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The importance and formalization of service quality dimensions: a comparison of Chile and the USA

Rodrigo Guesalaga (Department of Marketing, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile)
Dennis Pitta (University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




Services account for a very large portion of the economic activity in most countries. While there is abundant academic research on service quality, which has focused mainly on determining service quality dimensions, understanding service quality antecedents, and relating service quality to key outcomes, such as customer satisfaction and performance, there is, however, limited research on an increasingly relevant issue, which is how service quality perceptions differ among cultures. The aim of this research is to address this question.


The research used two identical surveys administered to managers in two different cultures. One survey was in English for the US sample and one was in Spanish for the Chilean sample. The surveys measured the importance of the five SERVQUAL service dimensions as well as relevant information about the respondent's experience, position and type of company at which he/she worked. Each country was examined for significant characteristics using Hofstede's cultural dimensions. Hypotheses were developed reflecting the differences expected by the characteristics of the cultures in which the respondents worked. Data was analyzed to extract meaning from the data using ANOVA.


Of the five service quality dimensions (tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy), reliability is the most important in both countries. Responsiveness is the second most important. Three of the hypotheses testing the difference in perceived importance among service quality dimensions between Chile and the USA, were supported. H1: no difference exists between the two countries in the importance of tangibles, is supported (p=0.000). H2: reliability is more important in Chile than in the USA, is also supported (p=0.039). H3: responsiveness is more important in the USA than in Chile, is supported as well (p=0.012).

Research limitations/implications

Use of MBA students as survey respondents limits the generalizability of the results. Despite the fact that each subject was employed in a managerial position within a firm, each subject was also enrolled in an MBA program. Arguably, the subjects are all employed in business but differ from others who are not in degree programs.

Practical implications

The research highlights the need to attend to perceptions of service quality globally. The Hofstede cultural dimensions provide a clear and easy to apply framework that allows companies to identify what is important in a host culture. That information will enable service quality adjustments that offer the potential of improving customer satisfaction and firm success.


The current research is the first to use two tested conceptualizations to assess differences in service quality importance across cultures. It explores the relationship of Hofstede's cultural dimensions, with perceptions of service quality. It hypothesizes which service quality dimensions will be important based on the characteristics of the culture in which they are delivered. No other study has compared service quality perceptions between the USA and Chile. Each country has a vibrant, free market economy. The study provides a foundation for approaching other markets in Latin America and in countries with similar cultural dimensions.



Guesalaga, R. and Pitta, D. (2014), "The importance and formalization of service quality dimensions: a comparison of Chile and the USA", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 145-151.



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