Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Reliable time management skills in a diverse customer service world are crucial in order to take advantage of opportunities to effectively interact with customers from various cultures. For years, anthropologists and others have studied the use of time in various cultures to try to better understand why some people view it differently. Their findings can be very useful in today’s world when many customer service representatives and other employees must be concerned with delivering excellent customer service across cultures. By better understanding cultural differences related to time and applying sound time management strategies or time management tips, service providers are more likely to meet their customer’s needs, wants and expectations.

In a diverse customer service world, the perspectives that many people have of time perception are often based on religious dogma or personal and cultural beliefs. For example, in the United States where the Puritans brought ideas of efficient use of time and a focus on the future, their culture developed to where today people focus on change, moving forward at a fast pace and getting more done with less. Entire industries (e.g. fast food) have developed to support this driving mentality. The challenge is that because the United States has become such a “melting pot” of diverse people who have brought with them their own religious and cultural values, conflict with time usage sometimes erupts between people from various subcultures. An example of this within the U.S. population is that many African and Latin Americans, Middle Easterners, Native Americans, Hawaiians, and Asians have brought religious and cultural values with them that focus on revering the past or focusing on the present as opposed to the future.

As an example of how time perception differences are common, ask people from various cultures or subcultures what they perceive an acceptable time for being late to an appointment might be. You will likely receive very different responses. For example, people from Germany or Finland often pride themselves on being some of the most punctual people in the world and are normally always early and on time for meetings and social events. Late arrival is considered rude and potentially insulting. In parts of Great Britain and North America being five minutes late for a meeting might be an acceptable time, but fifteen minutes or more would definitely be considered late and possibly rude, depending on the event and the person with whom you are scheduled to meet. In the Pacific Island, Middle Eastern and many African cultures, tardiness of thirty minutes or more is perfectly acceptable for a business meeting in many instances.

Just as in business situations, if you invite international customers to a dinner meeting or social event, you can anticipate that they will arrive at different times. This is sometimes based on their cultural backgrounds and values. For example, someone from Japan or Korea might arrive half an hour early, a guest from the United States or England — five minutes early, a Honduran and Latin American might show up thirty minutes late, an Italian could be up two hours late, an Ethiopian might be even later and someone from Vietnam might not come at all. They only accepted your invitation to be polite and to avoid causing you to lose face if they said no. If you ever host such an event, make sure that you specify your expectations in writing in order to avoid confusion or embarrassment to guests. For example, your invitations might specify that dinner will be served at 7 p.m. sharp.

If you interact with customers outside your own cultural group regularly, one tip for effectively delivering customer service in a positive manner is to do research on how your customer’s from a particular culture perceive time. By raising your cultural awareness,  you will be better prepared to effectively handle situations where customers are either early or late for meetings and social events. This will also prevent you from inadvertently violating a cultural norm when attending a meeting or event with your customers. The result is that you can potentially meet customer expectations, increase customer satisfaction and form more solid relationships with customers from all parts of the world through your knowledge and actions.

Source of this article: Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Differing Time Management Perspectives in a Global Customer Service World

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.

Robert C. Lucas

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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Preparing to Serve a Diverse Customer Base

Preparing to Serve a Diverse Customer Base

Many organizations and employees have realized the importance of creating a fair and equal environment in which everyone feels respected and valued. This is especially important in a service environment where employees encounter customers who have different characteristics.

Preparing to Serve a Diverse Customer Base

Providing good customer service can be challenging on any given day. That is why updating customer service skills is a crucial part of professional development for any customer service representative. And, when you factor in elements of diversity, providing great customer service can become difficult for many service providers who lack sufficient knowledge and experience in dealing with diverse individuals.

To ensure that you are ready for potential situations in which you will be serving people of different age, gender, ability, cultural and religious background, and numerous other diversity factors, consider participating in the following initiatives:

  • Honestly evaluate your own biases towards people from a given group and develop some strategies for overcoming them.
  • Visit a restaurant that serves ethnic foods other than that of your native culture.
  • Share your own story with someone from a different group (e.g. age, gender, ethnic background, or religion) and see how their life experiences compare or differ from yours.
  • Identify at least one resource for diversity information and visit it each month.
  • Take a language course to learn a new language.
  • Visit a religious institution, museum or historical monument of a culture different from your own.
  • Volunteer to work with people whose race, age, gender, or cultural backgrounds are different from your own.

For more ideas and strategies on dealing with customers who have diverse backgrounds that may be different from yours, read Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

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