The Role of Culture in Service Quality: A Cross-National Study in Britain and Trinidad and Tobago

  • Sean Chung

Student thesis: Phd


The primary aim of this thesis was to explore the role culture plays in service delivery, more specifically on consumers' perceptions of service quality and its potential impact on complaint behaviour. A key premise of the thesis was that prominent models of service quality are conceptualized largely in western contexts without considering conceptual meaning in various contexts or nuances of meaning. Furthermore, there may indeed be unique aspects of culture in each context not yet identified in the extant literature. With this in mind, a qualitative approach was employed in order to gain an in-depth understanding of consumers' perceptions. The thesis was conducted in three stages culminating in three separate papers. Stage 1 involved a student sample of Trinidad and Tobago nationals currently enrolled at university in the North West region of the UK. Generally this stage served as a pilot for the larger cross-national study. Interview data and subsequent thematic analyses culminated in a holistic, multi-dimensional hierarchical framework labelled Conceptualization of Service Quality in Cultural Context (CSQCC). Within this framework two key cultural triggers called Culture of Closeness and Culture of Servitude where found to have an overarching influence on all variables in the model. As well as uniquely including culture, the CSQCC also encompasses human resources and operational variables not included in traditional service quality models namely Employee Work Ethic/Attitudes, Organizational Responsibility and Customer Responsibility. Stage 2 which included samples of British and Trinidad and Tobago nationals, all currently living in their country of birth were part of the larger study sample. Findings from both country contexts indicate that the general structure of the CSQCC identified in Stage 1 is upheld demonstrating universality in terms of the range of factors consumers utilize in their evaluations of service quality, at least in Britain and the UK. Notwithstanding the similarities, the importance weightings for the universal aspects of the CSQCC framework appear to vary. Furthermore, cultural triggers again were found to have an overarching influence consumers' perceptions, two such triggers were identified for British nationals-British Reserve and Culture of Cordiality, and for Trinbagonian nationals two additional triggers-Festive Culture and Culture of Entitlement. Data for Stage 3 was collected at the same time at Stage 2 and involved a cross-national analysis of consumer complaint behaviour. Based on the empirical data a Cultural Framework of Consumer Complaint Behaviour (CFCCB) was proposed inclusive of consumers' behavioural processes and post-interaction behavioural outcomes. There are four key processes-cognitive, motivational, environmental and emotive-with emotions playing a central role. The unique cultural triggers identified in Stages 1 and 2 were also found to influence these behavioural processes which in turn impact behavioural outcomes. To the best of the researcher's knowledge such a holistic model as the CFCCB has not been previously conceptualized. There is no such thing as "culture-free" behaviour; culture and human behaviour are deeply intertwined, and thus multinationals and global firms need to be environmentally sensitive, identify the cultural triggers in potential markets, and assess their likely impact on service quality delivery.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJikyeong Kang (Supervisor) & Charles Cui (Supervisor)


  • Cross-national research
  • Consumer complaint behaviour model
  • Complaint channels
  • Service failure
  • Culture
  • Service quality model
  • Services marketing
  • Perceived service quality
  • Qualitative

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