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Should we delight the customer?

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Abstract

Critics have suggested that delighting the customer “raises the bar” of customer expectations, making it more difficult to satisfy the customer in the next purchase cycle and hurting the firm in the long run. The authors explore this issue by using a mathematical model of delight, based on assumptions gathered from the customer satisfaction literature. Although delighting the customer heightens repurchase expectations and makes satisfying the customer more difficult in the future, and the delighting firm is injured by raised customer expectations, the (nondelighting) competition is hurt worse through customer attrition to the delighting firm. If customers forget delighting incidents to some degree from occasion to occasion, the delighting firm suffers if it is in a position to take customers from the competition. If taking customers from the competition is difficult, the delighting firm actually benefits from customer forgetting, because the same delighting experience can be repeated again, with the same effect.

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Roland T. Rust (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is the Madison S. Wigginton Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Service Marketing at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. His publication record includes more than 60 journal articles and five books. His 1997Marketing Science article, “Customer Satisfaction, Productivity, and Profitability: Differences Between Goods and Services,” won the Best Services Article Award from the American marketing Association, for the best services article in any journal, and his 1995 article, “Return on Quality (ROQ): Making Service Quality Financially Accountable,” won theJournal of Marketing's Alpha Kappa Psi Award for the article with the greatest impact on marketing practice. He has also won best article awards from theJournal of Advertising and theJournal of Retailing. His honors include career achievement awards from the American Statistical Association and the American Academy of Advertising, as well as the Henry Latané Distinguished Doctoral Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has been covered widely in the media and has resulted in aBusiness Week cover story and an appearance onABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. He is the founder and chair of the American Marketing Association (AMA) Frontiers in Services Conference and serves as founding editor of theJournal of Service Research. He also serves on the editorial review boards of theJournal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, andMarketing Science.

Richard L. Oliver (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison) is the Valere Blair Potter Professor of Management at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt, University. His research interests include consumer psychology with a special focus on customer satisfaction and postpurchase processes. He holds the position of Fellow of the American Psychological Association for his extensive writings on the psychology of the satisfaction response. He is the author ofSatisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer (Irwin/McGraw-Hill) and coeditor ofService Quality: New Directions in Theory and Practice (Sage). He previously served on the boards of theJournal of Consumer Research, theJournal of Marketing, theJournal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, and theJournal of Retailing and has published articles in theJournal of Consumer Research, theJournal of Marketing Research, theJournal of Marketing, theJournal of Applied Psychology, Psychology & Marketing, Behavioral Science, theJournal of Economic Psychology, Applied Psychological Measurement, Psychometrika, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Advances in Consumer Research, theJournal of Retailing, theJournal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, theJournal of Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction & Complaining Behavior, theJournal of Advertising, theJournal of Consumer Affairs, and others. He previously taught at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Rust, R.T., Oliver, R.L. Should we delight the customer?. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 28, 86–94 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1177/0092070300281008

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