Author(s): Anderson EW, Fornell C, Lehmann DR
Are there economic benefits to improving customer satisfaction? Many firms that are frustrated in their efforts to improve quality and customer satisfaction are beginning to question the link between customer satisfaction and economic returns. The authors investigate the nature and strength of this link. They discuss how expectations, quality, and price should affect customer satisfaction and why customer satisfaction, in turn, should affect profitability; this results in a set of hypotheses that are tested using a national customer satisfaction index and traditional accounting measures of economic returns, such as return on investment. The findings support a positive impact of quality on customer satisfaction, and, in turn, profitability. The authors demonstrate the economic benefits of increasing customer satisfaction using both an empirical forecast and a new analytical model. In addition, they discuss why increasing market share actually might lead to lower customer satisfaction and provide preliminary empirical support for this hypothesis. Finally, two new findings emerge: First, the market's expectations of the quality of a firm's output positively affects customers' overall satisfaction with the firm; and second, these expectations are largely rational, albeit with a small adaptive component.