Relocation, Culture, and Customer Service: One Size Does Not Fit All
Jenny Castelino, Cartus director of intercultural and language solutions, leads off her recent Worldwide ERC® MOBILITY magazine article, One Size Does Not Fit All: Exemplary Customer Service Around the World, with a simple, but counter-intuitive, statement – “When it comes to providing exceptional customer service around the world, many individuals assume that treating others the way they themselves want to be treated will guarantee success.” As Jenny goes on to explain, the problem with this approach is that people from different cultures frequently have different ideas about how they would like to be treated. Some cultures embrace direct confrontation, while others shy away from it. Some reward plain speaking; others prefer an indirect approach. And all of this translates into potential misunderstandings when it comes to relocation’s basic mission – customer service.
Why Culture Matters for International Assignees and Relocation Managers
International assignees quickly come to understand that a variety of factors impact the way people in their new location – personally and professionally – like to be treated. Relocation managers learn the same lessons when dealing with employees around the globe. Suppliers also need to be aware of the variations in how people like to be treated when working closely with international assignees and their families from different cultures.
In one example from Jenny’s article, a European company was frustrated by the failure of its newly hired technical experts, brought in from India and Asia, to speak up with needed opinions during meetings. The cultural perception of these employees was that it would be disrespectful to voice an opinion that could be construed as negative, or that might be a negative reflection on their superiors. It also seemed unlikely to them that the executives would want and value their opinions, when it was their role and responsibility as leaders simply to guide the company.
Examples like this have direct parallels in customer service. For instance, when assisting an international assignee in searching for a home, not understanding the cultural preferences of house hunters can cause frustration and delays. Assuming that an assignee would want a large home and yard may not appeal to a culture where economy and minimalism are valued. Providing too many options to choose from when the individual is looking to you as his or her guide and expert may create a negative perception of your capabilities and expertise.
Jenny provides not only insights, but useful tips for relocation professionals, such as using mirroring techniques and avoiding surprises to make customer service interactions successful and satisfying. Read Jenny’s article to find out more.
For more information on intercultural matters, check out our newly redesigned Resource Hub on Cartus.com.