As long as we’re considering rude behavior, how do we treat customers who are behaving rudely? You probably have an idea.
You might think that all humans react in the same way to rudeness from a customer. But according to our friends at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, customer service employees - read waiters, hotel desk clerks, salespeople - born and raised in North America will actively sabotage a customer who is rude to them, while customer service representatives from China withdraw and lose enthusiasm for their jobs.
"In North America, employees tend to retaliate against offensive customers -- doing things like giving bad directions or serving cold food,” says UBC Sauder School of Business Professor Daniel Skarlicki, a co-author of the study. “In China, workers are more likely to reduce the general quality of service they provide to all customers -- nasty or nice."
It appears to be a cultural thing. 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.
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.
I personally like Sharlicki’s observation: "North Americans take a surgical approach to abuse, zeroing in on individuals who mistreated them.”
Nice image, the surgical strike.
Sharlicki continued, “Chinese don't blame the transgressor. They blame the system -- the company or customers they serve."
Sharlicki 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."
Skarlicki notes the differing cultural responses are in line with established traits of the two cultures, with North Americans tending to be more individualistic and Chinese more collectivistic.
I’d say it’s safer to be rude in China.
Be rude in North America, and you may be served cold food. Or worse.
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