Research looking at ethnicity and aspects of consumer financial behaviour in the UK suggests that ethnicity is overlooked among bank marketers, hence ignoring the potential marketing opportunities posed by the continuing existence of ethnic groups in the market place. This study aimed to understand the role played by ethnicity in shaping consumers' perceptions of service in the context of retail banking.
This study employed a qualitative exploratory approach, and adopted an interpretative and subjective stance with emphasis on meaning and experience. Data were collected from 30 individuals via in-depth ethnographic and phenomenological interviews over a two-stage process looking at ethnicity and services evaluation respectively. The interest here was to develop a description of the context in which
ethnicity takes place, and to see how these meanings may come together to influence a consumption experience (services evaluation). The data were analysed by seeking and identifying common themes, to develop a description of how the phenomena (ethnicity and service evaluation) are experienced by informants and to determine the interrelationships between the concept of ethnicity and services evaluation.
The empirical evidence showed that the meanings associated with the concept of ethnicity for the informants of this study centred on three major elements of identity, culture and perceived discrimination and prejudice. These elements were further operationalised as an ethnic experience script that customers brought to the service encounter. The ethnic experience script formed one of the bases for the perception of service, especially when there was a service failure. The perception of service was tied
to the script, in that, the script largely determined which of a respondent's previous experiences gained from being a member of an ethnic group and not of the service per se was relevant in judging the service encounter.
This thesis argues against the assumption made in the service evaluation literature that standards used as references by consumers are mostly bound to the knowledge relating the specific service category with which the customer is involved. This study's contribution is that there are other contextual knowledge representations (information not necessarily gained/tied to the existing service). One example is the ethnic experience script, which influences perceptions of service in addition to the traditionally modelled antecedents (for example in comparison with norms).
A key research implication that arises for this study is that understanding the role of ethnicity in service evaluation requires knowledge, not only of the attributes of a service. But also, the psychological and experientially determined ways by which ethnicity may shape the perception and interpretation of a service experience.
Department of MarketingFaculty of Business
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