Impact of the Eyes in Customer Service
It has been said that the eyes are “the windows to the soul.” That is why some people and Westernized cultures place so much interest in making eye contact with others. This gives people a chance to potentially gauge meaning nonverbally from another person.
Consider the following related to eye contact with your customers and communicating nonverbally across cultures:
In most Western cultures, the typical period of time that is comfortable for holding eye contact is 5 to 10 seconds for many people; then an occasional glance away is normal and expected.
Looking away in some cultures can often send a message of disinterest, or dishonesty, or lack of confidence (e.g. the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
If either the length or the frequency of eye contact differs from the “norm,” many people might think that you are being rude or offensive. They might also interpret your behavior as an attempt to exert power or as flirting.
Looking down before answering questions, glancing away continually as your customer talks, blinking excessively and other furtive eye movements can potentially create a negative impression. In any case, your customer might become uncomfortable and may react in an undesirable manner. For example, they might become upset or end the conversation if you use eye contact in what they perceive as an inappropriate manner.
As with all other aspects of workplace interaction in a multicultural environment, do not forget that cultural values and practices often influence the way in which people communicate and interpret message signals.
For more information about how to effectively interact with and deliver service across cultures, and to people who are not like you, get a copy of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.