Six studies show that subtle contextual cues that increase customers' self-awareness can be used to influence their satisfaction with service providers holding the objective service delivery constant. Self-awareness cues tend to increase customers' satisfaction when the outcome of a service interaction is unfavorable, but tend to decrease customers' satisfaction when the outcome of the interaction is favorable. This is because higher self-awareness increases customers' tendency to attribute outcomes to themselves as opposed to the provider. Self-awareness can even influence satisfaction with service interactions that occurred far in the past. These effects on satisfaction are demonstrated across a variety of lab and field settings with different simulated retail experiences, as well as with different real-life service interactions including college courses, meals taken at a university cafeteria, and items purchased at an actual clothing store. Results additionally show that attempts to shape customers' satisfaction by means of self-awareness are more likely to be effective when there is substantial customer responsibility for the outcome; when customers' responsibility is limited, such attempts may backfire.
Reprinted with permission from the Journal of Marketing Research, published by the American Marketing Association, Michel Tuan Pham, Caroline Goukens, Donald Lehmann, and Jennifer Stuart, October 2010, vol. 47, no. 5, pp. 920-932.