Traditionally, satisfaction evaluations have been studied in the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm in which customers compare firm performance to expectations. The current customer-satisfaction framework incorporates competitive comparisons indirectly through expectations. However, in markets in which competing alternatives are often primed in the evaluation context (e.g., product and retailer information presented in Bizrate.com), customers may directly compare performance and satisfaction across competing alternatives.
In this article, we develop a direct comparative framework (DCF) of customer satisfaction. To make our DCF managerially useful, we also develop an operational model that managers can use to draw strategic insights based on customers' satisfaction evaluations. We demonstrate our framework and operational model by applying them to the Internet search-engine market. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, Inc.