Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 37–54 | Cite as

Do managers know what their customers think and why?

  • G. Tomas M. HultEmail author
  • Forrest V. MorgesonIII
  • Neil A. Morgan
  • Sunil Mithas
  • Claes Fornell
Original Empirical Research


The ability of a firm’s managers to understand how its customers view the firm’s offerings and the drivers of those customer perceptions is fundamental in determining the success of marketing efforts. We investigate the extent to which managers’ perceptions of the levels and drivers of their customers’ satisfaction and loyalty align with that of their actual customers (along with customers’ expectations, quality, value, and complaints). From 70,000 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) customer surveys and 1068 firm (manager) responses from the ACSI-measured companies, our analyses suggest that managers generally fail to understand their firms’ customers in two important ways. First, managers systematically overestimate the levels of customer satisfaction and attitudinal loyalty, as well as the levels of key antecedent constructs such as expectations and perceived value. Second, managers’ understanding of the drivers of their customers’ satisfaction and loyalty are disconnected from those of their actual customers. Among the most significant “disconnects,” managers underestimate the importance of customer perceptions of quality in driving their satisfaction and of satisfaction in driving customers’ loyalty and complaint behavior. Our results indicate that firms must do more to ensure that managers understand how their customers perceive the firm’s products and services and why.


Organizational learning Customer satisfaction Customer orientation American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) 


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Tomas M. Hult
    • 1
    Email author
  • Forrest V. MorgesonIII
    • 2
  • Neil A. Morgan
    • 3
  • Sunil Mithas
    • 4
  • Claes Fornell
    • 5
  1. 1.Eli Broad College of BusinessMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.American Customer Satisfaction Index, LLCAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Kelley School of BusinessIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  4. 4.Robert H. Smith School of BusinessUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  5. 5.CFI GroupAnn ArborUSA

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