The Effect of Stating Expectations on Customer Satisfaction and Shopping Experience

The Effect of Stating Expectations on Customer Satisfaction and Shopping Experience

By Itamar Simonson, Chezy Ofir
2005Working Paper No. 1881

Customers expectations are key determinants of their consumption experiences, satisfaction, and loyalty. Therefore, knowing in advance what customers expect is critical for the success of marketing strategies. We examine alternative predictions regarding the impact of stating expectations before purchase on subsequent perceptions of the shopping experience and the firm. In particular, the present research suggests that asking customers to articulate their expectations can backfire and lead to more negative evaluations of the shopping and consumption experience. A series of field experiments indicate that, compared to a control group, stating pre-purchase expectations leads customers to focus on negative aspects of the shopping experience and perceive the same performance more negatively. The observed systematic negative bias produced by stating expectations is inconsistent with confirmation bias as well as assimilation, contrast, and positivity effects. The last study was designed to examine the seemingly inconsistent findings of this research and prior findings showing a positive effect of measuring customer satisfaction, by comparing the impact of stating expectations about the next store shopping experience with the impact of evaluating the stores past performance. The results show that, although (pre-purchase) expectations were indistinguishable from evaluations of the stores past performance, the former led to more negative post-purchase evaluations whereas the latter tended to generate more positive post-purchase evaluations. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of this research.