Service Satisfaction: an Exploratory Investigation of Three Models

ABSTRACT - While researchers have focused on determinants of satisfaction for products, very little research has been done on determinants Of satisfaction for services. This paper examines three models of satisfaction as applied to services. Disinformation, performance, and individual difference models are examined and compared in the context of hairstyling services. In an exploratory study comparing these three models, it was found that the individual difference model performed best, the disconfirmation model performed second best, and the performance model performed the worst.


Rama Jayanti and Anita Jackson (1991) ,"Service Satisfaction: an Exploratory Investigation of Three Models", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 603-610.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 603-610


Rama Jayanti, Louisiana State University

Anita Jackson, Louisiana State University


While researchers have focused on determinants of satisfaction for products, very little research has been done on determinants Of satisfaction for services. This paper examines three models of satisfaction as applied to services. Disinformation, performance, and individual difference models are examined and compared in the context of hairstyling services. In an exploratory study comparing these three models, it was found that the individual difference model performed best, the disconfirmation model performed second best, and the performance model performed the worst.


Consumer satisfaction is recognized as a key variable in models of consumer behavior and occupies a central position in the marketing concept. Several authors have conceptualized and operationalized satisfaction with products (Churchill and Suprenant 1982; Oliver 1980; Tse and Wilton 1988) but generalizations to services are rare (Hill 1986; Lietchty and Churchill 1979; Smith and Houston 1983; Parasuraman et al 1986).

Due to the increasing importance of services to the economy, processes underlying service satisfaction need to be explored further. This paper examines three theoretical perspectives from which service satisfaction can be explained using a causal modeling approach.


The disconfirmation model of satisfaction has achieved wide acceptance with products. Briefly, the disinformation model holds that satisfaction is related to the size and direction Of the disinformation experience, where disconfirmation is defined as the difference between the individual's initial expectations and the actual performance Of the product/service. A person's expectations are (1) confirmed when a product/service conforms to expectations, (2) negatively disconfirmed when the product/service does not perform as well as expected, and (3) positively disconfirmed when the product/service performs better than expected (Churchill and Suprenant 1982). Thus, the disconfirmation model is hypothesized to be a function of expectations, performance, disinformation, and satisfaction.

The disconfirmation model theorizes that expectations are crucial in the formation or satisfaction judgments. Perceived performance is usually depicted as a standard of comparison by which to arrive at disconfirmation. As the model proposes satisfaction to be a function of the discrepancy between expectations and performance, enhanced levels of performance should logically lead to enhanced satisfaction. Disconfirmation is treated both as an intervening variable and an independent variable in the satisfaction literature. Oliver (1980) maintains that it is important to measure disconfirmation independently of expectations and performance as it exerts an independent effect on satisfaction judgments. Satisfaction on the other hand, is conceptualized as a post purchase attitude resulting from the consumer's comparison of the towards and costs of the purchase. Satisfaction is operationalized as the sum of satisfactions with the different attributes of the product or service and is measured as the difference between expectations and performance. Thus, satisfaction is not measured directly but only as a subtractive function of expectations and performance.

Churchill and Surprenant (1982) have included four constructs (expectations, performance, disconfirmation and satisfaction) in a structural model and assessed the effects of each variable. They found inconsistent results among durable and non durable products. The disinformation model performed better for the non durable product whereas the performance model provided a parsimonious explanation of variance for the durable product. Churchill and Suprenant argue that when involvement is high as in the ease of the durable good (as also in services, especially experiential services) performance overrides all other considerations.


Oliver (1980) suggests that when performance judgements tend to be subjective (as in services due to intangibility) expectations may play only a minor role in the formation of satisfaction. Although some authors (Hill 1984; Smith and Houston 1983) have suggested the disinformation model to be appropriate for services, empirical evidence has yet to be found for this proposition. In light of the argument of Oliver (1980) regarding the weak performance of the disconfirmation model when satisfaction judgments tend to be subjective and the empirical evidence provided by Churchill and Surprenant (1982) with high involvement products, it is reasonable to assume that satisfaction judgments with services may be a function of performance alone. The performance model suggests that performance alone explains a major portion of variance in satisfaction judgments. Due to the peculiar characteristics of services (intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability) performance may become the only tangible evidence on which to base consumer evaluations of services. Moreover, lack of pre-purchase information in most services forces the consumer to form very few if any, expectations regarding the service to be encountered (Zeithaml 1981) and place even less confidence in those expectations. Even if we assume consumer expertise in a particular category of service, the high variability in the service provided from encounter to encounter creates uncertainty which inhibits formation of pre-purchase expectations .

The above discussion suggests that the disconfirmation model of satisfaction may perform poorly in case of services and that the performance model could better explain satisfaction in services.


Consumer participation in the production of services is another distinguishing feature of services as compared to goods (Chase 1978; Mills and Morris 1986; Bowen and Jones 1986). For those services which require a substantial input from consumers, usually in the form of information (as in the case of physicians and hair dressers) individual differences would make a major contribution to satisfaction judgments. Again, keeping in view the intangible nature of services, three individual difference variables, perceived risk, involvement and innovativeness are hypothesized to exert substantial influence on satisfaction judgments.

Theoretical justification for the inclusion of these three individual difference variables and their relationship to satisfaction are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Perceived Risk

Perceived risk has been studied in goods literature (Bauer 1960; Bettman 1973) extensively. However, it has received less attention in services literature (see Cox and Rich 1964 and George, Weinberger and Kelley 1986 for exceptions). Zeithaml (1981) suggests that consumers perceive higher risk compared to goods in a service encounter. She attributes this disparity to the peculiar characteristics of services, the limited number of cues available to evaluate services and to the lack of guarantees and warranties associated with services. Gummesson (1981) proposes that consumers lower their demands on the service providers in an effort to reduce their risk perceptions. This in turn, increases the probability of maximizing their chances of gelling expected results.

The above discussion suggests that perceived risk and satisfaction are negatively related with the increased level of risk associated with lower levels of satisfaction.


Closely related to the concept of perceived risk is that of involvement with the service category. Perceived risk has been characteristic as an empirical definition Of involvement. There is general agreement in the literature that involvement is the degree to which an object is central to an individual's ego structure, or his general interest level in an object (Engel and Blackwell 1982; Zaichkowsky 1985). Richins and Bloch (1986) differentiate situational involvement from that Of enduring involvement and demonstrate the temporal stability of enduring involvement. One problem with the research on the concept of involvement is that various authors have conceptualized it in different ways. Zaichkowsky's (1985) definition of involvement is thought to be relevant to a service situation and is adapted here with minor modifications. She defines involvement as a "person's perceived relevance of the object (service) based on inherent needs, values and interests". Perceived relevance based on inherent needs, values and interests is especially appropriate to services which are people based and should be delivered on a person to person basis. However, Zaichkowsky (1985) conceptualizes involvement as a function of importance, risk and pleasure. Given the importance Of perceived risk in a service situation, it is incorporated into our model as an exogenous variable. Consequently, involvement in this study may be thought of as a function of importance and pleasure only.

Literature suggests that level of involvement mediates consumer information acquisition behavior (Bettman 1979; Engel and Blackwell 1982). Highly involved consumers are motivated to acquire more information about the service, as a result of which their expectations may be-well within realistic levels. Thus, involvement is hypothesized to be positively related satisfaction with high involvement consumers being more satisfied with the service compared to their less involved counterparts Although there may be differences in satisfaction judgements due to enduring as opposed to situational involvement, we postpone the study of this distinction to a later date due to space limitations.

Consumer Innovativeness

Midgley (1977) implies that innovativeness is an innate expression of a person's psychological or sociological characteristic. Service innovation may be thought of as a function of psychological processes due to the difficulties involved in communicating new services. As a psychological characteristic service innovation may exert considerable influence on consumer evaluation processes. Midgley and Dowling (1978) define innovativeness as the degree to which an individual makes innovation decisions independently of the communicated experience of others. This implies that innovators have greater confidence in their evaluative judgements compared to non innovators. Consistent with this idea, Green, Langeard and Favell (1974) found opinion leadership to be significantly related to innovativeness in retail services. Higher confidence in turn, may lead to higher expectations thus enhancing the level of satisfaction. Thus, innovativeness is hypothesized to be positively related to satisfaction.

Although we treat all three individual difference variables as exogenous to our model we do recognize the theoretical relationships among these three variables The relationship between risk and involvement as well as risk, innovativeness and involvement are well established in the literature. A replication of these linkages is not attempted in this paper since our main concern is to study satisfaction processes.

ln summary, the above discussion Suggests that satisfaction with services can be a [unction of (1) mutual interdependency between service provider and customer (disconfirmation model) (2) service provider alone (performance model) or (3) consumer alone (individual differences model). There are two types of hypotheses germane to our model. First, each linkage proposed in the model represents a hypothesis. Second, as the purpose of our research is to evaluate the explanatory ability Of the three models, the following hypotheses are proposed:

H1: Satisfaction with services is a function of the discrepancy between expectations and perceived performance.

H2: Satisfaction with services is a function of perceived performance alone.

H3: Satisfaction with services is a function of individual differences (perceived risk, involvement and innovativeness) among consumers.



The data was gathered by surveying 175 undergraduate students of a large south-eastern university. The service category chosen was the services of hairstylists. This choice was prompted by several considerations. First, this service category is high on experiential qualities (Zeithaml 1981) and the service itself involves high interaction between service provider and customer. Second, the participation level Of consumers in the service act is high, as the hairstylist directly works on the information provided by the customer. Third, substantial heterogeneity in this service class creates uncertainty at every encounter which in turn impacts consumer satisfaction. And finally, the service class is one used by most college students.

Construct Measurement

A questionnaire was designed to capture the various constructs represented in the model. The SERVQUAL scale (Parasuraman et al 1988) was modified to fit the specific service category under investigation. To assess the appropriateness or SERVQUAL scale to study hairstyling services we subjected all items to scale purification and validation through factor analysis and internal consistency tests. Specifically, expectations, performance and disconfirmation were measured with the help of ten items each, constructed by modifying the Servqual scale. Seventeen items were constructed to tap the domain of satisfaction with the service. Consistent with Churchill and Surprenant (1982) satisfaction was assessed as a function Or various attributes of the service and overall satisfaction. Perceived risk was measured as a function of uncertainty and consequences (Cunningham 1967). Eleven items were used to tap the perceived risk construct. Fifteen items were constructed to measure the construct of involvement and nine items were constructed to measure innovativeness. As suggested earlier, involvement was measured as a function of personal importance and pleasure. A Likert scale was used for all measures except disconfirmation which was measured as a function of expectations (better than expected/just as expected/worse than expected). All items were derived from an intense search of past research and scale verification. One hundred and fifty usable questionnaires were returned giving a response rate of 86%.

Before calculating the parameter estimates of the models the measures were analyzed for reliability and nomological validity using factor analyses and Cronbach alphas. As recommended by Anderson and Gerbing (1988) a factor analysis was used to eliminate the redundancy in the measures and to confirm the measurement model prior to the simultaneous estimation of the structural and measurement models by LISREL. This procedure is believed to eliminate the redundancy in the measures. Only those items with acceptable Cronbach alphas were used as indicators of the constructs. Satisfaction was measured by four variables with a Cronbach alpha of .90; Performance was measured by four variables with a Cronbach alpha of .89; Expectations were measured by three variables with a Cronbach alpha of .82; Disconfirmation was measured by three variables with a Cronbach alpha of .52; Involvement was measured by five variables with a Cronbach alpha of .85; Risk was measured by five variables with a Cronbach alpha of .82; and Innovativeness was measured by three variables with a Cronbach alpha of .85. As shown by. the data above the reliability and nomological validity of the measures was confirmed before the analysis was conducted as recommended by Bagozzi (1981). These measures were confirmed in- the analysis by high coefficients Of determination for the X and Y variables (.85 for X and .97 for Y). Table l provides the sample items used in the study along with scale reliabilities.

LISREL Analysis and Results

LISREL VII (Joreskog and Sorbom 1989) was used to analyze the data and derive the parameter estimates. Overall fit statistics are based upon analysis of the correlation matrices. Figures la, lb and to show the Disinformation model (DC model), Performance model (PR model) and Individual differences model (ID model) respectively, with all the relationships and parameter estimates.

The first model is a full model with all four constructs of expectations, performance, disconfirmation and satisfaction. Expectations are hypothesized to impact performance, disconfirmation and satisfaction. Performance exerts an independent effect on both disinformation and satisfaction. Disconfirmation influences satisfaction. The strongest relationship is between performance and satisfaction (Beta 3,1=.573. This would suggest that performance is significantly related to satisfaction. The chi square with 61 df for this model is 350.16, the GFI is .795, and the AGFI is .647.


Comparing the disconfirmation model 10 the performance model specified in Figure lb, there is a strong relationship between performance and satisfaction (Beta 1,1=.56). The performance model has a chi square of 224.91 with 20 df, a GFI of .740 and AGFI of .532. As can be seen the performance model did not perform as well as the disconfirmation model. The individual difference model (Figure 1C) takes into account the impact of individual differences on satisfaction judgments. Involvement and innovativeness are positively related to satisfaction whereas risk is negatively related to satisfaction. Involvement seems to have the strongest impact on satisfaction lending support to our initial argument that the highly involved consumers, due to their propensity to acquire more information tend to experience higher levels of satisfaction. This model has a chi square or 203.10 with 104 df a GFI of .869 and an AC.Fl or .808. These statistics indicate that the individual difference model performed better than either the disconfirmation or performance models. This suggests that in services the individual consumers' characteristics play an important role in satisfaction judgments. Table II summarizes the various statistics for all three models.


Comparing the three models by comparing the chi square/df (Carmines and McIver 1981) and the goodness of fit indices, it becomes apparent that the individual differences model performs the best compared to the other two. This suggests that, at least in those categories of services where experience qualities are high, consumers input into the service may be significant.

In most instances, consumers attribute the failure or service to themselves rather than to the service provider, due to the importance of information the consumer has to provide to the service provider (Zeithaml 1981). Accordingly it is not surprising that Individual differences make a strong impact on satisfaction judgments. Although Chase (1978) has questioned the role of consumers in the service exchange, researchers have not considered the important role played by individual differences on service evaluations. Our data suggests that we need to take individual differences into account when attempting to explain satisfaction with services.





Our study also suggests that neither the disconfirmation model, nor the performance model by itself explain satisfaction parsimoniously. Due to the peculiar nature Of services and also the high level of participation of consumers in the service encounter, satisfaction processes in services may differ substantially from satisfaction processes in products. Hence researchers need to exercise caution in unambiguously accepting the proposition to embrace the disconfirmation paradigm to service industries.

Limitations and Future Research Directions

The impact Of demographic variables, in particular sex, may be substantial given the type of service category we have chosen. Unfortunately our model as constructed does not allow us to study this discrimination. Future research needs to consider this important variable in studies of consumer evaluation processes.

The low reliability of the disconfirmation measure is Of particular concern in this study. Coupled with some inherent problems with LISREL analysis such as the sensitive nature of Chi-square test our conclusions are tentative at best.




Another interpretation of our data may be that a purely cognitive model Of satisfaction as applies to goods may not be appropriate for services. Services involve affective processes toward the service provider which may play an important role in satisfaction judgments. Future research needs to take affective responses into consideration to expand our knowledge about satisfaction processes.

To improve the generalizability Of the conclusions, researchers need to investigate the relationships examined here in other contexts and in other categories of services. We would also like to suggest that instead of focusing on the service provider exclusively the consumer should also be considered as an important element in models Or service satisfaction.


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Rama Jayanti, Louisiana State University
Anita Jackson, Louisiana State University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18 | 1991

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