Abstract||In order to successfully implement service internationalisation, a detailed knowledge of the target foreign culture is required (e.g., beliefs, values, lifestyles, symbols, psycholinguistics, and attitudes). This information may be used to manage the alignment of service offerings with local tastes, and create perceptual stimuli to foster trust and encourage consumption (Fugate 1996). Credible tools are therefore required to provide the market intelligence required to understand the cultural context and inform adaptation to local preferences. Service quality modelling and measurement perform such a role in reporting customer perceptions of the effectiveness of service marketing effort. However consideration of culture’s influence upon service quality evaluation has hitherto received only periphery attention within the literature. While numerous researchers have examined the role that values play as an antecedent of the service quality construct (e.g., Donthu and Yoo 1998; Furrer et al. 2000; Mattila 1999; Winsted 1997) there are no published studies adopting a more comprehensive view of culture’s role.
The widespread adoption of values as a proxy for understanding culture’s influence upon the service quality construct appears flawed as there is no theoretical justification to isolate values from the rest of the cultural field (Bourdieu 1990; Radcliffe-Brown 1949). Values alone, such as Hofstede (1984a) and Schwartz and Bilsky’s (1987) schemas, cannot fully explain how individual consumers reconcile their individual preferences with broader cultural influences (e.g., institutions, beliefs, regulations, and artefacts). In this study Bourdieu’s (1986) structuralist perspective of culture is utilised as a framework to explore how culture influences service quality. In this perspective the social world is viewed as being comprised of rules and systems that guide/inform an individual’s behaviour. Values are only one element of this social system.
In this study a case approach is adopted to map the role of culture in constructing service quality preferences. While the breadth of the research agenda means there is a large population of possible cases, Taiwan is selected as the case boundary principally due its logistical accessibility. Case selection in this study can therefore be classified as a convenience sample. However, to facilitate intensive study (Stake 2005) complexity is added to the case design through purposeful sampling (Patton 1990). In addition to seeking the perspectives of local Taiwanese outside perspectives are sought from expatriate New Zealanders and Taiwanese who have lived in New Zealand. Through purposive triangulation (Patton 1990) of both the sample underpinning the case and an interpretive multi-discipline analysis the researcher constructs a model of culture’s influence upon service quality evaluation within this case boundary. No evidence is found within either the primary data or critical literature review that Taiwanese culture has any impact upon the evaluation of service quality at the primary dimensional level (i.e., ’Process/Outcome Quality’, and the ’Personal Interaction Quality’). Indeed apriori modelling of the construct has similarly modelled how consumers separately evaluate interpersonal aspects from other key evaluative criteria (e.g., Dabholkar et al. 1996; Gronroos 1984). This level of the dimensional hierarchy is therefore tentatively determined to be etic (Pike 1967), subject to further cross-cultural studies. A moderate level of cultural influence was however noted amongst the second-order dimensions. Finally, the third and subsequent level indicators were widely found to display extensive cultural influence and require significant adaptation efforts for local cultural preferences.