دانلود مقاله ISI انگلیسی شماره 26599
عنوان فارسی مقاله

اثرات مرجع چندگانه در ارزیابی های خدمات: نقش جذابیت آلترناتیو و تجانس خویشتن بینی

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
26599 2007 11 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
Multiple reference effects in service evaluations: Roles of alternative attractiveness and self-image congruity
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : Journal of Retailing, Volume 83, Issue 1, 2007, Pages 147–157

کلمات کلیدی
نقاط مرجع چندگانه - جذابیت آلترناتیو - تجانس خویشتن بینی - رد تائید - رضایت مشتری و تعهد
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله اثرات مرجع چندگانه در ارزیابی های خدمات: نقش جذابیت آلترناتیو و تجانس خویشتن بینی

چکیده انگلیسی

Customer satisfaction and service evaluation research has examined the reference effect but largely adopted an expectancy–disconfirmation paradigm that focuses on referents centered on the product or service in question. This study examines two additional reference effects, alternative attractiveness and self-image congruity, and their interaction. The framework of multiple reference effects in service evaluations integrates insights from regret theory, the investment model of interpersonal relationships, and self-image congruity theory. An empirical study of a hairstyling service confirms that comparisons involving other-object and self-based reference points contribute significantly to consumer service evaluations. Self-image congruity has the most significant impact on both customer satisfaction and commitment judgments. In general, the negative effect of alternative attractiveness on both customer satisfaction and commitment becomes weaker as the level of self-image congruity increases; as long as consumers find a good fit between their self-image and the service image, they are less likely to consider alternative services. However, for consumers with high self-image congruity with the focal service, the presence of an attractive alternative may induce them to exhibit an enhancement bias or “play up” effect (i.e., report higher satisfaction with the focal service).

مقدمه انگلیسی

“A nationally syndicated comic strip recently sketched one theory of how multiple reference points affect satisfaction with outcomes. In the first panel, a young boy is elated because he got two gumballs instead of the one he expected. In frame two he is deflated when a friend tells him that the machine was supposed to give him three. In the final panel, he becomes very unhappy when his friend's quarter yields four gumballs: his two gumballs pale in comparison.” (Ordonez et al. 2000) The intuition that outcome evaluations are shaped by comparisons to reference points has been widely adopted to model how consumers behave in various contexts. In satisfaction studies, the expectancy–disconfirmation paradigm suggests that consumers refer to their expectations when forming postconsumption satisfaction evaluations (Oliver 1980); across other disciplines, support for reference-based evaluations is equally strong. Social psychology (e.g., Folger 1984), behavioral decision (e.g., Bell and Bucklin 1999), and organizational behavior (e.g., Blau 1994) researchers postulate and confirm various types of reference effects. The prevalence of this phenomenon of human behavior points to the richness of the reference-based paradigm across disciplines. Three major types of “referents” can be identified across the research fields of services, consumer behavior, and social psychology: focal-object, other-object, and self-based. A focal-object referent refers to a consumer's existing expectations about the focal object (product or service) of the evaluation. When a consumer compares the perceived performance of the focal object with his or her expectations, any resulting disconfirmation affects satisfaction judgments about the focal object ( Oliver, 1980 and Tse and Wilton, 1988), such as if the consumer were to note that “this hair salon performs better/worse than I expected.” An other-object referent refers to the perceived performance of an alternative that the consumer compares with the focal object; the result of this comparison affects satisfaction and other judgments regarding the focal object ( Ping, 1993 and Rusbult, 1980). For example, the consumer might think, “this hair salon performs better/worse than an alternative hair salon.” Finally, the self-based referent refers to a self-image the consumer compares with the image (or symbolic value) of the focal object, which emerges from its perceived performance and stereotypes of the typical users it attracts ( Sirgy et al. 1997). Examples of such references include, “the image of this hair salon fits/does not fit with how I see myself” or “the typical customers of this hair salon are similar/not similar to me.” To understand the effect of the focal-object referent on service evaluations and purchase intentions, extant research has largely adopted the expectancy–disconfirmation paradigm and focused on “should” or “will” expectations about the focal object (e.g., Oliver 1980). Some studies also examine other comparison standards (e.g., Tse and Wilton 1988), but their focus remains centered on the focal object in question and omits the effects of other-object and self-based referents. Evidence to support the salience of these two other types of referents appears in consumer behavior and social psychology literature. Inman et al. (1997) and Tsiros and Mittal (2000) adopt regret theory, whereas Rusbult (1980) develops an investment model of interpersonal relationships to examine the effect of the attractiveness of an alternative on consumer evaluations. The importance of self-image as a self-based referent in the formation of attitudes, preferences, and purchase intentions also has been confirmed (Aaker, 1999, Graeff, 1996 and Sirgy, 1985), though most studies focus on the predictive role of self-image on preconsumption evaluations rather than the role of the self in postpurchase satisfaction and commitment. Extant studies on other-object and self-based referents also examine their effects separately, thus failing to explore their relative impact and potential interaction effects on postpurchase evaluations. In response to this research gap in exploring multiple referent effects in service evaluations, we propose a model that acknowledges the importance of disconfirmation but also examines multiple reference effects by incorporating other-object and self-based referents in the process of customer service evaluations. Specifically, we test for additional and relative contributions of other-object and self-based reference effects, as well as their interaction, on consumer satisfaction and commitment evaluations after accounting for the effect of the focal-object referent (i.e., disconfirmation). We test the proposed model empirically with survey data from 360 consumers of a hairstyling service. In the next section, we present our conceptual framework and develop corresponding hypotheses.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

Our study takes an integrative and contingency approach to investigate the roles of three different reference points in consumers’ satisfaction and commitment judgments in a service context. Although considerable research has attempted to understand how customer evaluations may be determined through comparisons with various reference points, its focus mostly has been referents related to the focal object. In this article, we propose that the omission of other-object and self-based reference points may have led to incorrectly specified models of customer service evaluations and, more important, less-than-optimal services marketing decisions pertaining to improving customer satisfaction and retention. Building on a premise that advocates multiple reference effects, this study enriches understanding of how focal-object (disconfirmation), other-object (alternative attractiveness), and self-based (self-image congruity) referents operate in concert to affect consumers’ satisfaction and commitment judgments. We also explore the contingency effect by which self-image congruity interacts with alternative attractiveness to affect consumer service evaluations. Taken together, our results confirm that comparisons involving other-object and self-based reference points contribute significantly to consumer service evaluations. Among the three reference effects, self-image congruity has the most significant impact on both customer satisfaction and commitment judgments. However, the relative impact of alternative attractiveness varies across service evaluations, such that its effect rivals that of disconfirmation on customer commitment but shows no significant effect on customer satisfaction. In general, our results suggest that the negative effect of alternative attractiveness on both customer satisfaction and commitment becomes weaker as the level of self-image congruity increases, such that as long as consumers find a good fit between their self-image and the service image, they are less likely to consider other alternative services. However, for consumers with high self-image congruity with the focal service, the presence of an attractive alternative may induce them to exhibit an enhancement or “play up” bias in judging their satisfaction with the focal service. We find that this interesting positive effect of alternative attractiveness on customer satisfaction for a high level of self-image congruity is consistent with people's behaviors in close personal relationships. When people in close relationships (i.e., intimates) confront a relationship threat (e.g., an attractive alternative), they tend to evaluate their relationships more positively (Rusbult et al. 2000). Such an enhancement bias enables intimates to maintain their positive views of the relationship (e.g., match with their self-concept), especially when the relationship may be threatened by feelings of doubt or uncertainty (Johnson and Rusbult, 1989 and Murray, 1999). A similar play up bias also appears in a recent study of the effect of satisfaction on word-of-mouth (WOM) behaviors. Satisfaction may be inversely related to positive WOM behavior when commitment is high, because a highly committed consumer who has experienced lower levels of satisfaction may “talk up” a company as a defense mechanism to regain balance or cognitive consistency (Brown et al. 2005). But why do we observe an enhancement bias only in consumers’ satisfaction judgments? According to Gagné and Lydon (2004), whether intimates engage in accurate or biased evaluations of their relationships depends on the nature of the relationship evaluations. Some judgments, such as evaluations of commitment and closeness, are more epistemic in nature (i.e., to predict, understand, and control important outcomes in the relationship). Other judgments, such as relationship satisfaction or partner superiority, appear to be more esteem-regulatory in nature (i.e., to enhance positive beliefs about the relationship). Accuracy in relationship evaluations is associated with epistemic judgments, whereas bias corresponds to esteem-related judgments (Thomas et al. 1997). In other words, “intimates can be both accurate and biased by being accurate about relationship predictions and other judgments that are relevant to epistemic needs, while simultaneously being positively biased about judgments that are relevant to regulating esteem needs in the relationship” (Gagné and Lydon 2004, p. 332). Our specific results have implications for both service research and practice. They highlight the need to incorporate reference points beyond the focal object in models of consumer satisfaction and commitment and support the push to consider contingency relationships among multiple reference effects. In addition, our results help explain why customers may feel satisfied and committed to a service provider even if they perceive deteriorating service performance and why the alternative attractiveness–customer satisfaction/commitment relationship has evidenced variability in prior research (e.g., Barksdale et al., 1997, Jones et al., 2000 and Ping, 1993). Furthermore, we extend theories on regret and investment models, which have focused predominately on the effect of foregone alternatives (e.g., Inman et al., 1997 and Rusbult, 1980). The self-based referent even may have a stronger effect than focal-object and other-object referents when customers assess their satisfaction with and commitment to a highly involving and more personal service. In addition, a high level of self-image congruity can help reduce or even overrule the negative effect of an attractive alternative on service evaluations. In terms of practice, our results support the conventional wisdom that a high-quality core service that meets customers’ expectations should remain a primary strategic focus of service providers because of its strong impact on customer satisfaction and commitment. However, service marketers also should understand that consumers consider multiple referents related to the focal service, other services, and themselves when they form their service evaluations. Failure to consider these multiple referents may lead service providers to underestimate the likelihood of defection among satisfied customers or overestimate defection rates among dissatisfied customers, which would lead to misallocations of customer retention resources. Service firms that attempt to achieve a sustained competitive advantage also need to monitor their customers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of close competitors. Our results provide some practical promotion guidelines. First, an incumbent service provider could ridicule rivals’ performance in comparative advertising to reduce their attractiveness (and customers’ regret). Second, service providers could increase the feeling of regret among customers who have not chosen their services. For example, AT&T ran an ad depicting a consumer who remained with AT&T's long-distance service in which that consumer praised the service (Inman et al. 1997). The ad attempts to induce regret among consumers who chose another long-distance carrier by demonstrating AT&T's favorable performance as a foregone alternative. However, distorting consumers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of alternatives, in lieu of increasing customer satisfaction and commitment toward a focal service, likely will not work in the long run, particularly if customers can learn more positive information about alternatives from other sources or if the lack of an attractive alternative only makes them feel entrapped. When customer dissatisfaction toward the focal service is ongoing, entrapped customers may engage in company-focused sabotage, such as negative word-of-mouth. Service firms would be better off creating positive barriers, which might include building close interpersonal bonds and achieving a high level of self-image congruity with their customers. As our findings suggest, when customers’ self-image congruity is high, their attention to alternatives may diminish, and a play up bias may be induced. The stronger impact of self-image congruity, relative to other reference effects, renews calls for greater attention to desirable firm images in service and retail environments (Sirgy et al. 2000). Marketers and retailers should create advertising and promotional messages to elicit psychological appeals and emotional responses that help link their services to customers. Messages that emphasize the person who visits the shop, such as “they are like me” or “they are as I would like to be,” should be considered. For example, in many Asian countries, the well-understood slogan, “it is good to be seen at a Starbucks,” says it all. This study has several limitations that warrant considerations in further research. First, our sample was drawn from one service industry—hairstyling. Although this focus enables us to control for interindustry differences, it also limits our ability to generalize the findings to other service industries with different competitive environments (Gronholdt et al. 2000). For example, for transaction-based services such as fast-food restaurants, fierce interfirm competition may give consumers an expanded consideration set. Consumers also might focus more on the functional, as opposed to the symbolic, aspects of the service, in which case they likely pay less attention to self-image congruity and more to alternative attractiveness. Second, we measure all constructs in our study with one survey conducted at the same time. Although we minimize the common method variance problem through our survey design (e.g., all constructs were separated and mixed in order) and find no evidence of it in our data analysis (reliability and validity tests), its impact can be ruled out only if we were to collect data from different sources or through a multiwave survey. Third, whereas our study examines the effect of actual self-image congruity, additional research might distinguish the effects of other types of self, such as the social self, in which case the service experience of a consumer depends on the approval of others (e.g., Sirgy et al. 2000). Consumers who shop with significant others may engage actively in impression management and therefore patronize stores that they believe will enhance their standing in the eyes of those significant others, or at least not violate their expectations. Fourth, the role of a referent based on another customer in service evaluations presents another promising research area. Recent research (e.g., Xia et al. 2004) discusses its salience in self–other comparisons that affect price fairness perceptions (e.g., “I paid more than another customer”); a similar effect on service evaluations seems intuitive and highly plausible, because other customers influence customer service evaluations (Hui and Bateson 1991). Fifth, our supplementary analysis reveals an interesting nonmonotonic effect of alternative attractiveness over the range of self-image congruity. However, our research is not designed to address this issue, so we are limited in our ability to conjecture about the process that underlies this phenomenon. Further explorations through controlled experiments definitely are needed to understand this result. Overall, our research represents a preliminary attempt to understand the roles of multiple reference points in service evaluations and provides interesting and challenging questions and issues that await further exploration. In particular, manipulating and balancing the multiple types of reference effects in customer's service evaluations to attract and retain more customers and thus enhance profitability will continue to be a key challenge for all service marketers. Executive summary Improving customer satisfaction and building customer loyalty continue to be major challenges for marketers of retail and other services. A prerequisite of effective customer satisfaction and loyalty strategies remains a thorough understanding of the process of customer service evaluations. For more than two decades, the expectancy–disconfirmation paradigm, which suggests that consumers compare the perceived performance of a product or service with their expectations (a focal-object referent) when they form postconsumption satisfaction evaluations, has been the dominant framework in customer satisfaction and service evaluation research. Even though some studies examine alternative comparison standards, general attention has remained centered on the focal object in question. However, evidence to support the premise that consumers’ outcome evaluations are shaped by comparisons to multiple reference points appears across the disciplines of consumer behavior, social psychology, behavioral decision, and organizational behavior. Most notably, these studies identify two other types of “referents”: other-object and self-based. An other-object referent refers to the perceived performance of an alternative that a consumer compares with the focal object, whereas a self-based referent refers to a self-image the consumer compares with the image (or symbolic value) of the focal object. This study examines multiple reference effects by incorporating other-object and self-based referents in the process of customer service evaluations. Specifically, it assesses the additional and relative contributions of other-object and self-based reference effects, as well as their interaction, on consumer satisfaction and commitment evaluations after accounting for the effect of the focal-object referent. The proposed framework of multiple reference effects in service evaluations integrates insights from regret theory, the investment model of interpersonal relationships, and self-image congruity theory. Consumers’ subjective judgments of the focal-object, other-object, and self-based comparisons are captured through the constructs of disconfirmation, alternative attractiveness, and self-image congruity, respectively. An empirical study of a hairstyling service confirms that comparisons involving other-object and self-based reference points contribute significantly to consumer service evaluations even when the effect of disconfirmation is controlled. Among the three reference effects, self-image congruity has the most significant impact on both customer satisfaction and commitment judgments. However, the relative impact of alternative attractiveness varies across service evaluations, with a significant effect only on customer commitment. In general, the results suggest that the negative effect of alternative attractiveness on both customer satisfaction and commitment becomes weaker as the level of self-image congruity increases, so that as long as consumers find a good fit between their self-image and the service image, they are less likely to consider alternative services. However, for consumers with high self-image congruity with the focal service, the presence of an attractive alternative may induce them to enhance or “play up” their bias in judging their satisfaction with the focal service. Several managerial implications for service practices can be offered. First, service marketers should understand that consumers consider multiple referents related to the focal service, other services, and themselves when they make service evaluations. Failure to consider multiple referents may lead service providers to underestimate the likelihood of defection among satisfied customers or overestimate the defection rate among dissatisfied customers and thus misallocate customer retention resources. Second, service firms that attempt to achieve a sustained competitive advantage need to monitor or even influence their customers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of close competitors. For example, an incumbent service provider could ridicule rivals’ performance in comparative advertising to reduce their attractiveness (and customers’ regret); other service providers could increase the feeling of regret among customers who have not chosen their services by demonstrating their favorable performance as a foregone alternative. However, distorting consumers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of alternatives likely will not work in the long run, particularly if customers can learn more positive information about alternatives from other sources. Service firms would be better off creating positive barriers such as building close interpersonal bonds and achieving a high level of self-image congruity with their customers. As the findings suggest, when customers’ self-image congruity is high, their attention to alternatives may diminish, and a play up bias may be induced. Third, the stronger impact of self-image congruity calls for greater attention to desirable firm images in service and retail environments. Marketers and retailers should create advertising and promotional messages to elicit psychological appeals and emotional responses that help link their services to customers. Messages that emphasize the person who visits the shop, such as “they are like me” or “they are what I would like to be,” should be considered.

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