Differing Time Management Perspectives in a Global Customer Service World
As a service provider, you may encounter someone whose view of time differs significantly from yours. You should learn to adapt. Many cultures view the past, present and future differently and may place more or less importance on them than others outside their culture do. This may put a strain on the customer-provider relationship if you are not aware of their perspective or are not willing to make concessions for the differences.
Implications of time perspective differences vary greatly throughout the world. In countries like China, if you are late for a business meeting you might lose face or somehow make them feel disrespected. In other countries, you might be expected to wait for your customers, even when you have a set appointment time. For example, if you are in sales and travel to other parts of the world, you might arrive expecting a meeting at a certain time and date, only to find out that the person you are supposed to meet is out of the office or on vacation even though you called the week before to verify the appointment. Even so, always verify meetings multiple times and in writing before proceeding to them, especially if your customer is from outside your culture. Keeping subordinates and foreign businesspeople waiting for an extended period of time even when there is a scheduled appointment is not uncommon in some countries (e.g. Middle Eastern), especially when a higher-level executive is involved. Expect this and be prepared to wait patiently.
When dealing with customers who frequent your organization, if you are serving someone from another culture, you may find that they show up late for appointments. To compensate, you have to decide whether to build in some flexibility to your schedule or to turn a customer away when they arrive late. Obviously, the latter could mean a breakdown in the customer-provider relationship or a lost customer.
The bottom line on dealing with cultural perspectives on time is to recognize that there are differences. As a result, you may have to change your own mindset if you plan to do business with people from other countries ad cultures. Making such adjustments can lead to opportunities for providing customer service excellence and building a reputation as a service professional who is keenly aware of global diversity.
For more guidance on dealing with cultural differences when delivering service in a diverse world, read Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.
About Robert C. Lucas
Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.
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