Cultural Orientation and Customer Satisfaction - A Study of African Airlines

Githaiga N

Published on: 2021-11-24


The extent to which members of different cultures vary in their reactions to uncertainty can have a major impact on how perceived service quality affects customer satisfaction. This is so particularly to service industries in an era of rapid internationalization. Thus, the objective of this paper was to investigate the effect of cultural orientation on customer satisfaction in the context of airline. The sample consisted of 750 customers drawn from 9 selected African Airlines, selected through stratified and simple random sampling techniques. Before testing the hypotheses testing, data collection instruments were purified by utilizing a structure model equation and confirmatory factor analysis. The findings of this study show that cultural orientation had a positive and significant influence on customer satisfaction among the African airlines. Insight on using culture for directing resources where quality investments are needed most is provided to managers. Given the novelty of the findings, the study recommends that African airlines must invest heavily in cultural orientation to foster identity, commitment, attitudinal and behavioral, which fosters long-term customer satisfaction.


Cultural orientation; Customer satisfaction; Airlines; Kenya


Researchers on consumer psychology have argued that cultural background has a significant influence on how customers describe their service experiences [1]. This is so particularly to service organizations operating across national frontiers [2]. Studied have pointed out the need for a better understanding of cultural orientation as it affects behaviours, perceptions and attributional style and pattern of emotions [3,4]. Thus, cultural influences usually results to varied expectations causing discrepancies in customers experiences [5,6]. With intensified globalization, people can now travel abroad to and from different countries, airlines faces numerous challenges in accommodating these different cultural influences. Moreover, airlines not only provide their services to domestic passengers, but also to those coming from abroad, inferring they operate at global scope. Therefore, diversity in customers presents different perceptions and expectations of what constitutes good air service [7]. For this reason, it is essential for airlines to understand the underlying differences among cultures. Better understanding of differences can help airlines integrate the different needs more effectively in their products and service offerings to achieve customer satisfaction [8,9]. As a result, it is possible to grant more globalized, custom services that would cater to their unique cultural orientation. Unfortunately, airlines have often ignored the importance of cultural background in their continual attempts to provide the best quality service based on their own understanding of service quality. Furthermore, understanding a culture may seem irrelevant as the complexity of culture add to the difficulty of measuring the critical elements within providing quality service [10]. These critical elements, identified through research done in the past, are already difficult to utilize effectively to accommodate guests from abroad. The current understanding of service quality and service encounters in an international setting is mainly derived from a standardized definition of high quality 3 service. However, this quality standard is no longer sufficient in satisfying the ever growing population of sophisticated travellers from abroad. Despite the growing research on consumer psychology, little is known on the cultural orientation and customer satisfaction in developing countries, since the existing theoretical frameworks are based on the western cultures. Thus, the objective of this paper is to examine the effect of cultural orientation on customer satisfaction among African airlines.

Literature Review

Cultural orientation

Cultural orientation is a multidimensional, multidirectional process through which identification to the traditional and dominant culture occurs independently yet simultaneously [11]. Researchers have weighed the cultural diversity against the impacts on the preferences, demand, values and purchasing patterns of customers [12]. Affirmed that the cultural norms, buying behaviour and needs of customers in different areas are likely to vary, impact and establish where the loyalty lies. Airlines operate worldwide, passengers from various countries are being a incorporated into the global travel, as such it is important to recognise culture to be a multifaceted concept that surpasses one country [13]. To add, studies have noted the need to investigate the intersection between culture on customer satisfaction models, which could open up a better comprehension of customer needs [14,15]. Besides, [16], contend that it is crucial to investigate the impacts of cultural affiliation on customers loyalty models, an example of social demonstration and risk aversion had a huge fluctuation among customers of mixed demographic and gender in various cultural affiliations in Europe, Africa including Asia.

Customer satisfaction

According to Oliver (1997) customer satisfaction is the consumer’s fulfilment response. It is a judgment that a product or service feature, or the product or service itself, provides a pleasurable level of consumption related fulfilment. While [17] opine that customer satisfaction is “an overall customer attitude towards a service provider, or an emotional reaction to the difference between what customers expect and what they receive, regarding the fulfillment of some need, goal or desire.” Thus, customer satisfaction is a construct that represents consumers’ favourable or unfavourable feeling resulting from their appraisal of the correspondence or the discrepancy between the overall performance of the producer of the goods or services and their expectations. Customer satisfaction is a key performance indicator for both service providers and regulator; the highly satisfied customers remain loyal, are less sensitive to prices and have fewer complaints to make on the services delivered [18]. The concept of satisfaction implies the fulfilment of the expectations from the purchase, as well as a positive emotional state based on the results of the purchase or the maintenance of the relationship with the mobile seller [19].

Disconfirmation is generally defined as the discrepancy between two concepts; a pre-purchasing standard (such as expectations or desires) and actual performance (Spreng, 2003). The first research work in the field of consumer’s satisfaction and the later studies in the field of perceived service quality [20]. Have observed disconfirmation as the difference between a standard (expectations or wishes) and the perceived level of any attribute. According to Oliver (1980), disconfirmation was evaluated as a distinct cognitive state, subjectively perceived by the consumer, which therefore can be measured irrespective of its antecedents.

Theoretical underpinning

This study is guided by the Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory [21]. The theory is a framework for cross-cultural communication, and its describes the effects of a society's culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behaviour, using a structure derived from factor analysis. The theory has six different dimensions; (1) power distance, related to the different solutions to the basic problem of human inequality; (2) uncertainty avoidance, related to the level of stress in a society in the face of an unknown future; (3) individualism versus collectivism, related to the integration of individuals into primary groups; (4) masculinity versus femininity, related to the division of emotional roles between women and men; (5) long term versus short term orientation, related to the choice of focus for people's efforts: the future or the present and past, and (6) indulgence versus restraint, related to the gratification versus control of basic human desires related to enjoying life [22]. These six cultural value dimensions can be used to make important predictions on how different cultural orientations affect customer satisfaction through the perceived service quality [23]. Hofstede’s is the most widely theory in explaining the impact of cultural orientation due to its pragmatic nature and the concrete cross-cultural empirical evidence, which apparently lacks in majority of the other cultural theories. This theory has been used in previous studied to demonstrate how perceived service quality influence on customer satisfaction thus the need to focus on cultural values. As a driver of people’s thoughts, wishes, perceptions and behaviour, culture influences service quality perceptions through service expectations. This study therefore conjectures that cultural orientation has an influence on customer satisfaction. Though the theory has been criticised as having been validated with old data that is three decades old, sampling bias owing to his IBM employees sample, and his assumption of culture being a national mean value; all these constitute some valid face value, but no supporting empirical evidence exists to date [24].

Review of previous studies

Recent studies have identified cultural orientation as a key determinant of service quality and customer satisfaction. Winsted (1997) studied service assessment by consumers in the United States and Japan and identified significant differences. The dimensions identified in the United States were civility, personalization, remembering, Cultural influences on service quality conversation, congeniality, delivery, and authenticity. Those identified in Japan were civility, personalization, conversation, concern, and formality. Winsted (1997) showed that service quality dimensions explain a significant portion of customers’ overall satisfaction.

A study by Furrer, [25], that used a sample of 302 students (local and international established that the significance of SERVQUAL dimensions differed across people from different cultural backgrounds. The authors further noted that the notion that culture was not essentially associated with nations rather at the individual level [26]. Used the Hofstede framework as the foundation to investigate loyalty of domestic retailers. The findings of this study indicated that individualism had a negative effect on loyalty while uncertainty avoidance was positively related to customer loyalty, inferring cultural orientation had an impact on customer satisfaction [27]. investigated how culture can integrated into the relationship between customer value and customer loyalty. The study was anchored Hofstede’s individualism-collectivism dimension, and a sample of 611 airline passengers across three Asian and three Western nationalities. The findings of this study revealed that that culture had an influence on customer perceptions on service quality and brand name; thus likely to influence customer satisfaction. In the same line, Eng and Kim (2006) studied the impact of Confucian culture on e-customer loyalty in South Korea. The findings of this study showed that high power distance in Confucian culture was positively related with affiliation. Additionally, the study noted that high power distance in Confucian culture was moderated by marketing activities that lead to lock-in. [9] examined the effect of culture on service quality and customer satisfaction in the Greek retail insurance, the study used a sample of 252 businesses. The study found that the 25 hypothesized relationships between the dimensions of culture and of service quality, 23 are confirmed and the remaining two are directionally supported. The hypothesized importance of the service quality dimensions is also confirmed. However, the expected association between the importance of quality dimensions and the strength of their relationships with customer satisfaction is only directionally supported. Brown and Buys (2005) assessed the impact of cross-cultural values on customer satisfaction in the South African banking sector, with special attention on internet banking security [28]. The study used a sample of 77 MBA students, representing the different races, and found that the groups with higher uncertainty avoidance were less satisfied with security than those groups with lower uncertainty avoidance.

Generally, the aforementioned studies provide empirical evidence that cultural orientation has an influence on customer satisfaction. However, the investigation is far from being conclusive and significant gaps still exist in the literature. For instance, the effect of culture on the importance of service quality dimensions to customers has not been exhaustively studied in developing and emerging markets since of the studies are inclined toward Western cultures. Thus, thus study closes the gap by investigating this relationship in the African airline industry.

Methodology And Sample

The study adopted an explanatory research design. The study used structured and self-administered questionnaires that were filled by 750 customers, selected randomly, representing 9 selected African airlines; Kenya Airways, Ethiopia Airlines, Egypt Air, Rwanda Air, South African Airways, Mozambique Airlines, Air Zimbabwe, Air Tanzania, and Air Namibia; and a total population of 256, 254 . From the 9 airline databases, there is a total using these airlines per month which was taken as the study target population.

Measurement of variable

In this study, the measurement scales and indicators were adopted from previous studies (Brady & Cronin, 2002; Colgate & Lang, 2001). Modifications and translations were made to transform the measurement scale to be readable for the average reader. In general, the respondents were asked to state their agreement or disagreement with the statements stated. Respondents gave their opinion for each statement using a 5-point Likert scale with 1 to indicate "strongly disagree", 2 to indicate "disagree", 3 to indicate "a neutral position", 4 to indicate " agree" and 5 to indicate "strongly agree".

Models Specification

The first Model specification was for direct effect of cultural orientation and customer satisfaction. This model was;

Where   CS= Customer Satisfaction

Age= Age of the customer

Gen= Gender of the customer

CN= Customer nationality

YAC= Year as customer

COR= customer orientation

 β0.... β5 = regression Coefficient to be estimated

ε= stochastic term.

Results and Discussion

Descriptive statistics for customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is the degree to which a customer perceives that an organization has effectively provided a product or service that meets the customer’s needs in the context in which the customer is aware of and / or using the product or service. The results on customer satisfaction are as presented in table 4.12. Based on the findings in the table, the passengers were willing to revisit the organization (mean = 4.02, SD = 0.741). The implication is that the passengers were satisfied with the manner in which services were delivered by the airlines and that their grievances were settled in the shortest time possible.

Also, they were generally happy with the airlines services offered (mean = 3.97, SD = 0.737). Precisely, their requests were responded to promptly and the airline operated according to business hours that were convenient to them. Besides, the complain process was convenient to use. Such factors appealed emotionally to customers hence they were happy with the services on offer. Consequently, passengers were generally contended by the services offered by the airline (mean = 3.96, SD = 0.753). Similarly, passengers were satisfied with the overall service they got from the organization (mean = 3.94, SD =0.852).

Table 1: Customer Satisfaction.




Std. Deviation



I am willing to re visit this organization






I am generally happy with airlines services offered






I am generally contented by airlines services offered






In general, am satisfied with the overall service I got from this organization.






I prefer the airline because of services offered






I prefer this airline because they always satisfy my needs






I am generally delighted by airlines services offered






I am satisfied with quality of services offered by airlines






The airline has never disappointed me so far.






I have no complains on this airline






Composite Mean






Table 2: Cultural Orientation.




Std. Deviation



The well-being of my co-passengers is important to me






When I am choosing an airline, I consider their history






As a customer, I expect long term services






This airline can be rated as visionary






For me premier airlines are used by the higher class in the Society with extra money to spend. It is expensive for those with low incomes.






I feel to be a part of this airline culture






All my relatives, friends, fly with this airline






Table 3: Results for multiple regression analysis.


Unstandardized Coefficients


Standardized Coefficients


Multicollinearity Statistics




Std. Error













Zscore:  age








Zscore:  gender








Zscore:  nationality








Zscore:  years as customer of the airline








Zscore: cultural orientation








Dependent Variable: Zscore(customer satisfaction)








Passengers preferred the airline because of the services offered (mean = 3.93, SD = 0.854). The airline had convenient operating hours, employees that were knowledgeable and always willing to assist the passengers. Also, high quality food and drinks were served on board hence appealing even more to passengers. The resulting outcome is that passengers preferred the airline since it satisfied their needs (mean = 3.86, SD = 0.825) and they were generally delighted by the services offered by the airline (mean = 3.82, SD = 0.776).

In addition, the passengers were satisfied with quality of services offered by the airline (mean = 3.81, SD = 0.835). They had never been disappointed so far (mean = 3.59, SD = 1.195) and had no complains on this airline (mean = 3.58, SD = 1.127). On the whole, results on customer satisfaction summed up to a mean of 3.8475, standard deviation 0.66352, skewness -0.329 and Kurtosis -0.166. The Cronbach’s Alpha value (0.914) was more than 0.7, and indication of high internal consistency hence the results on customer satisfaction could be generalized to reflect opinions of all respondents about the study problem.

Descriptive statistics for cultural orientation

Cultural orientation was sought by the study. Table 4.2 illustrates the results. As evidenced in the findings, the passengers noted that the well-being of their co-passengers is important to them (mean = 4.03, SD = 0.912). Also, when choosing an airline, they considered their history (mean = 3.98, SD = 0.857). It was therefore important for an airline to have a track record of meeting customer needs and offering quality service in the airline industry. As customers, the passengers expected long term services (mean = 3.82, SD = 0.856). Also, the airline could be rated as visionary (mean = 3.81, SD = 0.876). Further, according to the passengers, premier airlines were used by the higher class in the society with extra money to spend, it was expensive for those with low incomes (mean = 3.72, SD = 0.92).

Moreover, the customers felt that they were a part of the airline culture (mean = 3.7, SD = 0.855). As such, all their relatives and friends flew with the airline (mean = 3.68, SD = 1.229). In most cases, the customers preferred flying as a group of friends, family and colleagues as opposed to alone (mean = 3.58, SD = 1.082). Also, they would rather fly an international airline than a low cost (mean = 3.66, SD = 1.094). The implication is that quality service delivery was of utmost importance to the customers. Generally, the results on cultural orientation summed up to a mean of 3.7222, standard deviation 0.55849, skewness 0.56 and Kurtosis 2.526. The Cronbach’s Alpha value (0.728) was more than 0.7 which is an indication of high internal consistency hence the results on cultural orientation could be generalized to reflect opinions of all respondents about the study problem.

Before regression analysis, multicollinearity was also tested, and the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) and tolerance values were generated were assessed. The tests (VIF & Tolerance) indicated that multicollinearity problem among predictor variables did not exist because all the values were below the cut-off value, as per the rule of thumb of 10 which advocates for threshold VIF of 10 or tolerance ratio of 0.1 The VIF values in Table 4.3 were less than four while tolerance was more than 0.05 meaning that there was no multicollinearity. It is a sign that predictor variables were not highly related and that each accounted for variance in customer satisfaction. To avoid the possibility of unexplained effect on the dependent variable, the study controlled for customers’ age, gender, nationality and the number of years the customer had been a customer of the airline alone. From the findings in Table 4.3, the Z-scores of these variables did not account for a significant amount of effect on customer satisfaction with all p-values > 0.05.

Furthermore, service quality was also added to the regression model in addition to the age, gender, nationality and the number of years the customer had been a customer of the airline and the findings showed that multicollinearity was not a problem given values tolerance and VIF that were within defined limits. Furthermore, the only independent variable, Zscore (CL), was the only variable that was found to have a significant effect( β= 0.692, t = 23.415, ρ-value = 0.000 which implied that a unit change in cultural orientation resulted in 0.692 units increase in customer satisfaction indicating a positive effect.; customer age, nationality, years as customer and gender.

Discussion of Findings

The study further affirms the significant contribution of the cultural orientation as a moderating variable, the dimensions of culture should be used as pre-predictors to determine how consumers differ or converge in their behaviour in different countries. This is how culture can serve the purpose of defining consumer behaviour and enable managers develop strategies for specific markets. This research contributes to the viability of current and potential African airlines expansion strategies by analysing the salient aspects of culture relevant to airline passengers handling. Further, the study brings out relevant elements for the development of branding strategies to influence consumer perception and purchasing behaviour. The research provides a practical, proactive, and results oriented analysis, that enable managers to understand the intricacies involved in building strong brands in the airline industry. This will alleviate the “trial and error” entries into unfamiliar markets. Culture is increasingly becoming the focal point for the development of winning customer satisfaction, particularly in international business environment. 


  1. Gergen KJ, Gulerce A, Lock A, Misra G. Psychological science in cultural context. Am Psychol. 1996; 51: 496.
  2. Reimann M, Lunemann UF, Chase RB. Uncertainty avoidance as a moderator of the relationship between perceived service quality and customer satisfaction. J Service Res. 2008; 11: 63-73.
  3. Tsai W, Lau AS. Cultural differences in emotion regulation during self-reflection on negative personal experiences. Cognition emotion. 2013; 27: 416-429.
  4. Santiago JH, Tarantino SJ. Individualism and collectivism Cultural orientation in locus of control and moral attribution under conditions of social change. Psychological reports. 2002; 91: 1155-1168.
  5. Lee K, Joshi K, McIvor R. Understanding multicultural differences in online satisfaction. In Proceedings of the 2007 ACM SIGMIS CPR conference on Computer personnel research: The global information technology workforce. 2007; 209-212.
  6. Zhang J, Beatty SE, Walsh G. Review and future directions of cross-cultural consumer services research. J Bus Res. 2008; 61: 211-224.
  7. Laroche M, Ueltschy LC, Abe S, Cleveland M, Yannopoulos PP. Service quality perceptions and customer satisfaction evaluating the role of culture. J Int Market. 2004; 12: 58-85.
  8. Bellou V. Achieving long-term customer satisfaction through organizational culture. Evidence from the health care sector. Managing Service Quality an International Journal. 2007; 17: 510-522.
  9. Tsoukatos E, Rand GK. Cultural influences on service quality and customer satisfaction evidence from Greek insurance. Managing Service Quality An International Journal. 2007; 17: 467-485.
  10. Hoare JR, Butcher K. Do Chinese cultural values affect customer satisfaction/loyalty. Int J Contemporary Hospitality Management. 2008; 20: 156-171.
  11. Roosa MW, Dumka LE, Gonzales NA, Knight GP. Cultural/ethnic issues and the prevention scientist in the 21stPrevention Treatment. 2002; 5: 5.
  12. Kim JO, Forsythe S, Gu Q, Moon JS. Cross-cultural consumer values needs and purchase behavior. J Consumer market. 2002; 19: 481-502.
  13. Srnka KJ. Culture’s Role in Marketers’ Ethical Decision Making: An Integrated Theoretical framework. Acade Market Sci Rev. 2004; 1: 1-32.
  14. Haryanto JO, Moutinho L, Coelho A. Is brand loyalty really present in the children's market? A comparative study from Indonesia Portugal and Brazil. J Bus Res. 2016; 69: 4020-4032.
  15. Abu-Alhaija AS, Yusof RN, Haslinda RH, Jaharuddin NS. Customer Loyalty Antecedent’s Approaches and Influences Of Culture And Religion. J Islam Manage Stud. 2018; 1: 62-78.
  16. Agag GM, El-Masry AA. Cultural and religiosity drivers and satisfaction outcomes of consumer perceived deception in online shopping. Internet Res. 2016; 26: 942-962.
  17. Hansemark OC, Albinsson M. Customer satisfaction and retention: the experiences of individual employees. Managing Service Quality an International J. 2004; 14: 40-57.
  18. Olatokun WM, Ojo FO. Influence of service quality on consumers’ satisfaction with mobile telecommunication services in Nigeria. Information Development. 2016; 32: 398-408.
  19. Agrebi S, Jallais J. Explain the intention to use smartphones for mobile shopping. J retailing and consumer services. 2015; 22: 16-23.
  20. Jiang JJ, Klein G, Crampton SM. A note on SERVQUAL reliability and validity in information system service quality measurement. Decision Sciences. 2000; 31: 725-744.
  21. Hofstede G. Culture’s consequences-international differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills London Sage Publications. 1980.
  22. Hofstede G, Hofstede GJ, Minkov M. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind New York McGraw-Hill. 2010.
  23. Donthu N, Yoo B. Cultural influences on service quality expectations. J Service Res. 1998; 1: 178-186.
  24. Craig SC, Douglas SP. Beyond national culture implications of cultural dynamics for consumer research. Int Market Rev. 2006; 23: 322-342.
  25. Furrer O, Liu BSC, Sudharshan D. The relationships between culture and service quality perceptions: Basis for cross-cultural market segmentation and resource allocation. J Service Res. 2000; 2: 355-371.
  26. Straughan RD, Albers-Miller ND. An international investigation of cultural and demographic effects on domestic retail loyalty. Int Market Rev. 2001; 18: 521-541.
  27. Malai V, Speece M. Cultural impact on the relationship among perceived service quality brand name value and customer loyalty. J Int Consumer Market. 2005; 17: 7-39.
  28. Richard OL. Satisfaction: A behavioural perspective on the consumer. New York NY, Irwin-McGraw-Hill. 1997.