An attribution theoretical analysis of consumers satisfaction and dissatisfaction with products
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Satisfaction and dissatisfaction of a consumer with a product depend on his initial expectations and the extent to which these expectations are fulfilled (confirmed) or not Fulfilled (disconfirmed) According to attribution theory, both managers and consumers may be expected to have a cognitive schema for explaining the causes of the confirmation or disconfirmation of the prior product expectations. What are these causal schemata? These aspects remain unexplored in the extant literature. Kelley (1967) has proposed a detailed framework for making causal attribution. Some conditions invoke external attribution; others invoke internal attribution. Application of this Framework in marketing context has yielded equivocal results. It seems that marketing contexts engender attributions different Fran those in interpersonal contexts. The present research tried to answer two questions: 1. How are causal attributions made under various conditions of disconfirmation of initial product expectations? 2. Is Kelley's (1967) Framework for use of various informational cues in making attributions applicable to marketing context? Two experiments were conducted to answer the two questions. Each experiment had 30 marketing managers and 30 consumers as subjects. Two consumer durables, namely, watch and pressure cooker were used as product stimuli to check on the generality of the results. Experiment 1 studied the pattern of attributions under various conditions of disconfirmation of initial expectations from a product. Expectation and performance of the product information were manipulated systematically, each having three levels (low, moderate and high, and worse than expected, as expected and better than expected, respectively), and the patterns of attributions under the nine conditions of die confirmation were analyzed. Experiment 2 studied the applicability of Kelley's (1967) framework of use of informational cues in making attributions to marketing context. Informational cues, namely, consensus, consistency and distinctiveness, were systematically manipulated at two levels (high and low), and for each combination of these three informational cues, attributions and behavioral intention measures were taken from the subjects under the two conditions of stimulus consumer being satisfied and dissatisfied with a product. Experiments 1 and 2 yielded the following principal results: 1, Product was seen as a dominant cause of both confirmation and Disconfirmation of initial expectations from the product. 2, Attribution processes in marketing and interpersonal contexts are different. The difference was evident in the dominance of attributional factors, patterns of information usage, and variations in information usage across products, subject groups and satisfaction and dissatisfaction situations. 3. Managers and consumers did not show evidence of self-serving bias in making attributions. However, they differed in their perception of the role of a dealer and in their weighting of informational cues in various types of attributions. ' 4. Raising high consumer expectations seems to be a desirable strategy for consumer. durables when the market is competitive. 5, People did not discriminate between luck and chance factors. Also, both exceptionally good and bad levels of performance were partly attributed to chance. 6. Behavioral intentions of consumers were perceived to be dependent on satisfaction level with a product and not on the perceived causes of satisfaction. Implications of these findings for attribution theory, marketing theory, and marketing practices were discussed. Suggestions for future research were also offered.
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