The role of ethnicity in consumer evaluation of services : a study of retail banking in the UK
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.