No need to be polite

October 9, 2006

Bank of China customer service feedback systemThe Chinese are not a verbally polite people. You’ll effectively never hear them say “Please” or “Thank You”. In fact, a typical Chinese response from a waiter or other service personnel to a customer’s “Thank You” is translated as “There is no need to be polite.”

Some Chinese even refer to Americans as “The Thank You People,” because of our constant use of the phrase. Maya, a friend in Beijing, suggested that this is also because Americans generally don’t know any other words in Chinese. It is, however, hard to deny the American “Have a nice day” culture.

Customer service in China outside of large western style hotels and restaurants is generally competent, but certainly not effusive. It seems, however, that at least one organization in China has decided to focus on customer service, taking to heart the need for visible measurement and constant feedback. I was changing money in the Bank of China in Xian, and there was a small electronic box on the counter in front of every teller. It showed the tellers current rating from 1 to 5 stars and asked you to rate your transaction with a push of a button.

I got excellent service and rated my teller accordingly, but beyond that, I was delighted to feel like I had any easy instant feedback channel.

On the other hand, I am not sure how my employees would have reacted if I had suggested putting boxes like these on their desks.

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