Year

1993

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Management

Abstract

Customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction (CS/D) is one of the most important and pervasive concepts in marketing and a major outcome of most marketing activity. Although there has been considerable research into modelling the determinants of CS/D, the research to date has almost entirely concentrati on products/goods (primarily low-involvement, non-durables). Almost no attention has been paid to testing these models with services in general, nor with industrial or business-tobusiness, professional services in particular. Service businesses, but especially professional services, have unique characteristics which make them operationally different from manufacturing businesses. Due to these differences and the growing importance of services in our economy, separate studies modelling the determinants of CS/D are warranted. The dominant model to date, explaining CS/D is the disconfìrmation of expectations paradigm. The primary purpose of this research was to empirically test for the first time, and extend our understanding of the determinants of CS/D in the context of a businessto- business, professional service (i.e., management consulting services). Previous studies have almost exclusively focussed on a few key antecedent variables (e.g., expectations, performance, disconfìrmation) or treated other potentially important explanatory variables in isolation. This research examined the simultaneous impact of these key constructs and additional variables, namely fairness (equity), prior attitudes, purchase situation (novelty, importance, and complexity) and individuallevel variables in a causal path framework. The data used to test the path model was obtained from a two-stage longitudinal survey of one hundred and twenty eight client organisations. Overall the path model proved to be rich in its portray^ of the complex relationships that precede and determine CS/D. Six statistically significant antecedent variables (disconfirmation, performance, fairness, uncertainty, stakeholding and reliability dimension of prior attitudes) explained 84% of the variance in CS/D. The only variable found to impact upon repeat purchase intentions was satisfaction. When both direct and indirect effects are accounted for, the performance variable had by far the greatest overall impact on CS/D, closely followed by the combined impact of the individual difference variables (uncertainty and stakeholding). Pre-purchase expectations did not have the same dominant impact it has exhibited in product studies. Finally, an analysis of the expectations and performance items revealed dimensions (factors) substantively different from the previous consumer services studies (e.g., SERVQUAL). These findings considerably aid our understanding of the complex, process nature of CS/D determination for services in general, and business services in particular. The findings have significant implications for managers of business, professional services.

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