Consumer Expectations and Perceptions

An organization that understands customer expectations and is able to fulfill them to the best of its ability is the one that succeeds in the competitive world of marketing. Fulfilling customer expectations leads to satisfaction and exceeding expectations in terms of service delivery results in delight. However, when a customer expects superior service and his experience is otherwise, he feels dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction of customers may result in several adverse effects such as spread of negative word of mouth. Hence, it is important for a firm to promise only what they can deliver in order to abstain from having dissatisfied customers.



People form expectations of the services they are about to avail based on their own prior experience, familiarity or past experiences of near and dear ones. Perceptions are affected by expectations. Examples of expectations and perceptions:

  • A student who has taken admission in a reputed University and has heard of the high quality education being offered by it shall probably perceive the institute in the same manner once he starts studying there.
  • A girl who has been told how horrifying a horror movie is will probably perceive it the same way when she watches it.
  •  A boy who goes to a salon for a haircut shall probably like the services offered if the salon has previously been praised by his friends.

Perceptions of Service

Perception, in general, is defined as a process through which people select organized stimuli and interpret it such that it frames a meaningful picture. Perceptions vary from one person to the other. For marketers, perception of customers is more important than reality since customers make purchases on the basis of their perceptions.

For example, people perceive Dominos to deliver their pizzas in 30 minutes. This is because they have positioned their product and services in that manner. Adhering to promises and fulfilling them helps in building brand image.

Perceived Quality of Services

A service may deliver high quality in reality, however it is not necessary that the quality of service offered is perceived as superior by the consumer. Perceived quality of the service shall be dependent on various cues that may be classified as extrinsic or intrinsic cues. It is difficult to gauge the quality of service being availed since it is intangible and perishable.

At times, there exists a gap between what the customer expects and what he receives. This is best explained by the framework called Gaps Model. The larger the gap between expectations and perceptions, more is the dissatisfaction. Hence, it is in a marketer’s best interest that he narrows the gap to the maximum extent possible to be able to fulfill the customer’s expectations. 
The SERVQUAL scale is used for measuring the “gaps” that exist between the expectations of the consumer and his perceptions of service availed. The measurement of these distances between expectations and perceptions, called gaps, is done based on two major factors:

1. Outcomes

These depend on the reliability of services being delivered to the consumer. For example, whether or not a flight you took helped you reach the desired destination.

2. Processes

These predominantly focus on how desired core services were delivered. This includes aspects like assurance and empathy. For example, the behavior of flight attendants while dealing with you in the flight.

Processes aid companies and service houses in not only meeting, but exceeding customer expectations. 

For example, the core service of Amazon is to sell varied products and brands. However, what helps it succeed in a competitive market is the superior “processes” that it follows, like timely and reliable delivery of products. One can also track the ordered product while in transit. All of this contributes immensely in increasing the brand loyalty of existing customers and also in customer acquisition.

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