We live in a world of constant reviews. The online landscape has changed the way we seek out services, products and experiences by giving us almost unlimited access to the “customer review”. For us as consumers this can be a great advantage. Who doesn’t check Tripadvisor or booking.com before choosing s a hotel? We will frequently base our choices on other people's opinions and comments. But great though this is for us when in the consumer role, when we’re the service provider the same frustration that hoteliers must feel when unfairly reviewed will get to us too.
In this new world of consumer led choosing, the adman has become less important than the armchair critic with a mobile device. There is a brilliant episode of the underrated satirical cartoon South Park where everyone is addicted to the restaurant review site Yelp, culminating in all the restauranteurs closing their businesses down due to the stress, devastating all the reviewers who no longer had anywhere to go for supper! In real life, Yelp then sued the makers of South Park for $10million for loss of reputation and restaurants across the country banned Yelpers from dining in their establishments!
In the relocation industry customer feedback is just as important as it is in any service industry and EuRA members have the process built into their service delivery systems. Our members holding the EuRA Global Quality Seal are required to seek two levels of feedback, one from the actual assignee and one from the client company. So two levels of the interaction the supplier has with the customer mean that all bases are covered! The comments from the assignee as to the quality of the service they received during the customer facing time are added to the client company’s view of the overall process to produce a comprehensive report that is used in several ways. When it comes to contact renewal and the relocation piece being put out to RFP (tender), these scores will form a large part of retaining and winning business. They are also used to highlight how issues were resolved and in the case of escalations, what processes were in place to promote customer satisfaction.
Where the Destination Service Provider (DSP) is working in the third party supply chain, the client company review becomes the one they must seek from the Relocation Management Company (RMC). If you’re new to relocation, this third party supply model is very common in many countries. In this case the actual client company (let’s call them Great Pharmaceuticals or GP) with a large globally mobile workforce, decide they want a single point of contact for managing these people. They put the contract out to RFP to the large RMC’s (of which there are many!) and depending on a complex matrix of factors including price, they choose an RMC to manage all their international and domestic moves. The RMC is not an actual relocation provider, they are mobility managers and use a network of on-the-ground partners to handle all their work. These on-the-ground partners are DSP’s and will work with the employees of GP. So the DSP must seek customer reviews from the GP employee and from the RMC, but not from the global mobility function in GP. That would be done by the RMC, on their performance.
In most cases RMC’s lead the feedback process themselves, using their own customer satisfaction systems to contact and assess the feedback from the assignee. It’s at this point that the DSP comes up against the Tripadvisor type of uncontrollable review.
There are many factors which will impact on how people will review a service from a DSP, but I’d like to concentrate on just one, culture. As I’ve highlighted in other blogs, when we move to a new culture we are heavily impacted by the dimensions and characteristics that culture inhabits. So in the context of a review, let’s look at a move from Japan to the USA. Japan is a culture which scores very highly on the dimension of high and low context. A high context culture is one where relationships build slowly, based on trust. Verbal messages are indirect and disagreements are taken as highly personal. The USA on the other hand is a low context culture where non verbal cues are not that important but what is said, is very. Disagreements are accepted and are not seen as personal but as part of the journey of getting to know people. So the Japanese family seeing their first house on the GP move to the HQ in Denver, will not tell the relo professional if they dislike it. In fact they will match the relocation consultants enthusiasm for the wonderful location, the backyard pool and the spacious kitchen, while the couple are thinking the house is too far from the school, they would prefer a hot tub to a pool and the kitchen is not suitable for the type of foods they like to prepare. This will remain personal and won’t be disclosed until the review, when they will score the service lower as a result of their seeing many unsuitable properties. To tell the consultant they don’t like the house would cause him or her to lose face, and this is seen as an incredibly insulting thing to do for a Japanese person. To an American, it’s just part of getting the client what they want, and is not seen as in any way critical. If anything it’s seen as helpful to get the very best outcome.
It is very common for DSP’s to get negative reviews when as far as they were concerned, everything went swimmingly! So understanding the cultural implications of service delivery really helps to get high customer satisfaction ratings. Many DSP’s working with international assignees will have consultants on their books from many cultures just so they can match the cultural expectations of the family. This is of course not just to get good reviews, it’s a central part of the immense skills of relocation providers. Where they don’t have a cultural match for a client, training becomes immensely important and here at EuRA, we will be providing free to access online intercultural training as part of our Managing International Mobility certification during 2019.
Customer reviews are huge benchmarking of quality, but it’s important to remember that they can’t be the absolute measure. Here at EuRA after our conference, we send out a comprehensive event evaluation. It’s always surprising to see that we get exactly opposing views for the same thing! This year in Dubrovnik we received the following comments on our Sundown Welcome Reception;
“Beautiful venue and great food, well staffed”
“I didn’t like the food and the service was slow”
Sometimes you just have to say “What can you do”!?