The Demand for and the Supply of Distribution Services: A Basis for the Analysis of Customer Satisfaction in Retailing
This paper brings together two bodies of literature. One of them is a literature on the special role of the consumer in retailing. The other one is the literature on customer satisfaction. This joining of literatures is accomplished by identifying distribution services as outputs of retail firms and fixed inputs into the production functions of consumers and relaxing the standard assumption that the demand for these services is always equal to the supply of these services. The result is a new conceptual framework for the analysis of customer satisfaction in retailing. This framework extends the basic ideas on customer satisfaction developed for manufacturing in a homogeneous single product setting to the heterogeneous multi-product setting relevant for many retailers. The paper illustrates one approach to the implementation of this framework with data for a set of supermarkets in Pamplona, Spain, that measure distribution services by asking consumers questions explicitly identifying these services. The five main categories of distribution services identified by the conceptual framework and measured in the data are economically important and statistically robust determinants of customer satisfaction with supermarkets. These results are obtained controlling for other variables typical of the customer satisfaction literature and measuring customer satisfaction in a manner consistent with that literature. The results are robust to corrections for sample selection and alternative estimation methods. Perhaps our most interesting novel result is that the effect of the determinants of customer satisfaction on future purchase intentions in the supermarket case is different when measured directly in a one stage process than when measured indirectly in a two stage process through the attributes/satisfaction/ purchase intentions chain.