Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Science Review

Satisfiers, Dissatisfiers, Criticals, and Neutrals: A Review of Their Relative Effects on Customer (Dis)satisfaction

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Science Review

Satisfiers, Dissatisfiers, Criticals, and Neutrals: A Review of Their Relative Effects on Customer (Dis)satisfaction

Article excerpt


Satisfaction has traditionally been conceptualized as a global affective response toward offering usage/consumption (Westbrook 1987). To date, its study has yet to uncover the complexities related to the antecedents leading to global satisfaction, which are customers. reactions to different foci of offering usage/consumption. However, a number of research streams in a variety of disciplines have investigated these antecedents and suggested that they are usually independent and multidimensional. These investigations have implications for managers that are more complex and often contrary to those associated with the traditional conceptualization of (dis)satisfaction. They also have implications for the underlying models and measurement techniques that may be appropriate for understanding (dis)satisfaction. These streams of research, their prospective implications, and supportive findings from related research are reviewed, and their associated issues and directions for additional research are discussed.

Scholars from disciplines as diverse as human resources, engineering, and marketing have identified different antecedents to (dis)satisfaction. The primary distinction among these antecedents is that (1) some increase satisfaction when present but do not increase dissatisfaction when absent, (2) some increase dissatisfaction when absent but do not increase satisfaction when present, (3) some impact both satisfaction and dissatisfaction and negative evaluations to the extent that they are present or absent, and (4) some have no impact on satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Each of the research streams has its own distinct terminology for identifying these factors. Because of their marketing origins coupled with their direct connection to (dis)satisfaction, we use the terms satisfiers, dissatisfiers, criticals, and neutrals (Cadotte and Turgeon 1988), respectively, as generic terms to refer to these factors.

A cross disciplinary review of the literature suggests that satisfiers meet the intrinsic needs of individuals, which are considered to be ends in themselves. Dissatisfiers tend to meet the extrinsic needs of individuals and their minimal requirements, which are in turn related to the functional performance of offerings and are means to ends. This suggests that customers can be highly satisfied only if the functional or utilitarian aspects of the offerings are controlled and the psychological or hedonistic aspects are offered in addition.

While they do not specifically deal with (dis)satisfaction, a number of models and theories help illustrate the relative impact of satisfiers, dissatisfiers, criticals, and neutrals on (dis)satisfaction and the evolution cycle among these factors. For example, prospect theory (Kahneman and Tversky 1979) suggests that the impact of losses (negative outcomes) is greater than the impact of gains (positive outcomes). This finding lends support to the idea that dissatisfiers have priority over satisfiers. Further, Levitt's (1986) total product model suggests there is an evolving cycle among these antecedents. For example product attributes that once were satisfiers become criticals and then dissatisfiers over time (Brandt 1988; Cadotte and Turgeon 1988; Kano et al. 1984).

The review of these research streams reveals several unresolved issues. The most important of these is the question of how to integrate the existence of satisfiers, dissatisfiers, criticals, and neutrals into customer satisfaction models. However, most research in customer satisfaction relies on the disconfirmation of expectations (DE) model, which has not accounted for the multidimensional nature of these antecedents leading to satisfaction. As such, further extensions to the DE model or an alternative model are needed.

As an extension to the DE model, the need-gratification model (Oliver 1997) captures the curve-linear relationship between the change in product attribute level and (dis)satisfaction. …

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