Asia and the West: Cultural differences in customer service
AS the world goes digital, customer expectations are continually increasing when it comes to the service they receive.
But among these increasing expectations lie cultural differences. There are significant differences in consumer demand across the globe; what works in one region may lead to poor customer service in another.
With regards to Asia and the West, Hemant Jani, co-founder of Abhisi Help Desk, has noted two significant differences in the demands of consumers, of which companies should be aware.
1. Mobile and social media
More than 50 percent of the APAC region are smartphone users, with consumers in Asia being the most advanced users of new technology. So it follows, when it comes to customer experience, Asian consumers expect to be able to use the latest devices and channels to communicate with brands. Thus, at a minimum, brands should be offering mobile-friendly service options such as mobile chat.
One of the best ways of interacting with customers is through social media, with Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger being the most-used sites worldwide, followed by popular APAC platforms such as QQ and WeChat.
Such sites are platforms via which Asians can communicate, gain insight from social influencers and discover different products and services. Conversely, in America, social media is mainly used by users to keep in touch with people and as a way of connecting with public figures.
What do these differences mean for the way in which your brand should target consumers?
As a business, it is crucial you understand exactly how and why customers are using various websites in order to better engage with them. For instance, to better improve your customer service in Asia, it is fundamental that customer service is accessible via the internet and ideally a smartphone app.
2. Technology to enhance the human touch
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the future of customer experience, empowering brands with the tools and information they need to help deliver smarter, predictive and personalized consumer experiences.
AI allows customer service agents to do their jobs more efficiently. For instance, AI can aid in the delivery of customer experience by helping agents to automatically analyze emails and social media messages – and even suggest responses.
However, even at an age of increasing digital technology, traditional Asian service is centered on personal service, so it is important to acknowledge that consumers still value the human touch. Customer success is still very much reliant on human insight, needed for aspects such as empathy in critical decision making.
The key is to combine technology with human insight. For instance, companies need to ensure customer experience software has clear escalation paths to human agents from systems such as self-service.
The expectation of customer service varies from culture to culture. Within Asia, there are various cultures and countries to be considered.
For instance, Thai customers place a higher value on courteous and informed staff; much more than South Korean or Malaysian consumers. And 63 percent of Chinese respondents in a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported they would immediately switch brands upon receiving poor service, compared with under 25 percent of respondents in India.
Coining the slogan “the customer is always right”, the US view excellent customer service as crucial in order to differentiate your brand. Yet at the same time, staff expect tips as standard rather than a discretionary addition, which differs from other cultures.
With customer expectation differing across cultures, as a business it is important to continually check you are adhering to consumer requirements. Take note of cultural differences, listen to and act on customer feedback, and ensure everyone within the organization is focused on the needs of the customers.