How word of mouth drives satisfaction

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Recently, I went on a snowboarding holiday in Austria. To be very honest with you, I know nothing about snowboarding holidays. I only had one previous attempt at snowboarding, and that was with a bunch of other beginners in France a couple of years ago. It ended with a painful wrist, but that’s another story. This time, I went with my girlfriend, who is an experienced skier, and a couple of friends who totally kick ass at snowboarding. They chose Austria as a destination, where I had never gone for a snow-holiday before, and decided on a hotel, what I never had as accommodation for skiing before.

So when we arrived at the hotel, we checked out the rooms (which looked fine to me), had dinner from the buffet (which was fine too). The next day we discovered the sauna, the cellar where you could store your gear after a day of boarding (never thought that you’d need a special cellar for that), and all other facilities. The people around me seemed to be pretty excited about the hotel, totally in love with the facilities, and they’d say things like “compared to the trip we made to Austria 2 years ago, this is totally excellent†or “this buffet (sauna, shower, insert other..) is so much better than (insert previous trip)â€. I on the other hand, had totally no benchmark. I had no anchor in evaluating this hotel, because I’ve never had an experience with the category… And yet I decided I was pretty excited with the hotel too.

We already know that Word-Of-Mouth influences choice (I choose based on recommendations from my friends), but have you ever thought about the fact that Word-Of-Mouth also influences your product experience? In this particular situation, where I was without benchmarks but with friends, I used their previous experiences as a benchmark and based my final evaluation thereon. If I were alone, I might have had a different opinion (“you couldn’t even take your snowboard to your room, they made you go to the basement for thatâ€), and maybe would have ended up less excited, or even more excited.

If you think further about it, this signals that the context you’re in can influence your basic product expectations too. While from nature, I might be someone that gets more excited from contemporary design, being in this new context with experienced category-buyers made me decide that a “wood and full-carpeting†style isn’t too bad after all when picking Austrian hotels. So the WOM that influenced my satisfaction also indirectly influences my next product choice, by functioning as an anchor.

To sum it up:

  1. Experiences from others can influence product choice, we knew that.
  2. Experiences from others can also influence product experience and satisfaction.
  3. WOM-influenced product experience can influence future product choice.