The mismeasure of satisfaction

Date of publication: June 15, 1994

Author: Murlidhar Rao


Four areas of research pertinent to the measurement of Customer Satisfaction are examined. The four areas and the key findings from each are summarized below. 1. Theoretical Views Regarding Customer Satisfaction Satisfaction results from the confirmation of customers' expectations. Satisfaction is similar to attitude in that it is both multi-dimensional and has an affective component. Customer Satisfaction pertains to a transaction, such as a service experience, while attitude pertains to an entity, such as a vehicle or a marque. 2. Customer Satisfaction Measurement is Analogous to "Quality" Measurement The "Confirmation of Expectations" paradigm of Customer Satisfaction is analogous to the "Quality Function Deployment" paradigm for products, and to the "Gap Model" for services. While satisfaction with individual transactions does not lead to customers' perceptions of high quality, Customer Satisfaction as a major ingredient of quality is explicitly recognized in the criteria for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. 3. Empirical Findings Regarding Customer Satisfaction According to IBM, a "closed loop" is needed to overcome dissatisfaction. IBM claims to have quantified the revenue potential of one point of customer satisfaction, while AT&T has obtained weights for the components of customer satisfaction. According to AT&T, Satisfaction with Repair Quality is a direct function of "fixed right first time". Burke Research bemoans the lack of actionability in Satisfaction Measurement and also maintains the need for a "closed loop" from measurement to action. 4. Problem Detection and Complaint Resolution Dissatisfied individuals tend not to complain, and retail and field systems filter and discourage complaints. By the mere fact of getting customers to articulate their problems to the company/provider, brand loyalty can be retained and the complaint ratio (multiplier) reduced. The propensity to complain is directly proportional to the perceived severity of the problem and the damage to the respondent. Complainers tend to be the heaviest users of the product/service. Problem experience for those consumers who remain unsatisfied results in substantial amounts of negative word-of-mouth. The author closes with ten -10 recommendations for the design of automotive Customer Satisfaction programs.

Murlidhar Rao


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