Consumer expectations are pre-purchase beliefs about service provision that act as a standard or reference point for judging post-purchase performance. Expectations play a crucial role in framing satisfaction evaluations. In fact, understanding what consumers expect is the starting-point for firms wishing to manage the satisfaction process. Expectations are the foundation and standard on which subsequent attribute performance is assessed. From a management perspective, several aspects must be explored: What types of expectations do customers possess? How are these expectations formed? How can organisations go about managing or influencing expectations?
Consumers will use a variety of cues to form expectations of the service. These expectations will come from a variety of sources, namely:
explicit service promises made by the service provider through advertising and other marketing communications;
implicit service promises that may have been derived from the service provider’s premises or other tangibles such as price; word of mouth sources, which are of significant importance within the services sector; and in some cases the buyer’s past experience with the service.
These predetermined expectations of any service will have a direct impact on the perceived quality of the delivered service and upon the satisfaction felt during and following the service experience.
Formation of Expectations
Buyers form their expectations from past experience with a particular brand or service category, word of mouth, various forms of advertising or promotion, and from general attitudes towards a brand. In addition, there are factors like the novelty (or newness) of the purchase situation, the importance of the service to future productivity and profitability, the complexity of the service delivered (in terms of the client’s ability to grasp the technicalities involved, as in a complex consulting engagement), and decision uncertainty all influenced the client’s expectations.