The impact of code switching on service encounters

Hope Jensen Schau, Stephanie Dellande, Mary C. Gilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Many service retailers, particularly those competing on speed of service with standardized encounters of short duration, rely on scripts to keep both employees and customers on-task and service operations running smoothly. While the benefits of such scripts are well known, what happens when customers do not stay on script? The authors analyze more than 2,000 service encounters and find evidence of two types of code switching suggested by sociolinguists: language and dialect. In addition, the concept of brand codes, the idiosyncratic terminology used in a service provider's script, is introduced. While on-script encounters are preferred, language code switching can also have positive outcomes at little cost to organizational efficiency. In contrast, dialect and brand code switching subvert the service script with negative consequences. Brand code switching is found to be particularly problematic for small market players attempting to compete against market leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Code switching
  • QSR
  • Scripts
  • Service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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