It seems obvious that in today’s global economy big and small companies should train their employees to deal with people from different cultures both inside and outside their countries. I don’t speak only about languages but I am also interested in social interactions between front line employees and their clients who are from various cultures.
In a previous article I spoke about the four aspect of emotional intelligence and mentioned how social awareness allows the individual to perceive the emotions of others, giving them the ability to better empathize and connect with others. Relationship management is also very important to build bonds and maintain connections with clients.
Social awareness and relationship management are critical in the service industry where the satisfaction of the customer is everything.
Cultural intelligence is the same as emotional intelligence with an additional level of complexity as your employees should be able to develop connections and empathize with people from a large variety of cultural backgrounds.
I have been living in countries such as Japan and United States, were you can get outstanding customer services 24/7. Therefore I have high expectations toward sales people. In America for example, business people return a phone call or an email whiting a couple of hours even on a Friday night. I have recently been in a small Chinese restaurant who did not charge me for a dish I didn’t like . I got a $100 store credit for returning a broken pressure cooker 6 months after I bought it even without receipt.
There are tons of courses on emotional intelligence for sales people and customer service representatives in the US, but it is far from being the norm in other cultures. I was recently dealing with a French service provider that inspired me to write this article. French are well-known for their arrogant sales people and there is still the mentality that the company is making their clients a favor to serve them. In my case, it was a small French relocation and real estate company based in Moscow who asked me to justify in very aggressive emails why I did not choose their services even trying to intimidate me by saying that other companies in Russia will take advantage of me. I did not choose them because they did not reply to queries on timely manner, I had to wait one month to get a response because it was public holidays for example and most of all because no emotional bonds were created and I never felt understood. I guess this French company survives because: “in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed are kings”
The company I chose is specialized in the Russian real estate market for expatriates, medium size with a large international network but still small enough to work with individuals like me unlike large relocation companies that deal only with HR of big multinational companies. Despite the 8 hours time difference with the US, the agent was responding to my emails very late at night, on weekends and holidays. They understood that despite the fact that I am French, I am also very much “international” and during my visit to Moscow for house hunting, they organize a meeting with an American lady, freshly expatriated from Europe who gave me great tips on what life in Moscow looks like for new comers. The agent was a young Russian woman with kids and it helped because she could understand me on practical things like finding a laundry room with a dryer and a modern kitchen or helping me getting information from the school about bus routes and stops.
I think consumers and clients are being more and more empowered via Internet and social networks and small businesses can only survive in this interconnected global world if they establish authentic interpersonal relationships instead on focusing on selling products or services. Some big brands already got hurt with people sharing negative stories on a global scale.
I read an article that gives you key steps to develop a multicultural customer services:
Due to globalization, cross-cultural communication has become a vital part of every agent’s training more than ever before.
What was your best or worst customer service experience abroad ?
- Here’s a tip: service is on the nose (smh.com.au)