An Integrative Review of Customer Value Management and National Culture: France and the United States

Article excerpt

The general objective of this article is to examine how French versus American national culture impacts upon management of a customer value focus in an organization. After reviewing the customer value literature and examining management issues regarding an organization's customer value focus, France and the United States are compared and contrasted in terms of cultural value dimensions. A conceptual model is employed to propose the influence of culture upon the four keys to managing a customer value focused organization. The article concludes with a discussion and future research directions.

Introduction

The ability to determine and deliver value to the customer is fundamental to the development of a firm's competitive strategy and market orientation (Narver and Slater 1990). An understanding of customer value has taken on even greater importance today as businesses continue to expand into more heterogeneous markets around the world (Overby, Gardial, & Woodruff 2004). Ironically, globalization is actually demanding greater managerial and marketing adaptation because of the exposure to national culture differences (Palich & Gomez-Mejia, 1999). Though it has been found that successful customer value delivery creates superior business performance irrespective of national origin, the process of determining and managing such value is likely to be culturally sensitive (Norburn, Birley, Dunn, & Payne, 1990).

The general objective of this article is to consider how national culture affects management of customer value in an organization. The article begins with a brief review of the literature on customer value management. The concept of culture is introduced and France and the United States are compared and contrasted in terms of the cultural dimensions discussed. Next, a conceptual model is offered along with propositions. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of future research directions.

Literature Review

Customer Value

As far back as 1972, Kotler (1972) extolled the virtues of customer value, stating that "the essential activity of marketing is the creation and offering of value." Later, Narver and Slater ( 1990) asserted that the creation of superior customer value must be the goal of market-oriented businesses. More recently, Woodruff and Gardial (1996) define customer value as "the customer's perception of the extent to which use of a product allows him/her to accomplish some desired purpose or goal." Customer value can only become an important management tool when a customer-focused philosophy spreads throughout the organization (Woodruff 1997). Hence, not just marketers, but accountants, financiers, and all levels of management and operations should be focused on delivering superior customer value. How does this occur? Woodruff (1997) offers several suggestions: 1 ) create a customer value delivery strategy; 2) translate strategy into internal customer value processes and requirements; 3) implement customer value delivery; and 4) track performance of customer value delivery. Similarly, Desatnick and Detzel (1993) offer several keys to building superior service value throughout an organization: 1) create a customer focus throughout the organization; 2) establish employee-based service performance standards; 3) measure service performance against superior benchmarks; and 4) recognize and reward exemplary service behavior.

At the same time, both Woodruff ( 1997) and Desatnick and Detzel ( 1993) acknowledge that organizational barriers often stand in the way of implementing such strategies. Organizational barriers include organizational culture, organizational procedures, and managerial learning. Each of these barriers can pose significant barriers for an organization within a single culture, but cross-culturally they can be devastating. Therefore, these areas are where cross-cultural management must pay special attention when attempting to compete on customer value delivery. …

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