It seems obvious that in today’s global economy, large and small businesses should train their employees to deal with people from different cultures, both inside and outside of 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 aspects 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 other people. 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 customer’s satisfaction 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, where you can get outstanding customer services 24/7. Therefore, I have high expectations of sales people. In America, for example, business people return a phone call or an email, writing for a couple of hours, even on a Friday night. I was in a small Chinese restaurant recently where I wasn’t charged for a dish that 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.
Education on Emotional Intelligence
There are tons of courses on emotional intelligence for sales people and customer service representatives in the U.S., but it is far from being the norm in other cultures. I was recently dealing with a French service provider who inspired me to write this article. The French are well-known for their arrogant sales people and there is still the mentality that the company is doing their clients a favor by serving them. In my case, it was a small French relocation and real estate company based in Moscow that asked me to justify, in very aggressive emails, why I didn’t choose their services. They even tried to intimidate me by saying that other companies in Russia will take advantage of me. I didn’t choose them because they didn’t reply to queries in a timely manner, I had to wait one month to get a response because of public holidays and most of all, because no emotional bonds were created and I never felt that they understood me. I guess this French company survives because: “in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed are kings.”
The company that I ended up choosing 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 the Human Resources department of large, multinational companies. Despite the 8-hour time difference with the U.S., the agent was responding to my emails very late at night and 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 organized a meeting with an American woman, freshly expatriated from Europe, who gave me great tips on what life in Moscow is like for newcomers. The agent was a young Russian woman with children of her own 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 get information from the school about bus routes and stops.
I think consumers and clients are being more and more empowered via the Internet and social networks and small businesses can only survive in this interconnected global world if they establish authentic interpersonal relationships instead of focusing on selling products or services. Some big brands have already gotten hurt by people sharing negative stories on a global scale.
I read an article, The Importance of Multi-Cultural Customer Service, 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. This is a really big world and we all need to work and live together and the more harmonious the experience is, the more we will all accomplish.
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About the Author.
Anne Egros, Professional Coach, Provides Global Business, Career, and Expat Life Coaching Services For International Executives and Managers. Pharmaceutical Doctor (Pharm D) with 20 years of international experience as business manager in Fortune 500 Companies. Anne worked as an expat for 20 years: US, Japan, Europe, APAC region. Fluent English, native French speaker.
Visit Anne website at http://zestnzen.wordpress.com