How Satisfaction is Built

We tend to think that user satisfaction is a linear relationship. If a user is satisfied with a fast computer, they will be even more satisfied with a faster computer. And if a user is satisfied with a friendly smile, he will be dissatisfied without it.

The reality is that satisfaction is not a continuum. Here, we will see the concept of satisfiers and dissatisfiers, their impact on user satisfaction and how IT leaders should manage them.


We’ve seen many times that satisfaction is simply the difference between the service expected and the service delivered. If the service delivered is higher than expectations, the user is satisfied; otherwise, the user is dissatisfied.

Although accurate as a whole, this definition doesn’t take into consideration the role of the individual features that makes up the set of expectations of the users.


The relationship between satisfaction and performance is not always linear for the individual features. Let’s take a restaurant, for example. One of the features that will influence my satisfaction is the amount of food on my plate. If the portions are too small, chances are likely that I will still be hungry and be dissatisfied with my dining experience.

But what if there is twice as much food as I can eat? Will that make me twice as satisfied? What if I have ten times the amount of food?


Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are, thus, two very different states, not simply a continuum. And in order to be satisfied, a user must not be dissatisfied.

In concrete terms, this means that if a user is dissatisfied with a service, offering more features will not change his/her mind. We must first remove what causes the dissatisfaction before they see the value of what we are offering.

Going back to our restaurant example, if the quantity of food served is too small, no amount of ambiance, server attention or politeness will make up for it.


Dissatisfiers: These are the features that will cause dissatisfaction if they are lacking, but will not create satisfaction if it exceeds expectations. An example is the amount of food on your plate when you dine out. Having more food on your plate than you can eat will not make you satisfied, but having too little will make you very dissatisfied.

Satisfiers: Satisfiers are features where their absence will not cause dissatisfaction, but their presence will promote satisfaction. A good example of this is whether or not the waiter at a restaurant is smiling. A smile will likely promote satisfaction, while the lack of a smile will not cause dissatisfaction.

Mixed: These are the features that have an impact on both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It can include features like attentiveness, where too little from the waiter will cause dissatisfaction (“Where is my fork?”), while more will lead to satisfaction (“He brought a second coloring book for my kid!”).


We like to think that more is better when trying to increase satisfaction. The reality is that the focus should be first and foremost on removing dissatisfiers. No amount of extras can make up for what users perceive as dissatisfiers.


  • There are three types of features: satisfiers, dissatisfiers and mixed.

  • More is not always better. Dissatisfiers achieve a point of diminishing return.

  • In order to be satisfied, a user must first not be dissatisfied.
Posted on October 18, 2013 .