When do customers get what they expect? Understanding the ambivalent effects of customers’ service expectations on satisfaction
journal contributionposted on 15.06.2018, 13:16 by Johannes Habel, Sascha Alavi, Christian Schmitz, Janina-Vanessa Schneider, Jan Wieseke
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Extant research established that customers’ expectations play an ambivalent role in the satisfaction formation process: While higher expectations are more difficult to meet and thus cause dissatisfaction, they simultaneously increase satisfaction via customers’ perceived performance owing to a placebo effect. However, to date, knowledge is scarce on the que stion under which conditions either the positive or negative effect of expectations on satisfaction prevails. Building on information processing theory, the authors hypothesize that an essential contingency of the indirect, placebo-based effect is the degree to which customers are able and motivated to process a service experience. Three studies with a total of over 4,000 customers in different service contexts provide strong evidence for this hypothesis. Thus, managers are well advised to provide a realistic or even understated prospect if the service context favors customers’ ability or motivation to evaluate. Conversely, if customers are neither able nor motivated to evaluate the service, increasing customer expectations represents a viable strategy to enhance satisfaction. Relatedly, if customers hold low service expectations, managers should foster customers’ ability and motivation to evaluate the service. In contrast, if service expectations are high, managers may benefit from reducing the likelihood that customers overly focus on the service performance.
- Business and Economics