Using Cross-Cultural Psychology to Help International Companies Build Relationships in India
Author: Heena Jabeen | Team- Customer Relationship Management | Maier+Vidorno
First published in May 2016
Globalization has made the world accessible from one point to any other but at the same time it has immensely increased the competition. Of course, we can say that the best product or the best service provider is the winner, but we are an emotional species and so the provider is almost always as important as the service or product. Before anything else, customers look for a trustworthy relationship and there are three subsets of this trust:
- Service/product quality
- Reputation of the provider (what other customers have to say about the provider)
- Point of contact (who you are interacting with)
The way we express emotions varies from person-to-person across every country, and understanding culture plays a vital role in managing relationships to ensure your team generates trust with each interaction and so builds reputation no matter the country.
Often perceptions of service satisfaction differ from country to country and relationship management is the strategic tool to add value to the service/ product by understanding the perception of the customer. When you build a relationship with your customer, he will be open to giving you suggestions for improvement and so helping you build quality and reputation. Once you implement the suggestions of the customer, he becomes the brand ambassador for that particular product or service which in return boosts his trust in you further.
The Culture Dimensions
Culture has an important influence on customer relationship, as expectations of service quality and customer satisfaction differ from culture to culture. Prominent scholars like Edward T. Hall distinguish between high- and low-context cultures, while Geert Hofstede describes five dimensions to measure the differences between cultures: individualism-collectivism (IDV); uncertainty avoidance (UAI); power distance (PDI -strength of social hierarchy); masculinity-femininity (MAS – task orientation versus person-orientation) & long-term orientation (LTO).
This framework helps highlight certain differences between Indian and other cultures and so to analyse how to adapt communication appropriately. There is a lot of analysis about which countries fit where on each dimension.
Indians as a relatively high-context people who might usually not spend too much time with explanation in a meeting or would not take punctuality too seriously. This is often hard for people from relatively lower context cultures (Germany, Sweden, Japan etc.) where there is much higher cultural emphasis on attention to detail and the value of punctuality. These differences have to be taken into account when building relationships – as well as different forms of hierarchy in the culture.
There also have been instances where something as simple as a handshake has ruined an otherwise a perfect business deal. For instance, greetings in Indian culture is mostly a graceful “Namaskaar” or sometimes touching the feet of elders therefore, for most of Indians handshake is just a western style of greeting and is considered a part of general communication with no subsequent interpretations whereas, a firm and strong handshake can be interpreted as a green signal for successful business deal in USA.
Cultural differences can lead to culture shocks, which in turn lead to misunderstanding and thus business failure. It surely is essential to understand the basics of the customer’s deep rooted culture. Providing excellent customer interaction in culturally diverse customer segments effectively means managing your interaction in a culturally appropriate and responsive way.
CRM for India
India itself is culturally diverse; every corner has a language and traditions of its own. But the general aura is quite applicable to the whole country