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A cross-cultural perspective on consumer perceptions of service failures’ severity: a pilot study

Haithem Zourrig (Faculty of Business Administration, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)
Kamel Hedhli (Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Jean Charles Chebat (HEC Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences

ISSN: 1756-669X

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




This paper aims to investigate the cultural variability in assessing the severity of a service failure.


Two separate studies were conducted. The first investigates differences in the perception of service failures across two cultural pools of subjects (allocentrics versus idiocentrics) and within a same country. The second contrasts two levels of comparisons: a cross-cultural values’ level and a cross-country level, to assess differences in the perception service failures’ severity.


Results showed that cultural values differences, when investigated at the individual level (i.e. idiocentrism versus allocentrism) are more significant to understand the influence of culture on the perception of severity, that is, allocentrics perceive more severity in the service failure than idiocentrics. However, a cross-country comparison (i.e. USA versus Puerto Rico) does not show significant differences.

Research limitations/implications

Customers may assess, with different sensitivities, the severity of a service failure. These differences are mainly explained by differences in cultural values’ orientations but not differences across countries. Even originating from a same country, customers could perceive with different degrees the seriousness of a same service failure as they may cling to different cultural values. Hence, it is increasingly important to examine the cultural differences at the individual-level rather than a country level.

Practical implications

Firms serving international markets as well as multiethnic ones would have advantage to understand cultural differences in the perception of the severity at the individual level rather than at the societal or country level. This is more helpful to direct appropriate service recovery strategies to customers who may have higher sensitivity to the service failure.


Little is known about the effect of culture on the severity evaluation, although investigating cross-cultural differences in the assessment of severity is relevant to understand whether offenses are perceived more seriously in one culture than another and then if these offenses will potentially arise confrontational behaviors or not.



Zourrig, H., Hedhli, K. and Chebat, J.C. (2014), "A cross-cultural perspective on consumer perceptions of service failures’ severity: a pilot study", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 238-257.



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