picking up a hire car and heading towards Islay, we make an overnight stop at Inverary, along the way we rendezvous with some friends, visit a castle and find a great pub.
This exemplar is designed to highlight the role of pre-purchase expectations in customer’s post-purchase evaluation of satisfaction and how this may be shaped by personal recommendations and social media.
East Kilbride is just outside Glasgow, in Scotland, and I am collecting a hire car from Arnold Clark Car and Van Rentals. I am being fussed over by two lovely ladies, who complete the paperwork and patiently show me the idiosyncrasies of the Ford Focus. They make the effort to ensure I am comfortable with the car before wishing me good travels.
I noted that the car has only four thousand miles on the clock and that it is spotlessly clean. To me, being near new and clean, is the expected product and therefore is the industry standard that most car rental companies would need to deliver to survive in this competitive market. However, what really impressed me was the quality of customer service. Sure, it was a process, but a friendly process – this is what marketing practitioners refer to as functional quality. Functional quality is generally viewed as the basis for an augmented product and the basis of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
A little later that day, we leave the city behind and find ourselves in one of the most scenic landscapes on the planet.
lunch with friends
Our first stop is an invitation to lunch with some friends from Perth [WA] who were on holiday in Scotland and renting a house in the nearby town of Arrochar. They had discovered the nearby Loch Fyne Restaurant and Oyster Bar and recommended that we should meet for lunch. As our friends were ‘foodies’ we agreed.
The restaurant had also received very good comments on social media – so our expectations were high. Most reviews were excellent or very good, although some warned that the food is not cheap, and some comments appear to be a little pernickety. After all this is a roadside restaurant located in a remote location, on the side of a Scottish Loch.
As we travel through the countryside, occasionally gasping at the splendor, my wife provides a commentary from their website, the Loch Fyne Restaurant and Oyster Bar promises an award winning restaurant with meals from the finest ingredients and how this particular restaurant was the inspiration for a whole chain of Loch Fyne Restaurants. …. “Throughout our product range we strive to achieve consistency of quality through taste, texture and genuine provenance. Loch Fyne products are ethically sourced and provide an indulgent, yet naturally healthy treat. We are proud to harvest the pure waters of the Loch and bring you the salmon, seafood and oysters that will add a sense of prestige and style to any dining occasion.”
In time we left the major roads behind and drove along narrow twisting roads, through villages with small whitewashed stone houses, slate roofs – with many homes decorated with colourful flower boxes and gardens.
After an enjoyable hour and half drive through the magnificence of Scotland, we arrive with a hearty appetite and positive expectations of an enjoyable, but not cheap, lunch. And yes, the lunch met our expectations good company, some holiday tales were told, the usual commentary on Scottish weather. In sum, the venue was whitewashed and pleasant, the service could not be faulted and the lady who served us had a caring manner. The mussels, salmon, oysters, and fish chowder met the promised quality of their website and not overpriced – by Australian standards. After bidding farewell to our friends and wishing them better weather we headed off to our overnight stay in the nearby town, Inveraray.
Inveraray, I have been informed, was the first planned village of Scotland.
Inverary Castle is within walking distance – this is the home to the Duke of Argyle, the chief of the Campbell clan and his family. Although, Inveraray Castle has always been a popular tourist attraction, it gained attention and admiration after it was selected as the location for the 2012 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey. In this episode the Grantham family visit their Scottish ‘cousins’ and a drama unfolds [apparently]. The episode showcases the magnificent building, the ornate decor, the formal gardens and as this is Scotland – stunning scenery. It has been 30 years since my last visit to Inveraray Castle and it is clear, from the improvements and the cafe, that the present Duke and Duchess are putting considerable effort to maintain this grand home and the surrounding lands.
Walking back into town we encountered an old lady keen to reminisce and talk about the war years and how Inveraray was host to a quarter of a million soldiers training for the D-Day landings. And ‘for a young lady it was a lively town. I suspect, that given half a chance, she tells every tourist the same bawdy tales.
Unlike the Grantham’s of Downton Abbey we stayed in the George Hotel, located on the main street of Inveraray. Our internet search prior to leaving home uncovered that The George is a reasonably priced hotel, run by the same family – the Grants, for 7 generations. Their web-site made no great promise but Tripadvisor was full of praise – I have to admit I book direct when I can – I appreciate affiliated sites but I like to book direct whenever I can as affiliated sites do not disclose how much commission they receive – philosophically affiliated sites annoy me if they make more than the owners of the establishments. The George is certainly popular with diners; the food is quality pub food and portions that no one could ever complain about. The overall experience was enjoyable; the bar and dining room could easily be the set of a movie set in Scotland. The receptionist had warned me that a few of the bar staff had Australian accents and it was a little strange to travel half a world away and be served by someone who supports a local football team.
Overall, it has been a great day and we enjoyed two different but satisfying meals. I guess I should go to a social media site and post my comments – but I didn’t. However, out of academic curiosity, I am sufficiently motivated to revisited the social media sites of both the Loch Fyne Restaurant and Oyster Bar and The George Hotel. I knew, from the travelling commentary, that both restaurants had great reviews. The question was how close to our experiences were the comments of other customers. I decided to analyse the comments of 100 customers from each establishment and the results suggest that many customers are only sufficiently motivated to make a post when they have experienced something unexpected and then they tend to reward or punish appropriately. It also appeared as if they quality of their day leading up to the experience may have influenced their overall evaluation.
The next morning, over a hearty Scottish breakfast, we agree that it would be nice to stay a little longer in Inveraray, but, with a ferry to catch and full of anticipation for Islay we load up the Ford Focus and headed for the ferry terminal at Kennacraig.
After studying the total product concept and the confirmation and disconfirmation of expectations model in themarketingconcept [e-book] discuss how past experiences, social media may influence consumer expectations and how expectations influence customer evaluations of satisfaction. [note as you employ the language of marketing ensure that you show an understanding by explaining key terms]