Culture and Customer Service Excellence

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Culture Through a Customer Service Excellence Lens

Sian Thomas. B.A. (Hons) Business and Management, Customer Service Excellence module, Level 6 Keywords: Customer Service Excellence, Culture, Understanding, Impact|

Introduction
The purpose of this research is to evaluate the importance of understanding culture in order to deliver customer service excellence from both an organisational perspective and the perspective of the customer. This paper will apply customer service excellence theory to a number of case studies in order to demonstrate organisational successes and failures in understanding cultures when expanding into new territories. In addition to this, the perspective of the customer will be considered, to discuss whether these organisations have managed to successfully deliver customer service excellence.

Understanding Culture

According to Goodenough (1971, pg.13), culture can be defined as ‘a set of beliefs or standards, shared by a group of people, which help the individual decide what is, what can be, how to feel, what to do and how to go about doing it.’ Similarly, Kotler and Armstrong (1994, pg. 627) describe culture as ‘collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from those of another.’ It is, according to Frost (2000), an internal and external issue that is becoming increasingly important due to the growth of global organisations. Frost also explains that in order to understand the expectations and perceptions of different cultures, an organisation must identify its own position in the dimensions of culture. This emphasises the importance of organisations needing to understand their own internal culture in order to be able to deliver customer service excellence in international cultures.

The Impact of Understanding Culture – The Positive Affect on Customer Service The success of McDonald’s can be attributed to many contributing factors, including the ability to understand customers’ needs and expectations in order to strategically deliver customer service excellence on an international scale (Wurston et al, 2009). McDonald’s recognises that delivering customer service excellence is a strategic technique to gain competitive advantage (Kotler and Armstrong, 1994). This is supported by McKinsey’s 7 S framework (Waterman et al, 1980) when applied to McDonald’s global expansion strategy to penetrate markets through understanding the local cultures and customs.

McDonald's is the leading global food retailer operating over 33,000 restaurants in 119 countries and structurally, over 80% of the restaurants are franchised (McDonald’s, 2011a) demonstrating the power of the McDonald’s brand across the world. Strategically, McDonald’s enters countries with an existing brand culture to encourage further expansion through franchising following the success of its flagship stores. From an organisational perspective, McDonald’s is providing community benefits such as employment opportunities, which could be interpreted as customer service excellence through employing local people with knowledge of the local culture. This improves the level of customer service received by the customer.

McDonald’s has adapted its style in terms of how they are perceived when entering different cultures. From a moral and ethical perspective, McDonald’s has changed the style in which they presented themselves in Hong Kong to demonstrate its Corporate Social Responsibility credentials and how as a company, they limit the impact of McDonald’s restaurants on the environment (Vignali, 2001). In advertising campaigns in China, McDonald’s introduced an additional character called Aunt McDonald to feature alongside Ronald McDonald, reflecting China’s low individualism/collective index whereby close relationships built on lifetime loyalty with non-immediate family are highly valued (Cateora and Graham, 2002). From an organisational perspective, this can increase sales...
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