Are Indians too uptight in business interactions?
Each region of the world has a different culture or blend of cultures. India is no exception. India has a vast variety of people, religions, cultures, subcultures, and personalities. But, what makes India different is that there are a lot of people who are uptight or what we might call socially ungraceful. If you are conducting a business, you need to be very smooth, otherwise others will feel less enticed to have any type of dealings with you at all. In short — being uptight will lose you a lot of business.
Examples of ungraceful behavior
I noticed that at restaurants in India, they warn me with a sense of terror if the dish I am ordering is DRY and has no sauce. It is like they think the world will come to an end because the dish is dry. Americans love dry food while Indians would rather perish than eat one bite of something dry. The problem is NOT the culture difference, but how the situation is handled. The problem for me is that the waiters are systematically extremely uptight. Either I am ignored, or I am “uptightly” escorted to a table of THEIR choice. Then, I am “uptightly” warned that there is a threat of having dry food. Last, but not least, I am intruded upon by people who insist on pouring my water from MY water bottle which is sitting next to me on the table — without my consent which is very socially ungraceful behavior. Of course, you are in the BPO, KPO, Call Center, or Programming outsource business, and not in the restaurant business, but the cultural issues are identical across these verticals.
So, what is the solution?
The polished way to handle the rough interactions in the last paragraph are as follows. A calm, friendly and welcoming welcome are step one in any restaurant meal. A restaurant that has no host is ignoring their clients which is bad manners even in the simplest of restaurants. It is nice to offer your patrons a choice of tables. “Would you like a table in the center or a window seat?”. When I order the Jammu-Kabob combination plate, rather than warning me about the dryness, the waiter could calmly say, “Would you like this dish dry, or would you prefer some masala sauce on the side?”. Cultural knowledge is important for the water pouring point I made earlier . India is a society with a rigid class system where it is socially unacceptable for the upper classes to pour their own water or even tie their own shoes. But, Americans of all classes are used to doing things for themselves, and I prefer to pour my own water for cultural reasons. If someone else wants to pour my water (which is my property which you should touch), then you could at least have the courtesy to ask,”May I pour some more water for you?”
Uptightness in BPO companies
My restaurant example is fun and interesting, but BPO outfits often employ a lot of staff who appear very rigid on the phone. Either companies need to hire staff members who are more suitable for interacting with overseas clients, or they need to be trained. When I talk with people at Indian call centers, there is nothing specific that comes to my mind about what they are saying right or saying wrong. It is a general atmosphere of rigidity. Part of the problem could be that they have a menacing manager looking over their shoulder who makes them feel fearful. Part of the problem might be that they have to address certain points on a check list, and say certain words verbatum, or else they might get in trouble. Yes — there needs to be structure in a call center job, but nobody in America wants to talk to someone uptight on the phone.
Solutions for uptight BPO workers…
The solution to uptight workers in BPO companies is to have management that understands what the overseas clients like to hear and how they like to be treated. If the manager only knows what is on a check list of things that need to be done, he will not understand the psychology of the client. This means more training not only for call center workers, but for managers as well — and that is expensive. The result is that you could win over some really large contracts if you do a good job training everyone. Large corporations can assign 1000 seats worth of work to a call center with the blink of an eye, but not if the call center does shoddy work. The solution is to work on soft skills. Sure, technical support workers need to be experts at their product knowledge, but understanding how to be graceful and nice in interactions is even MORE important when talking to Americans. Americans will not want to talk to you no matter how helpful you are if you have the wrong vibe! Understand our culture, and relax a bit!
(1) Each country has a different culture. What makes India different is the # of uptight or “socially ungraceful” people.
(2) Stay sharp in business, but, remain smooth in your interactions!
(3) If you’re uptight in business, your customers will become uptight too — if you still have any…
(4) Menacing Indian managers transmit tension; this makes workers fearful & rigid
(5) Which is more effective? Going down a checklist or smoothly having an interchange with a client?
(6) Is the manager’s checklist higher on the priority list than gracefully interacting with the client?
(7) The secret to BPO success is to understand how overseas clients like to be treated. Learn our culture & relax a bit.
(8) Work on your soft skills. Americans appreciate grace & manners as much as technical skills
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