AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Consumer satisfaction and service quality continue to attract the attention of researchers and practitioners in a wide variety of disciplines. This is not surprising, since a number of studies have shown a moderate to strong relationship between these constructs and consumer loyalty or repeat purchasing behaviour (see Taylor and Cronin (1994) for recent work in this area). In spite of hundreds of publications on consumer satisfaction and perceived quality, little work has been done to clarify the conceptual basis of these two constructs. We believe that such an effort will not only inform the average reader of the differences between these two constructs - Parasuraman et al. (1994) argue that the popular press does not differentiate between these two constructs - but will also clarify the causal ordering of these two variables: the literature provides conflicting views on this (see Parasuraman et al. (1994) and Taylor and Cronin (1994) for a discussion).
The objectives of this paper are to:
* discuss the conceptual basis of consumer satisfaction and perceived quality; and
* highlight their importance to the higher education sector.
Since a construct is usually defined by specifying its relationship with other constructs, we start by specifying the relationship between consumer satisfaction and perceived quality using a scenario specific to higher education.
The conceptual basis of the constructs
Assume that a student enrolled in one of the premier business schools in the nation is on the search for classes/subjects that would equip them with advanced marketing research techniques. The student peruses the postgraduate catalogue of the business school and comes to know of a highly relevant class that is being offered that semester. Further, assume that this class is a new addition to the business course; hence, the student has little or no opportunity to learn about the subject from other students who might have experienced the class. However, based on the catalogue's description of the subject, the student believes that he/she can acquire new skills by enrolling in the class. Note that this pre-enrolment belief about the class can be described as expectations about the class.
It is now a well-established argument in the literature that a person learns about a concept or object and at the same time forms an attitude towards the concept (see Fishbein, 1967). An attitude can be defined as an overall evaluation of the goodness or badness of a concept or object. As applied to our student enrolment example, the student, when he/she became aware of the class, would have automatically acquired an attitude towards the class. Note that since attitude pertains to an overall evaluation of a product/service (object), it is possible (and logical) to equate one's attitude towards a product/service with one's product/service quality perceptions (an overall evaluation). Support for this argument can be gleaned from the literature (Bolton and Drew, 1991; Carman, 1990; Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Mano and Oliver, 1993; Oliver, 1980b; Taylor and Cronin, 1994).
The student enrols in the class and finds his or her expectations negatively disconfirmed, confirmed or positively disconfirmed. Note that subjective disconfirmation is the student's judgement about the discrepancy between what he/she expected (expectations) of the class and what was obtained (perceived performance). Thus, if the student believes that performance is less than expectations, then negative disconfirmation occurs; if performance matches expectations, then confirmation arises; and if performance exceeds expectations, then positive disconfirmation occurs (see, for example, Bearden and Teel (1983), Cadotte et al. (1987), Oliver (1980a, 1980b) for similar arguments). It is important to note that disconfirmation can either be on a per attribute basis or "object focused". In either case, it is presumed that disconfirmation is a subjective belief as opposed to an objective …