Relative Rudeness : Cultural Customer Service Pitfalls

A rude gesture

Global companies beware: Rude customer treatment depends on culture.


A new UBC study reveals that North American service workers are more likely A rude gestureto sabotage rude customers, while Chinese react by disengaging from customer service altogether.

“Our research shows that culture plays a significant role in how frontline workers deal with customer abuse,” says UBC Sauder School of Business Professor Daniel Skarlicki, a co-author of the study.

“In North America, employees tend to retaliate against offensive customers – doing things like giving bad directions or serving cold food. In China, workers are more likely to reduce the general quality of service they provide to all customers – nasty or nice.”

Rudeness is bad

In a paper to be published in the journal Personnel Psychology, Skarlicki and former Sauder PhD student Ruodan Shao studied how frontline employees at a luxury hotel with locations in Vancouver and Beijing reacted to customer mistreatment.

Although the level of abuse was consistent in both locations, North Americans resorted 20 per cent more often to sabotage to get revenge. Abused Chinese workers were 19 per cent more likely to feel a lack of enthusiasm in their jobs, responding negatively to statements like, “I voluntarily assist guests even if it means going beyond job requirements.”

“North Americans take a surgical approach to abuse, zeroing in on individuals who mistreated them,” says Skarlicki, noting that managers must be mindful of these cultural differences when expanding operations across the Pacific. “Chinese don’t blame the transgressor. They blame the system – the company or customers they serve.”

Rudeness affects your bottom-line

Skarlicki says the implications are clear: “When service-oriented companies go global, they need to heighten their sensitivity to how culture in a new market can influence the performance of frontline staff and tailor their customer service operations accordingly.”

Background

For the study, the researchers held focus groups with small groups of hotel employees in Beijing and Vancouver to identify a set of common abusive situations and methods workers used to sabotage ill-mannered guests.


Source : University of British Columbia. Eurekalert.
Image: Carl Byron Batson

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