That’s My Steak Under Your Thumb! waitress delivered the meal to my friend with her thumb firmly planted on top of his steak. He gasped and said, “Miss, your thumb is on my steak.” She replied, “I know. I didn’t want to drop it on the floor again.” Check please!

He claims the story is true (I have my doubts), but it does illustrate a difference in cultures when it comes to angry service workers and their customers.

A recent study by the University of British Columbia* found that when angry at rude customers, North Americans retaliated against the offensive customer, while Chinese staff retaliated against all customers in general. They reported that Americans blamed the offending customer while Chinese blamed the system, the company, or the customers en masse.

Of course, this makes sense when you consider that America is a strongly individualistic culture and China is a strongly collectivist culture.

This finding may also help explain a problem that McDonalds in the USA is having, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal.** The article claims that 20% of customers’ complaints are related to rude service, that “service is broken,” and that the company is strongly encouraging franchise owners to improve service. Customers rated service nearly as important as competitive pricing.

How does this knowledge help us as global managers?

First, it is a reminder to all of us of the importance of service. Many companies are used to competing on price, but service has become one of the most important issues for global companies.

Second, we need to raise the standard of service in our enterprises and create a company culture of extraordinary service.

Third, our managers and employees need to be trained and equipped to deal effectively with a diversified cultural mix of customers as we move into new markets.

Fourth, our multi-cultural teams need to understand these cultural pressures and know how to deal with them effectively.

Multicultural leadership for managers and multicultural training for employees is an essential part of business today. Don’t over look the need! I’ve been offering this training for years and have seen it work. You can check it out at our Gulf Consulting Group website.

After all, we want to have the customer under our thumbs, not the customer’s steak.

Do you have an interesting story about exceptionally good or bad service? Please share and post your thoughts.

*”Global companies beware: Rude customer treatment depends on culture”; March 25, 2013 in ScienceDaily.

**”McDonald’s Tackles Repair of ‘Broken’ Service”; April 10, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal.

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