Attribution of success and failure in intercultural service encounters: the moderating role of personal cultural orientations

Lai Ming Tam, Piyush Sharma, Nam Woon Kim

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to examine the role that personal cultural orientations play in customer attributions in intercultural service encounters. Design/methodology/approach: A conceptual model was developed depicting the relationships between service delivery outcome, personal cultural orientations and customer attributions. Data were collected from 640 Chinese and Western customers using scenario-based experiments in a restaurant context to assess the hypothesized relationships in the model. Findings: The findings show that compared to service delivery success, customers tend to hold service employee and firm responsible for service delivery failure rather than themselves and cultural differences. Moreover, personal cultural orientations partially moderated the influence of the service delivery outcome on customer attributions. Research limitations/implications: Future research could adopt different methodologies such as critical incident techniques and surveys to replicate the study. Practical implications: Service firms are recommended to design programs to influence customer attributions such as “customer education programs” and “customer appreciation programs” to achieve high customer satisfaction. Originality/value: This study examines the differences in customer attributions between successful vs unsuccessful service delivery. It also sheds light on the potential moderating role of personal cultural orientations on the relationship between service delivery outcome and customer attributions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-658
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Customer attributions
  • Intercultural service encounters
  • Personal cultural orientations
  • Service delivery outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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