Customer Service in a Diverse World

Customer Service in a Diverse World

Customer Service in a Diverse World

Have you ever experienced a situation in which you were in a place of business and either had a service provider make a derogatory statement to you about another customer or group of customers or overheard two employees sharing negative comments about other customers? In many instances comments or off-the-cuff statements about based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disabilities or other diversity factors are not only hurtful but potentially discriminatory. In some instances, such remarks may be grounded in the employee’s deep-seated beliefs or personal values based on their own experiences or education. In others, they may be a result of simple ignorance related to individual customers or groups. Whatever the reason, making comments to or in the presence of other customers is unacceptable and is likely to have negative personal and business results.

I recently experienced an instance in which a small business owner of the barbershop that I’ve patronized for years made a comment that I felt was totally uncalled for and based on personal prejudice. I had commented about a newspaper article regarding a local Hindu group that had recently built a temple in the local area. I commented that I’d be interested in going over to visit the facility and learn more about the religion. My barber remarked, “Why would you want to do that? In my opinion, we should burn all those ragheads and keep them out of our country.” I was shocked since he is obviously ignorant of the topic on which he was commenting and had no concern for how his remarks might be received by others. I shared my feelings with him about what he had said and explained that he seemed to be confusing religions and ethnic groups and that in either case, his remarks were out of line and potentially offensive. His response was, “I fought in Viet Nam and I don’t trust any of these radicals.” The result of this conversation is that I now patronize a different hairstylist and have shared this story dozens of times with others.

In today’s world where people are so mobile, the economy is globally intertwined and information about other groups is so readily available through various channels, it is hard to believe that there are people who have not taken the time to discover the benefits of embracing diversity and still harbor such prejudice. Service providers who remain content to take actions such as the one I experienced not only guarantee lost business for their organization but also jeopardize their personal and professional reputation.

As I discuss in my latest book (Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Service Across Cultures), “Not only do today’s service providers have to be concerned with job knowledge, skills, and professional standards, but they also have to be cognizant of the values, beliefs, social mores, expectations, needs, and preferences of customers…They are the “face” of the organization and need all the knowledge and skills they get in the order to provide stellar customer service.”

For ideas and strategies on effectively serving customers in a multicultural and otherwise diverse world, check out the books Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success.

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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