Spend more, love it more – self fulfilling prophecies

By Peter Sorgenfrei

How likely are you to recommend a product or service? Most people would respond with “that depends on how well I like it.”  That may seem obvious but how much does the price one pays influence the level of satisfaction with a product?

My theory is that a consumer is more likely to claim high satisfaction ratings for a product or service they paid a premium for. Of course, there may be a strong correlation between price paid and quality but in my opinion, a higher price can influence satisfaction over that of an lower priced product of equal quality.  Essentially, paying a premium feeds the ego of the consumer and inflates a products perceived quality.

Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s compare two owners of vehicles: the first drives an affordable family sedan that performs to its specifications and rarely breaks down or needs major repairs. This consumer is likely to recommend their car to friends, family and anyone else who asks. That is to be expected.

The second owner drives an expensive, exotic sports car. It is fast, impressive looking, sounds amazing. It also spends most of its time in repair shop. You would think that this consumer would not recommend it to your friends and family but the reality is likely to be the opposite.  The consumer may talk about how great it handles, how there is nothing like it on the road and how it makes them feel fantastic. But in reality, they shouldn’t recommend it – it does not deliver on its promise of being the ultimate in engineering and performance.Chromed Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

I believe consumers will overcompensate (no pun intended) for the expensive vehicles’ shortcomings by praising it religiously and justifying the purchase because consciously or unconsciously, they are aware it wasn’t a “wise” choice.

Shortly after a consumer buys a new car in the U.S. they are likely to receive a number of surveys from either the car maker or from a company like J.D. Power. The surveys will ask about the buying experience and their satisfaction with the car to date.  Several months later the new car buyer is also likely to receive another survey talking about your use of the vehicle and again your satisfaction with said vehicle.

On a relative basis the more expensive vehicle’s satisfaction scores (in my opinion) are biased. Yes, people have higher expectations and thus the scores should be ‘accurate’ except for the uncontrollable part of the respondents brain that says – ‘wait a minute, if I am not ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ satisfied does this make me look foolish?’ Yes the survey is ‘anonymous’ and so the consumer does not have to fear ‘retribution’, but I still believe the consumer is more likely to be favorable the higher the sticker on the item she/he is evaluating.

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2 thoughts on “Spend more, love it more – self fulfilling prophecies

  1. Yuval says:

    That might be true in terms of the survey, but does that mean that the same customer will spend the same amount of money on the same or similar car in the future if s/he was not really satisfied (even though they said otherwise in the survey)?

  2. sorgenfrei says:

    Good point Yuval. If you look at loyalty rates for some of the brands (at the high-end price points) the evidence is that yes, they do purchase that brand again, even after a less than perfect experience. Maybe because they are too proud to admit they might be wrong the first time? Or maybe because they think/hope the next one is going to be better. Sort of like when regular consumers go back to a nice restaurant (after first experience was not up par for the price point) thinking it might have been a bad night for the chef…

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