Situation As an Influence on Anticipated Satisfaction

ABSTRACT - This study investigates the influence of situation, as well as situation-influenced intervening variables and non-situation-influenced variables on one form of consumer satisfaction. The results show situation to play a part in determining anticipated satisfaction in the case of car repair decisions. Its influence appears to operate through self-confidence, perceived risk, anxiety, and expected benefits, but not through information search style.


Kent L. Granzin and Kathryn H. Schjelderup (1982) ,"Situation As an Influence on Anticipated Satisfaction", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 234-238.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, 1982      Pages 234-238


Kent L. Granzin, University of Utah

Kathryn H. Schjelderup (student), University of Utah


This study investigates the influence of situation, as well as situation-influenced intervening variables and non-situation-influenced variables on one form of consumer satisfaction. The results show situation to play a part in determining anticipated satisfaction in the case of car repair decisions. Its influence appears to operate through self-confidence, perceived risk, anxiety, and expected benefits, but not through information search style.


Consumer satisfaction has recently claimed increased attention from researchers concerned with consumer behavior. The rationale for this research emphasis is a recognition that satisfaction furnishes a particularly useful criterion measure for the decision process leading to and including consumption. That is, satisfaction is a state of the individual which summarizes the influences which act to produce such other widely-studied criteria as attitudes, preference, intention, and purchase. In some ways, satisfaction provides a more comprehensive indication of the degree to which the consumer anticipates and finds success from his decision-making.

At present, this research into consumer satisfaction has progressed to the point where many researchers have gone beyond merely studying the influence of individual predictor variables taken in isolation. Current empirical investigations often reflect conceptualizations which integrate the various findings of earlier research efforts into models of the decision process leading to satisfaction (DaY and Hunt 1979: Hunt and Day 1980).

Despite the progress made in the conceptualization and testing of these models of the factors contributing to consumer satisfaction, one predictor found useful in other studies of the consumer decision process has been heretofore ignored. While the influence of situation has been conceptually and empirically linked to such criterion measures as preference and product/service choice (Belk 1974; Miller and Ginter 1979), research into satisfaction has bypassed consideration of this potentially important predictor variable. To remedy this omission, the present study investigates the influence of consumption situation on the anticipated satisfaction associated with the product/service choice.

To incorporate and further test the findings of previous studies, it appears desirable to do more than merely determine whether situation influences anticipated satisfaction. Assuming that this relationship can be supported, we can better understand the nature of its influence by also investigating the process that links situation to satisfaction through a sequence of intervening variables which lie intermediate to situation and satisfaction. Therefore, this study uses the context of an automobile repair decision to investigate the nature of the relationships between situation and anticipated satisfaction and between these variables and intervening states in the consumer decision process.


The model underlying this research portrays the process leading to consumer satisfaction as composed of four main elements: (1) Situation; (2) Situation-influenced intervening variables; (3) Non-situation-influenced predictor variables; and (4) Satisfaction. The second and third elements of the model are themselves composed of a number of separate variables hypothesized to affect the level of satisfaction. Figure 1 presents this model in diagrammatic form. The four elements are now discussed in turn.


Within the context of consumer behavior research, situation as an exogenous variable (Lutz and Kakkar 1976) has been studied primarily in terms of its influence on preference for or choice of a consumption alternative (Belk 1974, 1975; Lutz and Kakkar 1975; Miller and Ginter 1979; Granzin and Miller 1980). Because of the aforementioned usefulness of satisfaction as an alternative criterion variable, the logical extension to hypothesizing situation to be predictive of satisfaction is a relatively short one. As stated, the influence of situation is held to operate through the consumer's decision process. Lutz and Kakkar (1975, 1976) discuss the importance of intervening variables in providing the link between situation and a criterion measure.



Situation-Influenced Intervening Variables

As shown in Figure 1, the linkage from situation to satisfaction may be viewed as proceeding through a network of intervening variables. The network presented here is based on a number of research studies of the consumer decision process both within and without the context of consumer satisfaction.

The pivotal construct in the model of the decision process leading to satisfaction is perceived risk, which may be considered as a negative factor in the consumer decision process (Nicosia 1969; Ross 1974). Perceived risk is influenced by the consumer's self-confidence (Cox 1967; Schaninger 1976). As his confidence in his knowledge of how to act within a given situation increases, his perceived risk will decrease (Bettman 1973).

Risk also interacts with information search (Roselius 1971). As an individual perceives more risk, he engages in information search as a means of reducing this risk (Hisrich, Dornoff and Kernan 1972). The link between these two constructs acts through anxiety (Schaninger 1976). Greater risk brings greater anxiety, and the consumer employs information search to reduce his anxiety (Taylor 1974).

The information the consumer gains helps him form expectations about how well the product/service will suit his needs (Cardozo 1965). He will use information from personal and non-personal sources (Newman and Staelin 1973; Berning and Jacoby 1974) to form expectations as product-specific, pretrial beliefs (Olson and Dover 1979). By extension, these benefits he expects are held to be situation-specific, as well. Based on his expectations, the consumer forms pretrial attitudes (Sheluga, Jaccard and Jacoby 19793 The attitude of special importance to the present study is anticipated satisfaction.


Satisfaction has been variously treated as a criterion construct in consumer decision process models (Day and Hunt 1979; Hunt and Day 1980). One such treatment of particular relevance to this study is that of Ortinau (1979), whose model elaborates the variation in the psychological state of satisfaction which occurs over time as part of a continuing consumption process. Ortinau posits four stages i this consumption process: new ownership, early consumption subsequent consumption, and disposition. However, all four stages suggested by Ortinau lie posterior to the purchase of a product/service. As presented, the Ortinau model would thus apply only to the special case of post-trial satisfaction. In other words, a consumer cannot use post-trial satisfaction in making a choice until he has first consumed the product or service in question. A more general model would include the case of pre-trial, anticipated satisfaction and would therefore also apply to the decision process leading to the first (and possibly only) purchase of a product/service,

Perhaps the most extensively developed treatment of the role of anticipated satisfaction in a decision-making process comes from work by researchers in the field of organizational behavior. Specifically, the expectancy theory formalized in the Vroom model of workplace motivation considers anticipated satisfaction to be the decision criterion for selection of a course of action from among a set of competing behavior alternatives (Vroom 1964; Mitchell 1974). The present study similarly conceives anticipated satisfaction as the decision criterion for selection of a behavioral alternative within the context of a consumer decision process, whether the decision involves an initial or a repeat selection from among consumption alternatives. Based on expectancy theory, the anticipation of greater satisfaction should accompany higher levels of expected benefits.

Non-Situation-Influenced Predictor Variables

Previous studies have investigated the influence on satisfaction that comes from personal characteristics that themselves cannot be expected to be materially influenced by the situation that the consumer faces. In particular, demographics such as age, education, and socioeconomic status have been found to affect satisfaction (Miller 1976 1977; Westbrook and Newman 1978), as well as influence other consumption criterion variables. While the power of these variables for predicting satisfaction has been heretofore somewhat inconsistent, the successes cited above and their traditional usefulness for understanding consumer behavior dictate their inclusion in this conceptualization.


Data case from 180 adult males residing in a large western metropolitan area who responded to a personally-administered, self-completion questionnaire. This questionnaire featured operational measures of the above constructs referred to the context of car repair decisions. Males were selected because of their greater involvement with car repair decisions. Actual selection was determined by a quota sample which matched the age composition of the sample to that of the most recent census. Respondents were screened for car ownership and were questioned about the car they drive most of the time.

The instrument featured three sections: (1) information on the respondent's car and where he would seek repair service if he encountered the problem with the fuel system described at the beginning of the first section; (2) situation-dependent measures of the constructs elaborated in the previous section of this paper; (3) information on socioeconomic, household, and car ownership variables, media habits. and lifestyle measures.

Information in the first and third sections of the instrument was collected without reference to a specific situation. Measures in the second section were obtained by a reference to three situations within which the same automotive malfunction was supposed to occur. Each situation description featured five elements of the objective situation proposed by Belk (1975): time of day, place, mood, persons present, and plans. These are the situations into which role-playing respondents were asked to project themselves:

9 o'clock on Saturday morning. You are at home and well-rested. You are by yourself and have nothing planned for the day. You decide to run your engine for a moment and notice the trouble.

1 o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon. You are leaving a restaurant with friends who have ridden with you. You feel relaxed, but must get back to work. You notice the trouble as you leave the parking lot.

3 o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon. You are in a medium-sized city 150 miles from home and are tired. You are by yourself and want to get home that day. The trouble develops as you are driving into the city limits.

The second section used four- and six-point scales to collect information on the presumed situation-influenced variables. Self-confidence was measured by a six-point t scale representing knowledge about what to do to get the car repaired. Risk reflected the importance and uncertainty of gaining seven different benefits of repair service: low price, guaranteed work, quality parts, nearly-new performance, little time wasted, good treatment, and available credit. Importance was operationalized by six-point scales based on the question "In this situation, how important would it be to get each of these benefits from the repair facility where you would take your car?" Uncertainty was g measured by reversed six-point scales referred to the question "How certain are you that you could get each of these benefits somewhere?" The two components for each element of risk were multiplied together (Peter and Tarpey 1975) to give 36-point scales for the seven dimensions of risk. These dimensions were designed to cover the four elements of risk given by Roselius (1971) and the overlapping five elements listed by Vincent and Zikmund (1976). For example, the time dimension of risk was represented by "little time wasted," and the ego dimension by "treatment you deserve.

Information search measures used six-point scales to reflect the relevant categories of Andreason's (1968) information source typology. These items referred to the projected likelihood of using four sources of information or advice on where to take the disabled car for repair: telephone book, stranger, telephoning a friend, and contacting at least two repair facilities. Anxiety was measured on a four-point scale in terms of the respondent's concern about having made the right decision.

Expected benefits were operationized using the dual questioning approach proposed by Alpert (1971). Respondents were asked to consider eight types of repair facilities as alternatives for service. Measures of the perceived difference in performance levels for the set of eight alternatives were obtained for the seven benefits listed above. These scales were multiplied by the importance of the corresponding dimension of service to give seven 36-point determinant attribute measures of expected benefits. Anticipated satisfaction was measured by the omnibus, four-point item "Having made your choice of a service facility, how satisfied would you reasonably expect to be with the service you were going to receive?"

The analysis proceeded as follows. First, correlation analysis and ANOVA were employed, as appropriate, to examine the existence of links between anticipated satisfaction and the variables conceptualized as non-situation-influenced predictors. Then, correlation was used to investigate relationships between anticipated satisfaction and the hypothesized situation-influenced variables. The latter analysis considered relationships for each of the three situations, taken singly, to determine whether these variables could be considered to influence anticipated satisfaction. The final analysis used ANOVA to determine the extent to which these intervening variables were themselves affected by the situation.


The analysis of the relationships between non-situation-influenced variables and anticipated satisfaction failed to support the conceptualized connections between these variables. For the 81 correlation coefficients and F-ratios computed for the hypothesized relationships involving socioeconomic, household, and car ownership variables, media habits, and lifestyle measures (27 for each of three situations) only four coefficients reached significance at the .05 level. Test by means of the cumulative binomial distribution showed the probability of gaining no more than four significant correlations to be greater than .05.

The analysis of the relationship between anticipated satisfaction and the situation-influenced variables fared considerably better (Table 1). Almost half, 27 of 60, of the within-situation correlation measures reached significance at the .05 level. The conceptualization was best supported for the after-lunch situation, where 13 of 21 correlations reached significance.

Given this success in relating supposed situation-influenced variables to anticipated satisfaction, the final analysis investigated the extent to which these intervening variables and the criterion variable were themselves influenced by situation. Table 2 presents the results of the repeated-measures ANOVA's used with the 20 measures of self-confidence, risk, anxiety, information search, expected benefits, and anticipated satisfaction. All the constructs were found to be affected by situation. In fact, all measures differed significantly across situations with the exception of three of the seven measures of expected benefits: parts, performance, and credit. The main difference for anticipated satisfaction lies between the means for the away from home situation and the two hometown situations, and it is highly significant.


Given the lack of relationship between anticipated satisfaction and the non-situation-influenced variables, the value of considering the situation-influenced variables appears heightened. That is, failure of such commonly employed measures as demographics to predict anticipated satisfaction underscores the usefulness of situation for understanding this aspect of consumer behavior.

Turning to the findings for the situation-influenced variables, expected benefits is related positively to anticipated satisfaction. This result indicates that those who foresee a greater latitude of choice among alternative service choices, especially with respect to important benefits, anticipate greater satisfaction.



Hypothesized relations between use of information sources and anticipated satisfaction were not supported by the data. Only one of twelve coefficients reached significance by one-tailed test. Thus, it appears that the propensity to use alternative information sources does not influence a motorist's anticipated satisfaction with the repair facility he selects.

Perceived risk and anxiety performed as expected. The strongest links occurred in the after lunch situations where only price risk failed to reach significance. Greater risk and anxiety related negatively to anticipated satisfaction. Thus, as the motorist's concern with his plight becomes stronger, he anticipates less satisfaction in a repair service.

Also as expected, greater self-confidence relates to greater anticipated satisfaction in the two situations within the motorist's home area. The feeling that he knows what to do about the malfunction appears to presage a happy ending to the situation.



With the exception of the predictive value of the use of four varied information sources, the conceptualization of influences on anticipated satisfaction finds empirical support. Given this evidence that variables supposed to l influenced by the situation in which the consumer finds himself do indeed predict his level of anticipated satisfaction, an understanding of how situation affects these predictive influences becomes relevant.

The among situations analysis sheds light on how the situation affects the decision process of the consumer. In general, the greatest distinctions for the variables show in Table 2 involve the differences between the away from home situation and the other two situations. In particular anticipated satisfaction is lowest when the motorist is f. from home. This reduced satisfaction may be interpreted : terms of the expected benefits. In this supposed most stressful situation, expectations are low for price, guarantee, and treatment benefits. But the traveling consumer emphasizes the determinance of little time wasted in his choice of a repair facility.

Although they were not influential in the formation of anticipated satisfaction, the information source usage variables all differ across situations. In particular, the use of a phone book rises markedly for the away from home situation. Not surprisingly, the traveler also favors physical search and turning to a stranger for aid.

Consistent with the above findings, anxiety increases for the motorist away from home, while it decreases when the malfunction occurs at home. Perceived risk follows the pattern of anxiety, with higher risk occurring along all seven dimensions when the motorist is away from home. This perception of risk conforms to the level of self-confidence which the respondent projects into the situation as this measure indicates his self-confidence is lowest fe the away situation and highest for the instance at home.


The conceptualized influences on the anticipated form of satisfaction appear to be largely confirmed by empirical test. The findings indicate situation exerts an important force in determining how a motorist faces the decision to select an automobile repair alternative. While situation affects all the constructs conceptualized to lie between situation and satisfaction, it appears the information source projected for use does not alter anticipated satisfaction. In any case, the importance of situation in influencing the decision process is substantiated, which knowledge appears especially useful in view of the inability of the various non-influenced variables to predict anticipated satisfaction.

Acceptance of the findings of this study must be tempered by realization that the data came from pencil-and-paper responses to an instrument which requested the respondents to project themselves into three situations which could be expected to have varying degrees of reality for these persons. However, to the extent the respondents were unable to adequately project themselves as requested, this inability should tend merely to lessen the impact of the situation statistically and thus decrease the significance of the results. For example, Sobel and McGuire (1977) found weaker relationships when they used anticipatory satisfaction than when they used post-experience satisfaction.

In another vein, situation could be expected to have differing levels of impact depending on the particular service (or product) introduced as the object of consumption. For example, the situation in which the consumer purchases a shoe-shine would likely have less influence on his decision process than the situation in which he selects from alternative means of health care delivery.

Finally, the present emphasis on anticipated satisfaction, while broadly applicable because it is the relevant construct for decisions on both initial and repeat purchases, probably has reduced relevance to the repeat decision process. Repeat purchases, of course, furnish an important source of revenues for many marketing organizations.


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Kent L. Granzin, University of Utah (student), University of Utah
Kathryn H. Schjelderup


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09 | 1982

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