It is quite essential for marketers to know the factors which affect the expectations of the customers.
The personal needs of the individual, such as values, norms, personality type, qualifications, and living standards, play a dominant role in affecting expectations.
Clearly, external factors like reference groups, friends, and the family of the person play a dominant role in shaping the expectation level of the customer.
The factors affecting the service expectations of the customers are shown in the figure given below.
Source: Adopted from Valerie A. Zeithaml, Leonard L. Berry, and A. Parasuraman, “The Nature and Determinants of Customer Expectations of Service,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 21,1, (1993), pp. 1-12.
Factors Affecting Desired Service Expectations
The different factors affecting the desired service expectations of the customers are as follows:
Enduring Service Intensifiers
Service-related sensitivity and expectations are very high in some customers; accordingly, they are more demanding as compared to others.
Such kind of high customer sensitivity or expectation related to service develops due to the presence of some individual factors, named, Enduring service intensifiers.
They affect the desired service expectations of the customers. These enduring service intensifiers are of the following types:
Derived Service Expectations
The first enduring service intensifier is the derived service expectations. When the service expectations of a customer are derived from the expectations of other persons or the group, it is called derived service expectation.
For example, when a person is going to choose a marriage destination for her daughter, the service expectations of the whole family members are considered by the person. Therefore the expected service level is changed.
Personal Service Philosophies
Another enduring service intensifier is the personal service philosophies of the customer.
Different customers have different attitudes towards the understanding of a particular service and its way of service delivery.
Customers who have been in the service industry in the past or are currently working in such organizations understand the nature of service very closely.
The service expectations of such customers will be more intensified due to their personal philosophies about the service.
Personal Service Needs
Another factor affecting the service expectation of the customers is their individual service needs or requirements. Such needs can fall into different categories like physical, psychological, functional, or social needs.
For example, a customer who has been the manager of a car service centre may have different expectation standards regarding the service provided by a service centre where he is getting his car repaired.
It will emerge from his knowledge level and experience. Such persons have higher expectations about the services in comparison to a common man.
Factors Affecting Adequate Service Expectations
The factors affecting the adequate service expectations of the customers are as follows:
Temporary Service Intensifiers
These are the short-term factors that make the customers realize more about the need for services. Such factors emerge in case of a personal emergency.
For example, when a car breaks down on the highway, the urgent need to get it repaired is felt. At such times, the expectation level for satisfactory service is high as it may lead to a life-threatening situation.
The adequate service expectations also rise to a higher level in case of defective initial service. If the garage is not able to fix the problem properly, the customer might return to the garage with an increased expectation level.
Therefore, in such and other similar situations, where the temporary service intensifies appear, the zone of tolerance of the customers reduces, and the adequate service expectation level increases.
Perceived Service Alternatives
Another factor affecting adequate service expectation is the perceived service alternatives.
Service alternatives are the service provider alternatives available to the customer. Availability of perceived service alternatives is the situation where a customer may/may not find proper service provider alternatives nearby him/her.
For example, a person living in a small town will have a low level of expectations regarding the adequate service for car repair, as few options might be available there.
However, another customer living in the city has high expectations regarding car repair services due to the availability of several options.
This clearly indicates that the customers living in small towns will have a higher tolerance level to the local services compared to their counterparts living in the big cities.
Customer’s Self-perceived Service Role
Customers’ adequate service expectations are also affected by their respective perceived service role.
In situations where the customers give a brief account of the services needed by them to the service provider, they have higher expectation levels.
However, those customers who have not communicated about their expected levels might not be very particular about the level of service received by them.
A customer who does not complain even after getting an inadequate service level might have a lower expectation level than those who complain.
Therefore, the zone of tolerance of the customer narrows if the self-perceived service is not offered by the service provider and vice versa. Accordingly, the adequate service expectation of the customer is also affected.
These factors also affect the adequate service expectations of the customers.
For example, in case of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, etc., the adequate service expectation of the customer of an insurance company lowers as he/she feels that the situation is out of the control of the service organization. However, this is not so if he/she is the only customer claiming in the affected area.
The final factor affecting the adequate service expectation is the predicted service, i.e., the believed service level that the customers are likely to get. It is an objective estimate of the level of the services they expect to receive.
For example, customers predict the poor level of service in a local restaurant during the festive season. Therefore, the zone of tolerance of the customers automatically widens, and the adequate service expectation decreases.
Factors Affecting Both Desired and Predicted Service Expectations
The factors affecting both the desired and predictive service expectations are as follows:
Explicit Service Promises
These refer to the direct or indirect marketing statements committed by the service organizations regarding the level of services offered.
Direct marketing refers to personal communication where the salesperson or the receptionist commits to the services.
Indirect communication refers to those marketing statements which are communicated through the mass media such as television, newspaper, etc.
It is quite clear that such direct and indirect marketing statements are planned by the service organizations, and they have an influence on the desired and predicted service expectations of the customers.
Most of the time, promises made by the service providers are exaggerated, and rarely are they kept. Thus, adequate service expectations are also influenced by such explicit service promises.
Implicit Service Promises
These refer to some other service-related cues which will help in influencing the customer expectations for the services.
One such factor is the price. Usually, most customers believe that higher prices will help in ensuring better services, which (hen influences the desired service level.
For example, higher standard services are expected by a customer from a five-star hotel than a customer who is staying in a relatively cheap hotel.
Desired and predicted service expectations are also influenced by word-of-mouth communications.
It refers to the feedback which people share about the services provided by different service organizations.
As it is considered to be an objective source of information, it greatly influences the service expectation of the customers.
Customers cannot expect certain services unless they experience them; that is why they prefer word-of-mouth communication.
Experts, experienced people like friends and relatives, consumer feedbacks, etc., are the sources of word-of-mouth communication.
Past experience also affects the desired and predicted service expectations of the customers.
It is acquired through the personal experience of the customers and also helps in shaping up the desired and expected service levels. It can emerge by directly comparing the current services with the previous ones.
For example, when a family has visited a family doctor and waited for thirty minutes, it might influence the predicted and the desired service expectations.
These experiences may also affect the desired and predicted expectations of the customers regarding different other services like visiting a career counsellor, dentist, or physiotherapist.