Distinguishing Service Quality and Customer Satisfaction: The Voice of the Consumer

Dawn Iacobucci, Amy Ostrom, Kent Grayson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Scopus citations


Service quality and customer satisfaction are important concepts to academic researchers studying consumer evaluations and to practitioners as a means of creating competitive advantages and customer loyalty. This article presents two studies that rely on divergent methodologies to examine whether or not quality and satisfaction have distinct antecedent causes, consequential effects, or both (i.e., whether or not they should be considered a single construct, or distinct, separable constructs). We focus on consumers' understanding and use of the words quality and satisfaction; in both studies, respondents report whether or not they think quality and satisfaction differ, and if so, on what dimensions or under what circumstances. In the first study, we use the qualitative "critical incident" technique to elicit service attributes that are salient to respondents when prompted to consider quality and satisfaction as distinct. We code the responses to these open-ended survey questions to examine whether quality can be teased apart from satisfaction, from the respondents' (consumers') perspective. In the second study, to triangulate on the qualitative data, we experimentally manipulated a number of service attributes drawn from both the first study and from the literature to see whether or not they have differential impacts on judgments of quality and satisfaction. We did not presuppose that quality and satisfaction differ-rather, we asked respondents to make a judgment either of quality or of satisfaction, defining the term as they saw fit. We inferred from their judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-303
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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