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The Challenge of Consumer Diversity in Servicescapes: An Investigation of Consumer and Service Provider Experiences

Abigail Nappier Cherup, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


While consumer diversity continues to grow in importance, evidence suggests that firms have yet to align their thoughts and activities with diverse consumers’ needs. This is especially true for consumers who have a hidden stigmatized identity. On the one hand, consumers with such concealable stigmatized identities must make the decision to reveal or conceal their identity in a variety of situations, including service environments. On the other hand, many service providers are working to offer inclusive service environments yet struggle to do so. Therefore, this ethnographic dissertation has two objectives: to 1) conceptualize practices unique to consumers with a concealable stigmatized identity as they interact (or not) in the marketplace, and 2) document the decision-making process of service providers who seek to create and maintain an inclusive servicescape. Concerning the first objective, I sampled bi+ consumers; they make up the largest portion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus community, yet experience stigma in many service environments. Thus, bi+ consumers provide a rich context for understanding how consumers with a concealable stigmatized identity experience service environments. Findings suggest that bi+ consumers conceal or reveal their stigmatized identity, at individual and collective levels. Due to their concealable identity, bi+ consumers co-create and map spaces that offer them refuge. As a result, this study examines an understudied phenomenon, consumer disclosure of such identities to service providers. Regarding the second objective, I sampled service providers who demonstrate some commitment to inclusion. Service providers who offer inclusive servicescapes are becoming more common. Findings suggest that service providers create an inclusive “vibe” with their physical layout, point-of-sale communications and interactions, and external communications. Service providers maintain inclusivity by dealing with ongoing challenges to their inclusive space. They do this by hiring diverse staff, training them on inclusion, and coping with the unpredictable. When a challenge occurs, service providers can successfully recover their inclusive space by taking a community-based approach to recovery.

Subject Area

Marketing|LGBTQ studies

Recommended Citation

Nappier Cherup, Abigail, "The Challenge of Consumer Diversity in Servicescapes: An Investigation of Consumer and Service Provider Experiences" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28027668.