Customer satisfaction and service evaluation research has examined the reference effect but largely adopted an expectancy–disconfirmation paradigm that focuses on referents centered on the product or service in question. This study examines two additional reference effects, alternative attractiveness and self-image congruity, and their interaction. The framework of multiple reference effects in service evaluations integrates insights from regret theory, the investment model of interpersonal relationships, and self-image congruity theory. An empirical study of a hairstyling service confirms that comparisons involving other-object and self-based reference points contribute significantly to consumer service evaluations. Self-image congruity has the most significant impact on both customer satisfaction and commitment judgments. In general, the negative effect of alternative attractiveness on both customer satisfaction and commitment becomes weaker as the level of self-image congruity increases; as long as consumers find a good fit between their self-image and the service image, they are less likely to consider alternative services. However, for consumers with high self-image congruity with the focal service, the presence of an attractive alternative may induce them to exhibit an enhancement bias or “play up” effect (i.e., report higher satisfaction with the focal service).
- Multiple reference points
- Alternative attractiveness
- Self-image congruity
- Customer satisfaction and commitment