When Difference Doesn’t Mean Different: Understanding Cultural Bias

Running global Customer Experience studies provides both better value for money than individual country studies and a degree of standardisation across markets. However, their validity remains at risk from an age-old research problem: cultural bias.

Here, CX analytics experts Fiona Moss and Bharath Vijayendra examine what needs to be acknowledged, addressed and 'actioned' as a result of cultural response bias, and how doing so can ultimately improve an organisation's Return on Customer Experience Investment (ROCXI).

Cultural response bias is not a new theory. However, the ongoing attention paid to it by the research community shows it remains a significant consideration in research programme design and results interpretation. Indeed, for organisations to glean the most value possible from their global studies, it's essential to be aware of the substantial and systematic differences that can present themselves when analysing scores across several countries.

Cultural response bias makes it very difficult to compare results between countries and reliably gauge whether disparities are the result of true differences in the performance measured, or simply due to cultural response styles. It typically applies to attitudinal questions where response scales are used, manifesting itself as a country-specific tendency to consistently use a specific rating in the scale, or set of ratings, regardless of what is asked. These disparities can have huge knock-on effects to a global organisation’s Customer Experience and reputation.

Using Ipsos' Customer Experience global norms data, this paper examines the three commonly occurring cultural response styles and discusses the options available to address them. It explains how, by ensuring that cultural response bias is considered carefully at programme setup – or review for existing studies – its impact can be controlled and the results of global research studies can be more reliably interpreted.

In this free-to-download paper, Fiona and Bharath examine the approaches organisations can take to continue to benefit from global studies and gather reliable, efficient and effective results in the face of cultural response bias to advance their Customer Experience strategies.