Contributors to the marketing and satisfaction literature have repeatedly argued that the most common situation experienced for a consumer is that expectations and perceived performance match. Indeed, it has been argued that it is difficult to increase consumer satisfaction by increasing performance, simply because consumers adjust their expectations to the higher performance levels and do not then experience positive disconfirmation thereafter.

Improving customer satisfaction has become a major objective for many companies. This extended model broadens the field in which to search for improvement. The model suggests that factors which influence consumers' affective state during consumption can hence influence customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. These factors have often been studied in services marketing but not as potential influences of customer satisfaction. They range from simple factors such as background music and colours (Belizzi, Crowley and Hasty 1983; Milliman 1982, 1986) to the more complex such as employee-customer interactions or perceived control (Hui and Bateson 1991).


The proposed conceptual framework, including the hierarchy of cognitive processes as causes of affect according to their complexity, suggest a wide range of research possibilities. Given the scarcity of research reported in the consumer behaviour and services marketing literature, there is a tremendous opportunity for theory building, empirical testing, and application and replication of findings in other areas, in particular cognitive, social and environmental psychology. Figure 2 provides a specific starting point for examining the relationship and integratability of the stream of research in services marketing using affect, and research in consumer satisfaction using the disconfirmation-of-expectations model. The propositions are very specific and can readily be submitted to empirical testing.

Figure 3 and the related propositions arc purposefully general. Each one could be explored and expanded through empirical research. Research opportunities lie in incorporating other potential causes of affect that are already identified in the psychology and services marketing literature. Examples are Mehrabian and Russell's (1974)work on the impact of environments and social situations on affect and subsequent behaviour, Weiner's (1985) findings on the impact of attribution processes on affect, or the work on mere exposure effects on affect (Moreland and Zajonc 1982).

Furthermore, one could start exploring the potential impact of cognitive processes of varying complexity on affect in the context of service encounters. Examples could be the unconscious and conscious perception of colours, background music, humidity and temperatures, spacial layouts, interruption of perceptual and social schemata, or injection of predictive control by providing information.


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Jochen Wirtz, National University of Singapore


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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