Panel Paper: Citizen Satisfaction. Testing Basic Propositions of the Expectation-Disconfirmation Theory

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 9:30 AM
Grand Pavilion IV (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Simon Calmar Andersen and Morten Hjortskov Larsen, Aarhus University
Citizen satisfaction is used more and more by public managers (Miller et al 2009; Poister and Thomas 2011)  In organizations where outcomes are difficult to measure, user satisfaction are used instead of more objective measures of performance. Others think of citizen satisfaction as an objective in its own right.

The widespread use of satisfaction surveys as a measure of service performance has generated an obvious interest in what drives satisfaction (Charbonneau and Van Ryzin 2012; James 2009, 2011; Morgeson 2012; Van Ryzin 2004; 2006) The predominant theory of citizen satisfaction is the Expectation-Disconfirmation Theory suggesting that satisfaction is a reflection of the difference between the expected service level and the service level experienced. However, some of the basic assumptions of this theory have not been tested – not least due to the methodological challenges of separating the effect of expectations and experiences in cross-sectional observation data.

In a series of survey experiments among parents of primary school children (n> 1,400) we test basic propositions of the model. Preliminary results raise serious doubts about the validity of the theory and thereby our understanding of how citizens form their satisfaction with public services. We find that not just levels of satisfaction but also perceived experiences with services are affected by the way the economic conditions of the organization are framed. While framing might affect satisfaction, we would not have expected it to affect self-reports on how previous services was assessed. Further, by experimentally manipulating the expectations to decrease, we should expect levels of satisfaction to increase. However, that is not always what happens. In this way, the results of the experiments raise questions about the predominant theory of citizen satisfaction, but they also lay the stepping stones for a new theory.

James, O. (2009) ‘Evaluating the Expectations Disconfirmation and Expectations Anchoring Approaches to Citizen Satisfaction with Local Public Services’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 19(1), 107.

James, O. (2011) ‘Managing Citizens’ Expectations of Public Service Performance: Evidence from Observation and Experimentation in Local Government’, Public Administration, 89(4), 1419–1435.

Miller, T.I., Kobayashi, M.M., Hayden, S.E. (2009) Citizen Surveys for Local Government, 3rd ed, International City Management Association.

Morgeson, F.V. (2012) ‘Expectations, Disconfirmation, and Citizen Satisfaction with the US Federal Government: Testing and Expanding the Model’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Online Publication April 19th 2012.

Poister, T.H., Thomas, J.C. (2011) ‘The Effect of Expectations and Expectancy Confirmation/Disconfirmation on Motorists’ Satisfaction with State Highways’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 21(4), 601–617.

Van Ryzin, G.G. (2004) ‘Expectations, performance, and citizen satisfaction with urban services’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 23(3), 433–448.

Van Ryzin, G.G. (2006) ‘Testing the expectancy disconfirmation model of citizen satisfaction with local government’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16(4), 599.