The Influence of National Culture on Customer Service Experience: Case of China

The Influence of National Culture on Customer Service Experience: Case of China

Ying Ying Liao (Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, UAE), Ebrahim Soltani (Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, UAE) and Wei-Yuan Wang (Shih-Chien University, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8606-9.ch012
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Hofstede's cultural framework has been very instrumental in furthering an understanding of cross-cultural management and taken center stage as the dominant cultural paradigm to show respect for norms, values, and management styles across cultures. However, resent research on cross-cultural management suggests to go beyond Hofstede's cultural framework and use non-Western, Asian cultural norms which might provide additional insights into the impact of cultural values on service quality dimensions and the resultant implications for customer expectations and satisfaction. This chapter attends to this call and examines the practice of service quality in hospitality sector in the Republic of China (Taiwan) so it may serve as a reference point against which to interpret the fieldwork data of cross-cultural service quality research and its implications for customers' perceptions towards service quality.
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Due to the current role and contribution of service sector in general and hospitality industry in particular to the economy and rapid pace of internationalization of service companies, it is difficult for hospitality practitioners to establish a universal marketing strategy which can be effectively used across a complex of diverse national cultures. This also poses a challenge to academics to propose a ‘vanilla, one size fits all’ approach or the existing Western-driven theoretical cultural models to offer prescriptions for organizational success and survival in the competitive global business environment of hospitality sector. To a considerable extent these challenges are attributed to the broad economic reach of the hospitality industry, global community of its customers, and more specifically their cultural differences. So focusing on the generic service quality gap models (e.g. SERVQUAL – see Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988; Zeithaml et al., 1990), although valid instruments for explaining a great deal of customers’ expectations and perceptions towards service quality offerings and the resulting quality gaps, cannot, in itself, serve as the only point of reference for delighting and retaining customers.

Analysis of cross-cultural customer behavior issues, drawing upon the global nature of the hospitality industry and its diverse constituents (e.g. workforce, guests, shareholders, owners), has come to the fore in the service quality management research over the past two decades (Lockyer &Tsai, 2004; Furrer et al., 2000; Mattila, 1999; Wang et al., 2008; Winsted, 1997; Soltani & Wilkinson, 2010; De Mooij & Hofstede, 2011; Camillo & Di Pietro, 2014). These scholars argue that customer behavior is largely ‘culture-bound’ and stress the importance of understanding cultural components of customer behavior, if an organization is to survive and succeed in the competitive global business environment (De Mooij & Hofstede, 2011, pp. 181). In this respect, the Hofstede (1980) dimensional model of national culture (i.e. individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity-femininity, & long- versus short-term orientation) has led the way with its hypothesized connection between national cultural norms and associated differences in customer behavior over the past three decades. However, this chapter draws upon non-Western, more specific cultural values as a theoretical lens to further interpret a customer’s behavior dynamics in the global hospitality industry. More specifically, it gains insight from Chinese cultural values of Gunaxi (關係), Mien-tzu (面子), and (和) to both enhance the theoretical base of cross-cultural service quality research and to help practicing hospitality managers delight their customers. Given the role of China and its consumers in the global economy, the substantial (in)direct contribution of hospitality sector to the country’s GDP (with a faster growth rate than the total economy) (see WTTC, 2013) and previous call for more cross-cultural consumer behavior research (see Camillo, 2014), this study brings new insights into the long-standing debate on service quality and culture.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Chinese Cultural Values: Values and norms that are unique to the Chinese community and characterize the peculiarities of Chinese cultural beliefs and traditions.

Hofstede’s Cultural Model: The cultural model developed by Geert Hofstede incorporates five dimensions including power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity and long term orientation. It is widely used to analyse culture-related studies.

: A customer’s preferences to maintain a harmonious atmosphere in the restaurant during dining.

Service quality: It refers to the difference between service expectations and service perceptions.

SERVQUAL: Service quality measurement scale. It includes five elements, reliability, responsiveness, tangible, empathy, assurance.

Guanxi: Personal connection. Knowing or being familiar with someone who works in the restaurant.

Mien-Tzu: A situation where customers feel free to demonstrate themselves in front of others and get respect as well as individual requests from staff of restaurants.

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