When talking about how culture plays into quality customer experiences, I think of two key buckets. The first is your company’s culture, and the second is culture in the sense of social norms, in different geographies across the world. Today, I want to take a look at the latter.
As a business, you need to understand what motivates your customers, how they conduct business, what their interests are and what expectations are for a good customer experience. To do that you really have to understand differences in regional cultures and sub-cultures. This can be understanding purchasing habits, day-to-day routines, views on work/life balance, views on family, etc.
To illustrate this, I’ll share with you a story about some of my past travels. So, several years ago my husband and I went on our honeymoon in Italy. It was a wonderful trip. The food was amazing, the different places we visited had so many beautiful sites to see. However, there were some cultural differences that we weren’t used to living in Chicago.
First, when you go to a restaurant, the table is yours for the night and you need to flag down the waiter when you want something, including your check. This was a nice change of pace, but it was a little tough to get used to the first couple of days in our trip since we were used to getting a table at a restaurant and being quickly given a check as soon as our meal was done in our home city. (Thank you Rick Steves for giving us the heads up in your tour book about this.)
Second, public transportation was much less predictable than what we were used to in Chicago. I remember waiting for a bus in Positano to go to Sorrento, to then try to take the ferry to Capri or take the train to Pompeii. We knew the bus wasn’t always at the time that the time table stated, so we showed up early. And waited, and waited, and waited…. About an hour and a half later, we were on the bus headed to Sorrento. However, once we got to Sorrento, we missed the ferry we’d wanted to take to Capri or had to wait for the train to Pompeii. Needless to say we didn’t have as much time as we’d wanted at Capri or Pompeii, but it was a good learning experience in how different countries and regions have different expectations of what a good or acceptable experience is. The next time we needed to be somewhere by a specific time on our trip, we had a car service take us.
However, this is why I love travel! We learned that in the parts of Italy we visited, its not about the grind, the constant go, go, go. Its about taking a step back and savoring life, company with friends, and being present in the moment. Enjoy taking life one moment at a time.
In stark contrast, my time in living in New York City was fast paced, people wanted convenience, to work hard, play hard, etc. An apartment is often a place to crash when you aren’t living in and experiencing the city. Public transportation is usually very reliable and you can pretty accurately estimate how long it will take you to get from point A to point B based on the transportation you choose. (Chicago is has a faster pace too, but not to the same degree as NYC.)
But what if you’re a small company that only serves a single country or region?
Its still important to understand cultures in the different regions you serve. Cultural norms in New York City are vastly different from a small town in mid-Missouri for example. Expectations of what customers want, how quickly they want it, and tolerance for an ok experience (depending on the product/service), varies between the two.
When you understand your customer’s culture, you can tailor your experiences, products and services to meet and exceed your customer’s needs. You can create a stronger relationship with your customer, because you are demonstrating that you understand their pain points, what brings them joy and how you can help remove some of the friction in their daily lives.
So, how does culture play into your customer experiences? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.