Attributions of Service Quality: Immigrant Customers' Perspective

Christina Sichtmann, Milena Micevski

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This study aims to investigate whether and how strongly cultural (mis)matches influence immigrant customers’ satisfaction, as well as if this relationship is mediated by cultural or service employee performance attributions. In addition, the authors test whether attributions differ depending on the service delivery outcome (success vs failure).

The 2 (origin of service employee: Austria or Turkey) × 2 (service delivery outcome: success or failure) scenario-based experiment includes 120 Turkish immigrant customers in Austria.

Contrary to previous research, the results indicate that in an immigrant customer context, cultural (mis)match does not influence customer satisfaction. The service delivery outcome is a boundary condition. With a positive service delivery outcome, immigrant customers attribute the results to the cultural background of the employee if it is the same as their own, but they attribute success to employees’ performance if they belong to the immigration destination culture. For negative service delivery outcomes, neither cultural nor performance attributions arise.

This study is the first to focus specifically on immigrant customer behavior in a high-involvement service context. The results challenge the predictions of social identity theory and the similarity-attraction paradigm and highlight that the immigrant context is unique. In this context, attributions play a key role in determining customer satisfaction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Immigration
  • Social identity theory
  • Attribution
  • Intercultural service encounter
  • Similarity-attraction paradigm

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