Organizations need to retain existing customers while targeting non-customers. Measuring customer satisfaction provides an indication of how successful the organization is at providing products and/or services to the marketplace.
“Customer satisfaction is measured at the individual level, but it is almost always reported at an aggregate level. It can be, and often is, measured along various dimensions. A hotel, for example, might ask customers to rate their experience with its front desk and check-in service, with the room, with the amenities in the room, with the restaurants, and so on. Additionally, in a holistic sense, the hotel might ask about overall satisfaction ‘with your stay.
As research on consumption experiences grows, evidence suggests that consumers purchase goods and services for a combination of two types of benefits: hedonic and utilitarian. Hedonic benefits are associated with the sensory and experiential attributes of the product. Utilitarian benefits of a product are associated with the more instrumental and functional attributes of the product.
Customer satisfaction is an ambiguous and abstract concept and the actual manifestation of the state of satisfaction will vary from person to person and product/service to product/service. The state of satisfaction depends on a number of both psychological and physical variables which correlate with satisfaction behaviors such as return and recommend rate. The level of satisfaction can also vary depending on other options the customer may have and other products against which the customer can compare the organization’s products.
Work done by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (Leonard L) between 1985 and 1988 provides the basis for the measurement of customer satisfaction with a service by using the gap between the customer’s expectation of performance and their perceived experience of performance. This provides the measurer with a satisfaction “gap” which is objective and quantitative in nature. Work done by Cronin and Taylor propose the “confirmation/disconfirmation” theory of combining the “gap” described by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry as two different measures (perception and expectation of performance) into a single measurement of performance according to expectation.
The usual measures of customer satisfaction involve a survey with a set of statements using a Likert Technique or scale. The customer is asked to evaluate each statement and in term of their perception and expectation of performance of the organization being measured. Their satisfaction is generally measured on a five-point scale.
“Customer satisfaction data can also be collected on a 10-point scale.
“Regardless of the scale used, the objective is to measure customers’ perceived satisfaction with their experience of a firm’s offerings.” It is essential for firms to effectively manage customer satisfaction. To be able do this, we need accurate measurement of satisfaction.
Good quality measures need to have high satisfaction loadings, good reliability, and low error variances. In an empirical study comparing commonly used satisfaction measures it was found that two multi-item semantic differential scales performed best across both hedonic and utilitarian service consumption contexts. According to studies by Wirtz & Lee (2003), they identified a six-item 7-point semantic differential scale (e.g., Oliver and Swan 1983), which is a six-item 7-point bipolar scale, that consistently performed best across both hedonic and utilitarian services. It loaded most highly on satisfaction, had the highest item reliability, and had by far the lowest error variance across both studies. In the study, the six items asked respondents’ evaluation of their most recent experience with ATM services and ice cream restaurant, along seven points within these six items: “please me to displeased me”, “contented with to disgusted with”, “very satisfied with to very dissatisfied with”, “did a good job for me to did a poor job for me”, “wise choice to poor choice” and “happy with to unhappy with”.
A semantic differential (4 items) scale (e.g., Eroglu and Machleit 1990) which is a four-item 7-point bipolar scale, was the second best performing measure, which was again consistent across both contexts. In the study, respondents were asked to evaluate their experience with both products, along seven points within these four items: “satisfied to dissatisfied”, “favorable to unfavorable”, “pleasant to unpleasant” and “I like it very much to I didn’t like it at all”.
The third best scale was single-item percentage measure, a one-item 7-point bipolar scale (e.g., Westbrook 1980). Again, the respondents were asked to evaluate their experience on both ATM services and ice cream restaurants, along seven points within “delighted to terrible”.
It seems that dependent on a trade-off between length of the questionnaire and quality of satisfaction measure, these scales seem to be good options for measuring customer satisfaction in academic and applied studies research alike. All other measures tested consistently performed worse than the top three measures, and/or their performance varied significantly across the two service contexts in their study. These results suggest that more careful pretesting would be prudent should these measures be used.
Finally, all measures captured both affective and cognitive aspects of satisfaction, independent of their scale anchors. Affective measures capture a consumer’s attitude (liking/disliking) towards a product, which can result from any product information or experience. On the other hand, cognitive element is defined as an appraisal or conclusion on how the product’s performance compared against expectations (or exceeded or fell short of expectations), was useful (or not useful), fit the situation (or did not fit), exceeded the requirements of the situation (or did not exceed)