Ethnic Congruity Motive: When Service Encounters with Hispanic Frontline Employees Enhance Hispanic Customers’ Service Satisfaction


  • Alexandra Aguirre-Rodriguez Florida International University
  • Patricia L. Torres University of Detroit-Mercy
  • Stella Tavallaei Florida International University


This research examines the impact of an ethnic congruity motive on Hispanic customers’ service satisfaction via the mediating role of sense of power during the service encounter. Across three web-based experiments, this research empirically tests the impact of Hispanic customers’ ethnic congruity motive (desire to be served by a Hispanic [vs. non-Hispanic] service provider) on service satisfaction mediated by sense of power using a linear regression-based approach. Results show that customers’ ethnic congruity motive is positively associated with satisfaction toward service by an ethnically congruent employee and this association is stronger than the positive association between customers’ ethnic incongruity motive and satisfaction toward service by an ethnically incongruent employee. Furthermore, sense of power during the service encounter mediates the effect of ethnic congruity motive on satisfaction, but not of ethnic incongruity motive. The findings support prior research findings that customer–employee ethnic congruity provides a competitive advantage. However, this research provides deeper insight into the power-related mechanism that underlies ethnic congruity effects, which suggests that being served by an employee of a particular ethnic background can enhance service satisfaction through consumers’ sense of power. Managers can leverage this effect by training employees to recognize ethnically congruent customers, segmenting ethnic consumers based on ethnic congruity motive, as well as by training frontline employees to leverage customers’ sense of power during the service encounter.

Author Biographies

Patricia L. Torres, University of Detroit-Mercy

Assistant Marketing Professor
College of Business

Stella Tavallaei, Florida International University

Marketing Ph.D. Candidate


Aguinis, H., Villamor, I. and Ramani, R.S. (2021). “MTurk research: Review and recommendations,” Journal of Management, Vol. 47 No.4, pp.823-837. DOI:

Alvarez, C.M.O., Miniard, P.W. and Jaccard, J. (2017). “How Hispanic bilinguals’ cultural stereotypes shape advertising persuasiveness,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 75, pp. 29–36. DOI:

Andersen, P., Hecht, M.L. and Hoobler, G.D. (2002). “Nonverbal communication across cultures,” in Gudykunst, W.B. and Mody, B. (Eds.), Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 89–106.

Andersen, P.A. (1985). “Nonverbal immediacy in interpersonal communication,” in Siegman, A.W. and Feldstein, S. (Eds.), Multichannel Integrations of Nonverbal Behavior, Lawrence Eribaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 1–36.

Anderson, C. and Berdahl, J.L. (2002). “The experience of power: Examining the effects of power on approach and inhibition tendencies,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 83 No. 6, pp. 1362–1377. DOI:

Anderson, C., Srivastava, S., Beer, J.S., Spataro, S.E. and Chatman, J.A. (2006). “Knowing your place: Self-perceptions of status in face-to-face groups,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 91 No. 6, pp. 1094–1110. DOI:

Ashley, C., and Varki, S. (2009). “Loyalty and its influence on complaining behavior and service recovery satisfaction,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction & Complaining Behavior, Vol. 22, pp. 21–35.

Blodgett, J. G., Bakir, A., Saklani, A., and Bachheti, M. (2015). “Customer Complaint Behavior: an Examination of Cultural Vs. Situational Factors,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction & Complaining Behavior, Vol. 28, pp. 61–74.

Blodgett, J., Hill, D., and Bakir, A. (2006). “Cross-cultural complaining behavior? An alternative explanation,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, vol. 19, pp. 103-117.

Bradley, G.L., McColl-Kennedy, J.R., Sparks, Beverley A. Jimmieson, N.L. and Zapf, D. (2010). “Service Encounter Needs Theory: A Dyadic, Psychosocial Approach To Understanding Service Enconters,” Emotions and Organizational Dynamism: Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 6, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 221–258. DOI:

Bugental, D.B., Lewis, J.C., Lin, E., Lyon, J. and Kopeikin, H. (1999). “In charge but not in control: The management of teaching relationships by adults with low perceived power,” Developmental Psychology, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 1367–1378. DOI:

Burnham, M.J., Le, Y.K. and Piedmont, R.L. (2018). “Who is Mturk? Personal characteristics and sample consistency of these online workers,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Vol. 21 No.9-10, pp.934-944. DOI:

Casas, J. M., Ponterotto, J. G., and Sweeney, M. (1987). “Stereotyping the Stereotyper a Mexican American Perspective,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 45-57. DOI:

Chattaraman, V., Lennon, S.J. and Rudd, N.A. (2010). “Social identity salience: Effects on identity-based brand choices of Hispanic consumers,” Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 263–284. DOI:

Collier, M.J., Ribeau, S.A. and Hecht, M.L. (1986). “Intracultural communication rules and outcomes within three domestic cultures,” International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Pergamon, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 439–457. DOI:

Comer, L. B., and Drollinger, T. (1999). "Active empathetic listening and selling success: A conceptual framework," Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 15-29. DOI:

Fast, N.J. and Chen, S. (2009). “When the boss feels inadequate: Power, incompetence, and aggression,” Psychological Science, Vol. 20 No. 11, pp. 1406–1413. DOI:

Foa U.G. and Foa E.B. (1974). Societal structures of the mind. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Fowler, D.C., Wesley, S.C. and Vazquez, M.E. (2007). “Simpatico in store retailing: How immigrant Hispanic emic interpret U.S. store atmospherics and interactions with sales associates,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 60 No. 1, pp. 50–59. DOI:

Galinsky, A.D., Gruenfeld, D.H. and Magee, J.C. (2003). “From Power to Action,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 85 No. 3, pp. 453–466. DOI:

Giles, H. and Johnson, P. (1987). “Ethnolinguistic identity theory: A social psychological approach to language maintenance,” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, Vol. 1987 No. 68, pp. 69–100. DOI:

Goffman, E. (1963). “Stigma and Social Identity,” Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp. 1–40.

Gwinner, K.P., Bitner, M.J., Brown, S.W. and Kumar, A. (2005). “Service Customization Through Employee Adaptiveness,” Journal of Service Research, Sage PublicationsSage CA: Thousand Oaks, CA, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 131–148. DOI:

Hayes, A. F. (2018). Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis, (Second edition), NY: Guilford Press.

Friedman, H. H., Lopez-Pumarejo, T., and Friedman, L. W. (2007). “Frontiers in Multicultural Marketing: The Disabilities Market,” International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 25–39.

Hewstone, M., Rubin, M. and Willis, H. (2002). “Intergroup Bias,” Annual Review of Psychology, Annual Reviews 4139 El Camino Way, P.O. Box 10139, Palo Alto, CA 94303-0139, USA , Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 575–604. DOI:

Hirschman, C. and Snipp, C.M. (2001). “The state of the American dream: Race and ethnic socioeconomic inequality in the United States, 1970-1990,” Social Stratification, pp. 623–642.

Phinney, J. S. (1996). “When We Talk About American Ethnic Groups, What Do We Mean?” American Psychologist, Vol. 51 No. 9, pp. 918–927. DOI:

Johnson-Hillery, J., Kang, J. and Tuan, W.J. (1997). “The difference between elderly consumers’ satisfaction levels and retail sales personnel’s perceptions,” International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 126–137. DOI:

Juni, S., Brannon, R. and Roth, M.M. (1988). “Sexual and Racial Discrimination in Service-Seeking Interactions: A Field Study in Fast Food and Commercial Establishments,” Psychological Reports, SAGE Publications, Vol. 63 No. 1, pp. 71–76. DOI:

Kirmani, A., and Campbell, M. C. (2004). “Goal seeker and persuasion sentry: How consumer targets respond to interpersonal marketing persuasion,” Journal of consumer research, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp.573-582. DOI:

Klinner, N. S., and Walsh, G. (2013). “Customer perceptions of discrimination in service deliveries: Construction and validation of a measurement instrument,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 66 No. 5, pp. 651-658. DOI:

Kochan, T., Bezrukova, K., Ely, R., Jackson, S., Joshi, A., Jehn, K., Leonard, J., et al. (2003). “The effects of diversity on business performance: Report of the diversity research network,” Human Resource Management, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 3–21. DOI:

Larsen, V., and Wright, N. D. (2020). “Aggregate Consumer Satisfaction: The Telos Of Marketing,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction & Complaining Behavior, Vol. 33, pp. 63–78.

Laveist, T.A. and Nuru-Jeter, A. (2002). “Is doctor-patient race concordance associated with greater satisfaction with care?” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, American Sociological Association, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 296–306. DOI:

Maddux, W. W., Barden, J., Brewer, M. B., and Petty, R. E. (2005). “Saying no to negativity: The effects of context and motivation to control prejudice on automatic evaluative responses,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 19-35. DOI:

Malat, J. and Hamilton, M.A. (2006). “Preference for Same-Race Health Care Providers and Perceptions of Interpersonal Discrimination in Health Care,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 47 No. 2, pp. 173-187. DOI:

McCormick, A.E. and Kinloch, G.C. (1986). “Interracial contact in the customer-clerk situation,” Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 126 No. 4, pp. 551–553. DOI:

McKay, P.F. and Avery, D. (2008). “Mean racial-ethnic differences in employees sales performance: The moderating role of diversity climate,” Personnel Psychology, Vol. 61 pp. 349–374. DOI:

Meng, F., Wang, S., Peters, S., and Lawson, G. W. (2010). “A glimpse into the consumer complaining behavior of immigrants,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction & Complaining Behavior, Vol. 23, pp. 111–136.

Menon, K. and Bansal, H.S. (2007). “Exploring consumer experience of social power during service consumption,” International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 89–104. DOI:

Min, H.K., Joireman, J. and Kim, H.J. (2019). “Understanding why anger predicts intention to complain among high but not low power customers: A test of competing models,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 95, pp. 93–102. DOI:

Montoya, D.Y. and Briggs, E. (2013). “Shared ethnicity effects on service encounters: A study across three U.S. subcultures,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 66 No. 3, pp. 314–320. DOI:

Mok, A., and Morris, M. W. (2013). “Bicultural self‐defense in consumer contexts: Self‐protection motives are the basis for contrast versus assimilation to cultural cues,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 175-188. DOI:

Morse, P. (2018). “Six Facts About The Hispanic Market That May Surprise You,” Forbes.

Padilla, A.M., and Perez, W. (2003). “Acculturation, Social Identity, and Social Cognition: A New Perspective,” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 35–55. DOI:

Penaloza, L. (1994). “Atrevesando fronteras,” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 32-54. DOI:

Robinson, G., and Dechant, K. (1997). “Building a business case for diversity,” Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 11, pp. 21-31. DOI:

Rucker, D. D., Preacher, K. J., Tormala, Z. L., & Petty, R. E. (2011). “Mediation analysis in social psychology: Current practices and new recommendations,” Social and personality psychology compass, Vol. 5 No. 6, pp. 359-371. DOI:

Rizal, H., Jeng, D.J.F. and Chang, H.H. (2016). “The role of ethnicity in domestic intercultural service encounters,” Service Business, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 263–282. DOI:

Rosenbaum, M.S. and Montoya, D.Y. (2007). “Am I welcome here? Exploring how ethnic consumers assess their place identity,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 60 No. 3, pp. 206–214. DOI:

Rucker, D.D. and Galinsky, A.D. (2008). “Desire to Acquire: Powerlessness and Compensatory Consumption,” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 257–267. DOI:

Rucker, D. D., Galinsky, A. D., and Dubois, D. (2012). “Power and consumer behavior: How power shapes who and what consumers value,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 352-368. DOI:

Saldaña, D.H. (1994). “Acculturative stress: Minority status and distress,” Journal of Behavioral Science, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 116–128. DOI:

Seock, Y.K. (2009). “Influence of retail store environmental cues on consumer patronage behavior across different retail store formats: An empirical analysis of US Hispanic consumers,” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 329–339. DOI:

Shanmuganthan, P., Dhaliwal, S., Stone, M. and Foss, B. (2003). “Does ethnic focus change how banks should implement customer relationship management?” Journal of Financial Services Marketing, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 49–62. DOI:

Smith, S.M., Roster, C.A., Golden, L.L. and Albaum, G.S. (2016). “A multi-group analysis of online survey respondent data quality: Comparing a regular USA consumer panel to MTurk samples,” Journal of Business Research, Vol.69 No. 8, pp.3139-3148. DOI:

Spreng, R. A., MacKenzie, S. B., and Olshavsky, R. W. (1996). “A reexamination of the determinants of consumer satisfaction,” Journal of marketing, Vol. 60 No. 3, pp. 15-32. DOI:

Steele, C.M. and Aronson, J. (1995). “Stereotype Threat and the Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 69 No. 5, pp. 797–811. DOI:

Sussman, N.M. and Rosenfeld, H.M. (1982). “Influence of culture, language, and sex on conversational distance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 66–74. DOI:

Ta, H., Esper, T.L. and Hofer, A.R. (2018). “Designing crowdsourced delivery systems: The effect of driver disclosure and ethnic similarity,” Journal of Operations Management, Vol. 60 No. May, pp. 19–33. DOI:

Tajfel, H. (1982). “Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations,” Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 1–39. DOI:

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. (1979). “An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict,” In W.G. Austin and S. Worchel (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations (pp. 33-47), Monterey, A: Brooks/Cole.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2020). “Hispanic Origin,”

Walsh, G. (2009). “Disadvantaged consumers’ experiences of marketplace discrimination in customer services,” Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 25 No. 1–2, pp. 143–169. DOI:

White, K. and Dahl, D.W. (2006). “To be or not be? the influence of dissociative reference groups on consumer preferences,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 404–414. DOI:

Yoo, J. (2017). “Customer power and frontline employee voice behavior,” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 238-256. DOI: