Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore cultural sources of variation on consumers’ expectations and evaluations of service quality within local emerging markets.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors employ a multi-method approach. The multi-method research design utilizes: first, netnography to examine foreign consumers’ blogs and online communities; second, interviews with local and foreign consumers to unveil critical incidents in service encounters; and third, an online survey of 139 foreign consumers living in Chile and 460 Chilean consumers to map differences in their expectations and evaluations of services.
Findings – A general analysis of local and foreign consumers living in an emerging market reveals that these two groups do not differ significantly in their expectations of service quality. The authors also find that differences in expectations and evaluations of service quality within a local emergent market are only partially explained by aggregating consumers according to their country or region of origin. Finally, the findings demonstrate that examining cultural differences at the individual level generates a better understanding of how cultural factors impact consumer expectations and evaluations of service quality within emerging markets.
Research limitations/implications – The research is limited to one emerging market (Chile) and focusses largely in one industry (banking). Further research should be conducted to examine the findings in other contexts, including developed markets, and to identify how other cultural differences (e.g. language mastery) within local markets may impact consumer expectations and evaluations of services.
Practical implications – Service companies operating in emerging markets should account for cultural differences when determining service standards and protocols. These differences may cut across the local-foreign divide and suggest that profiling foreign customers depending on their country of origin is not the most adequate approach for providing excellence in service and enjoying the benefits that follow.
Social implications – Foreign consumers living in a local market are frequently considered a homogeneous group distinct from local consumers, and are treated as such by public and private service providers. The study demonstrates that foreign consumers may be more or less similar to local consumers depending on their cultural values, and should not be considered as a uniform group.
Originality/value – The findings extend research on consumer expectations and evaluations of service quality to account for cultural diversity within local emerging markets. The authors demonstrate that a cluster-approach to examining consumer expectations and evaluations of service quality better accounts for variations due to cultural values within local markets.
The growth of emerging markets offers great opportunities to develop or discover new perspectives and practices in marketing, which may become valuable for the neglected and economically nonviable markets in advanced markets (Sheth, 2011, p. 166). A steady stream of studies has developed in marketing that compares customers’ service expectations and evaluations across local markets (e.g. Agarwal et al., 2010; Armstrong, 2009; Chan et al., 2009; Sharma et al., 2009; Mattila, 1999). However, much less is known about how cultural differences within a local market may impact customers’ service quality expectations and evaluations (Hopkins et al., 2005). In particular, we do not know if such cultural differences would be present in emerging markets, which are considered relatively homogeneous, and that are early in the process of globalization (Sassen, 1998). This paper explores how cultural differences arising from immigration and exposure to global consumer culture impact consumer expectations and evaluations of service quality in the context of an emerging market.