A new Canadian study has found North American service workers react to rude customers differently from Chinese workers, which serves as a reminder to global companies seeking business expansion across the Pacific.
The study, to be published in the journal Personnel Psychology, revealed that culture plays a significant role in how frontline workers deal with customer abuse.
In the study, the researchers from University of British Columbia (UBC) conducted a series of surveys at a luxury hotel with more than 200 employees - 132 in Beijing and 82 in Vancouver.
They found although the level of abuse was consistent in both locations, North Americans resorted 20 percent more often to sabotage to get revenge, doing things like giving bad directions or serving cold food to rude customers.
However, abused Chinese workers were 19 percent more likely to feel a lack of enthusiasm in their jobs, which damaged the service quality to all customers.
"North Americans take a surgical approach to abuse, zeroing in on individuals who mistreated them," said UBC Sauder School of Business Professor Daniel Skarlicki, a co-author of the study. "Chinese don't blame the transgressor. They blame the system - the company or customers they serve."
Skarlicki said the implications were clear: "When service-oriented companies go global, they need to heighten their sensitivity to how culture in a new market can influence the performance of frontline staff and tailor their customer service operations accordingly."
He said the differing cultural responses observed in the study are in line with established traits of the two cultures, with North Americans tending to be more individualistic and Chinese more collectivistic