Intercultural service encounters (ICSE): An extended framework and empirical validation

Piyush Sharma, Lai Ming Tam, Nam Woon Kim

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to extend the intercultural service encounters (ICSE) framework using role theory and information asymmetry perspective, to hypothesize differences in the strength of many relationships based on service role (customers versus employees). Design/methodology/approach: The paper presents the results of a field-experiment with 204 restaurant employees and 241 customers in Hong Kong using a service failure scenario and photographs of Western versus Asian customers to manipulate perceived cultural distance. Findings: Perceived cultural distance has a stronger negative effect on inter-role congruence, interaction comfort has a stronger positive effect on perceived service level and inter-role congruence on adequate service level, for customers versus employees. Intercultural competence has a stronger positive effect on inter-role congruence for employees versus customers, and it moderates the influence of perceived cultural distance on interaction comfort and inter-role congruence. Research limitations/implications: This paper reports the findings from a field-experiment study using an imaginary service failure scenario in a restaurant setting with ethnic Chinese customers and employees in Hong Kong, which may not be generalizable to other contexts. Practical implications: The findings highlight the need to recognize and manage the differences in the expectations and perceptions of service customers and employees, and the importance of inter-cultural competence in managing intercultural service encounters. Originality/value: The study extends the original ICSE framework by highlighting important differences between customers and employees in the strength of various relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-534
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • Adequate and perceived service levels
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Cross cultural management
  • Inter-role congruence
  • Interaction comfort
  • Intercultural competence
  • Perceived cultural distance
  • Satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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