Russian businesses are undergoing a transformation from a traditionally dour approach to a friendlier take on customer relations, customer service experts said.
"All of us know that Russian culture by definition is not the most client-oriented culture," Alex Sukharevsky, a customer service specialist, told The New York Times.
Sukharevsky is on the staff of retail consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which has found a suddenly eager market for business in Russia, the Times said.
He said he is helping push a "consumer experience transformation," in Russia.
Consulting firms coach Russian service workers at restaurants, stores and airlines to smile and make small talk.
"Anna, you just showed the champagne bottle but didn't say anything," said one instructor coaching a member of an Aeroflot flight crew recently in a training session, the Times reported.
"This is the silent service of Soviet times. You need to talk to her. And you need to smile and smile and smile," the instructor said.
Aeroflot now says its logo -- a winged hammer and sickle -- represents a smile.
The effort is paying off for Aeroflot, whose service was rated in a recent Skytrax survey as the best in Eastern Europe.