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Between service and self-service – latest findings on the influence of foreign accents on customer participation

February 22, 2021

Effects of unfavorable accents outweigh and can stimulate more self-service. This is the result of three studies presented by David Bourdin, Teaching & Research Associate at the Competence Center for Marketing at FHWien der WKW, at this year’s AMA conference.

This year’s winter conference of the world-renowned American Marketing Association (AMA) took place from February 17 to 19, 2021 in a virtual format. Founded in 1937, the AMA is the leading association in the field of Marketing globally. More than 350 international academics were invited to present their research after their submissions passed a peer-review selection process. FHWien der WKW was represented by David Bourdin, Teaching & Research Associate at the Competence Center for Marketing.

Three studies in cooperation with the University of Vienna

In his talk titled Customer Attitudes Towards Foreign-Accented Employees: Consequences for Customer Participation in Services, David Bourdin presented the findings of a joint research project with Christina Sichtmann, Associate Professor at the Chair of International Marketing, University of Vienna. In a series of three studies, the researchers examined the influence of a service employee’s accent on customer participation, referring to the degree to which customers are involved in the service process by contributing effort, knowledge, information, and other tangible or intangible resources.

Accents influence involvement and tendency toward self-service

Their first study revealed that a non-native employee accent weakens customer participation indirectly through reduced intelligibility, but that cultural distance does not play a role.

Consistent with a negativity bias, the second study indicated that only a foreign accent with unfavorable connotations negatively affects customer participation, partially because the service provider is viewed as less attractive and dynamic. In contrast, a foreign accent evoking positive stereotypes has similar effects than a local accent.

The final study differentiated between three types of customer participation: voluntary, replaceable, and mandatory activities. The results show that an unfavorable accent has a negative effect on voluntary participation, whereas it increases replaceable participation indirectly through reduced trust. The relationship between accent-induced trust and replaceable participation is attenuated if customers have a high need for personal interaction.

David Bourdin’s participation in this year’s AMA Winter Conference has enabled FHWien der WKW to gain innovative ideas for further research projects, to establish new contacts with international researchers, and to strengthen FHWien der WKW’s reputation in the scientific community.

>> More information about Research at FHWien der WKW