Customer Service & Work Ethic in Asia Vs. U.S. w/ Vietnam & Shanghai Video
Recently my wife and I traveled throughout Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, and China.
We flew on Japan Airlines and even though they are not as high end as some of the other carriers, such as Singapore Air or Cathay Pacific, the service is excellent, as it is on any Asian airline.
We enjoyed every flight throughout our trip, as it is obvious the people that work for these airlines truly take pride in their job. People go out of their way to attend to your needs. If there is confusion, which there often is, invariably there is someone to take the time to explain to you the problem or walk with you to guide you where it is you need to go (the only difficulty is the strong accent they often have in which they are speaking English, making it hard to understand what is being said… but then it is their country; they are doing us a favor by speaking our language).
When we were in Thailand, we experienced something unique in that the people are very loving, very open, friendly, and engaging. That is possibly due to the fact these people have never been overtaken by another country. That and they are all unified in their love and admiration for their king, giving them a certain softness to their personality.
But what was perplexing about the Thai people is that they have a poor customer service mentality. Although people you encounter in the service sector are often very sweet and inviting, especially in hotels, at the same time they are clueless as to what customer service really is. They ignore you when you dine, they give you wrong directions when you need help, you see trash in the streets and in the rivers and fields, and when you are shopping, most clerks have no sales ability nor are they eager to help you find what you need, making bargaining an unpleasant experience… and after all, that is what we Americans do when we go to Asia; everybody knows it and expects it.
So while I am mystified about this enigma in Thai culture, I can only say the people on the whole are very pleasant and loving and are truly interested in developing real friendships.
The business mindset in me just sees this as an opportunity to develop some sort of management training school or business in Thailand, as this is what is clearly lacking.
In Vietnam, you see more attentiveness to customer service, although you feel more desperation. They are clearly trying to get as much from the American as they can—which is annoying—but at the same time understandable when you know their history.
In China you really get better service than anywhere, except maybe Taiwan or Japan—which are far more developed countries, and their work ethic is so high compared to ours.
When we returned to the States, we were amazed at the stark contrast in the customer service mentality we had been enjoying for the past 3 weeks and what we encountered immediately upon arrival.
We were reminded of how truly bad American customer service is from airline employees, government employees, rental car employees, restaurant employees, and so on. It is clear to me that America is the land of people who hate their jobs.
What is it that allows this mindset throughout our country? Is it this entitlement mentality that seems to be growing like a virus, especially among people under 30?
As an employer, I have been encountering examples of this with former “American” employees verses the strong work ethic I have seen with “foreign born” employees.
It has been a truly arduous journey to find the great “American” employees we do have now—like finding needles in haystacks. These individuals obviously were reared very well by their parents or learned it elsewhere because this mentality has to be taught.
How many times have you encountered someone in the service sector that truly treated you with disdain? As if you were inconveniencing them from whatever it is they were doing. Or made to feel like an idiot because you dared to ask them a question? How many times have you been poorly treated on the phone when you are speaking to a bank, a government office, or put on hold forever?
Now I know I am generalizing here, and possibly exaggerating a bit, but I truly am still in culture shock. So I had to get this off my chest, if not to spark some dialogue, but to remind myself that the primary job of my company is customer service, not what it is we do. Just like the primary job of that waiter is customer service, not taking your order and bringing you food.
If we Americans can get this into our skulls in everything we do, whether it is being an engineer, a plumber, or CEO of a major corporation, it is all about serving others and interacting with people. If you really truly get it, it’s about building relationships.
Because when our time comes, all that will stand is not our accomplishments, but the people we have in our lives and how we treated them.
Blog by Universal Cargo Management’s CEO, Devin Burke.
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