Master of Advanced Studies in

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One Size Does Not Fit All - CS EN



Complaints arise when expectations are not met. Expectations of service levels are therefore so are perceptions of service failures. Multinational companies tend to have one standard way of handling complaints. Is this really suitable for customers from diverse markets? This paper will argue that better local knowledge and awareness of cultural values are needed – because culture affects the behaviour and preferences of customers. As markets become more diverse, so do customers.



The example used for this case study is taken directly from the company where I work (which I have renamed Generica to avoid any damage to the company’s reputation). Generica is a manufacturer of plastic raw materials.These plastic raw materials are used for food packaging. The plastic raw material business is dominated by global multinationals such as BASF, Dow, Ineos and Total Petrochemicals. All these companies have factories worldwide and sell to customers in diverse markets. Plastic packaging is a huge business, as basic food products (such as yoghurt) depend on plastic packaging to get products into the supermarkets for consumers. These multinationals recently participated in an Industry Benchmarking survey for customer satisfaction (June 2009). The results of the survey show that customers in Turkey were the least satisfied with service levels in particular with complaints resolution. This is not good news, as Turkey is an important, emerging market for these multinationals.

Yilzin is one of Generica’s customers in Turkey. He purchases plastic raw materials from Generica to make packaging for yoghurt. I will be using his complaint as the case study.



  1. Turkey case study –Yilzin’s yoghurts
  2. Are preferences for complaints resolution universal or culturally dependent?
  3. Individualism & Collectivism
  4. Distributive vs Interactional Justice
  5. Sense check – How valid is this study
  6. Turkey – business culture & the Ethos, Logos, Pathos model
  7. The Art of the Apology
  8. Criticism – a final synthesis of strengths & weaknesses of these studies
  9. Recommendations – practical application
  10. References culturally rooted,


Trouble in Turkey – Customer Complaint

"Mr Yilzin come quickly, we have a problem!" Mr Yilzin was surprised to receive a phone call from  the production manager of his factory. It was  11 o’clock in the evening, and he had just finished brushing his teeth "Calm down, Mehmet Bey, tell me slowly what is wrong". The production manager explained to Mr Yilzin that they will not be able to deliver the 30,000 plastic cups of yoghurt to the supermarkets tomorrow as planned. "This is terrible! Is there something wrong with the yoghurt?! "asked Mr Yilzin completely alarmed. "No, no, no, Mr Yilzin, the yoghurt is fine, but the packaging materials are creating a problem!" said Mehmet. "The cups are not hard enough, and every single cup we have produced in the last hour is collapsing after filling. We can’t stack them; we can’t even move them off the production line! I’ve had to stop production. We have 10,000 kilos of yoghurt in bad packaging, which is creating a huge mess on the factory floor. We have to contact our plastics supplier immediately. Something has changed in the quality of what they normally supply us!"

Mr Yilzin drove to his factory immediately to assess the situation for himself. He contacted Generica’s global helpdesk. A young American customer service rep informed him that his plastic raw materials came from Generica’s factory in the Netherlands. She cheerfully informed him that he would be financially compensated if his complaint was justified. She transferred his call. A young Dutch lady answered the telephone, "Hoi, goedemorgen, my name is Albertina Van der Heijden, how can I help you?" She listened to his complaint and simply asked, "OK, would you like to fill out a complaints form?”

He was shocked by the casual responses of both people he had dealt with so far. At this stage, he was becoming furious. "Listen, Miss Van der Heijden, I need replacement material immediately. My factory is at a standstill. I need to speak to your manager." She was shocked and offended. "Mr Yilzin, it is no use speaking to the manager. I am the person in charge of your complaint." She took a deep breath and calmed herself down. "Please understand, replacement materials can only be delivered to you if an official complaint is logged in the system. Without this, it is not possible. I need your help to get these complaints form filled in. Only then can we can investigate the problem and compensate you accordingly. I will not and can not arrange delivery of replacement materials without this "she replied with confidence and authority.

Five coffees and three cigarettes later Mr Yilzin had logged his complaint using the official complaints form. It struck him how the complaints form was oriented towards « user related » problems and the complicated scales of compensation claimed.Only at the end of the form, did he find a small space to detail his observations about the quality of the material he was supplied. In summary, his impression was that the complaints form was designed to deal with aspects of liability and financial compensation, not quality issues.

In the end, Mr Yilzin was financially compensated for the loss of production, new material was delivered. What went wrong? The conclusion of the investigation was that it was a combination of both supplier and consumer miscommunication that caused the production issue.


Generica's post-complaint report

The plastic raw materials which he had been buying from Generica were not suitable for the larger pack size he was now producing.

1. Technical reasons: the larger packaging could not cool in time before it was filled with yoghurt. Generica, as his supplier is partly responsible.

2. Root Cause: the order specification form was poorly translated. The product specs stated in the local language that « greater volume » could be produced if desired– meaning more parts per/hour if he chose to run his machines at a higher speed. (Not larger parts).

3. User issue: Yilzin continued to order the same specs as he understood « greater volume » to mean larger cups were possible (not faster production of the smaller size yoghurt cups he was previously producing). We have no idea why he wants to make such a large pack size outside of standard specs. He should have checked with our technical department when he changed parameters of his production.

4. Compensation: €40,000 Eur to be paid for lost production. Case closed.

Well not quite...... At least not for the customer.


Yilzin's post-complaint report : Complaints resolution - One Size Fits All?

Is this simply a linguistic issue? No, the first issue is local market knowledge.Mr Yilzin wanted to make a larger pack size, as Turkish consumers use yoghurt to make soup (not just desserts). Yoghurt soup is a very popular comfort dish in Turkey. It is known as Yayla Corbasi. (the turkish name of this soup)1. Turkish consumers find the traditional european pack size somewhat inconvenient for their local habits.

Although the problem was identified and "resolved" from an objective point of view, Mr Yilzin was not satisfied with how Generica resolved his problem. He was still unhappy despite the generous financial compensation he received. Why? From Mr Yilzin’s perspective, the "communication "problem was not about getting the "linguistics" right, but the "relational" aspects right. Do cultural preferences exist for complaints resolution?

There are two schools of thinking with regard to complaints resolution.

1. Perceptions of fairness are universal

2. Perceptions of fairness are culturally dependent

To explore if there is evidence to support the latter variant, I have taken the following reference:

The Impact of Culture on Consumers' Perceptions of Services Recovery Efforts Anna S. Mattila & Paul G. Patterson 2004


Money isn’t everything

According to Mattila and Patterson 2004, in their analysis of culture and complaints resolution, financial compensation has a more positive effect on American rather than Non-Western consumers. American consumers are also more likely to accept causal explanations for the service failure. It reassures them that the problem is unlikely to happen again and re-establishes trust.

Non-Western consumers are less interested in causal explanations, their priority is a speedy resolution of the problem and secondly a genuine apology from a manager (rather than a front line customer service rep). In summary, what Mattila and Patterson are arguing is that financial compensation may alleviate some of the pain of inconvenience, but it is not enough. Financial compensation tends to happen at the tail end of an investigation process – this means it is incompatible with non-western consumer preferences for a speedy resolution.

Causal explanations are less relevant and less reassuring to non-western consumers. Non-Western consumers are less confident that causal explanations protect them from future problems. Their ultimate guarantee that problems will not re-occur is the relationship. The non-western consumer’s peace of mind comes from a good relationship.


The Methodology of Mattila & Patterson's study

Their study examined variations in customer expectations in three countries, the United States, Thailand and Malaysia.

Stage 1:

Self-definition In the first stage of their analysis, they examined the variations of "self-definition" in these three groups. Looking at results, survey participants from the United States were less likely to describe themselves as "inter-dependent" in their self-definition. Participants from the US were more likely to react positively to statements such as " I enjoy being unique and being different from those around me".

Survey participants from Thailand and Malaysia were more likely to refer to themselves as "inter-dependent" in their self-definition. There was a higher frequency of positive identification to statements such as "my happiness depends on the happiness of those around me."


Individualistic vs Collectivist Cultures:

In brief, these are the types of questions which helped Mattila and Patterson to gain an insight into whether the cultures could be described as individualistic or collectivistic. Although, what is puzzling, in the survey by Mattila and Patterson, is the result of participants from Thailand which display rate themselves as both independent and interdependent. My only criticism would be how this is something that remains unexplained in their text, but perhaps indicate that a "dual identification" is possible. Nevertheless, the results appear to demonstrate strong biases in the group, particularly those from Malaysia and the United States. (which would support the theory that self-perception is not universal, but culturally rooted).

From the results of their survey, one can broadly conclude that indeed, Eastern-centric customers display a strong propensity for Collectivist self-perception versus Western-centric customers. You may argue that this is nothing "new". It is an "age old" definition already proved by numerous surveys, notably the "classic" models of national cultures pioneered by Hofstede in the 60's and 70's.


Is this still relevant?

My initial reaction was to prove that the results obtained by Hofstede are now "dated" and no longer pertinent. Nations are becoming more diverse and less homogenous in the 21st century. Surely this is kind of grouping of people into individualistic or collectivistic is no longer relevant? I was surprised to see that the results of this survey conducted in 2004 appear to still show the same sort of cultural patterns. That is why I believe it is important to point out that how recent this survey is. Although it is not extensive, and very specifically focused on service perception, there appears to be numerous other recent studies which would support the findings that individualism and collectivism are alive & well. (Liu, Furrer and Sudharshan (2001), Brockner, Chen,  and Skarlicki (2000). Prasongsukarn & Patterson (2003).Reimann and Lunemann (2008). One can only conclude, in the face of all this evidence, that individualism and collectivism still an important defining parameter in the study of intercultural communication. Probably the best conclusion to make is that cultural values remain relatively stable although practices might have changed.


Stage 2: Methods of complaints resolution

These can be grouped into three categories.

  1. Distributive – financial compensation, refund, replacement product
  2. Interactive - communication, how customers are treated
  3. Combination of both*


Perceptions of Fairness: cultural biases


Why are Independent/ Individualistic cultures such as the United States, The Netherlands, for example, more inclined to favour "distributive“ of  distributive justice? According to the study they are culturally programmed to perceive financial compensation as "getting what I deserve“- in other words, only the Individual is perceived as being inconvenienced (not a wider group). The individual is of distributive justice. Individualist cultures are therefore,  more satisfied with financial compensation.  Table  4  shows  that  the Americans  clearly  lead  the  pack  when  it  comes  to satisfaction with distributive justice with a mean point average of 4.4 and overwhelmingly dissatisfied when no financial compensation is received (per their mean point average of 2.23 ) They are also more likely to accept causal explanations. Individualistic cultures have a more entrenched belief in the ability of an individual to fix a problem and take steps to avoid it happening again.



Collectivistic cultures see not only individual that is being inconvenienced, but that a wider range of indirect groups are inconvenienced. According to Attila and Patterson, people who see themselves as highly connected to others place greater importance on the social exchange, rather than the financial exchange. Corroborating evidence, from the linguistics field would confirm this. Spencer-Oatey explains how apologies in Eastern cultures differentiate from Western cultures. There is a tendency to apologise for a wider group of people not just for oneself (which I will be exploring in the section about Apology in this paper). Collectivist cultures tend to have a more entrenched belief that problems are solved by groups, and that steps to avoid it happening again should be carried out as a group, not individuals.



My criticism of Mattila and Patterson’s text is not so much the methodology of their study ( which is sound) nor the results of their study (correlations are clearly evident from Stage 1 and Stage 2 of their study) but the possible consequences of this study. To put it more cynically it could influence a misguided management executive to believe payouts are less relevant for non western customers. No, this is not the case. (as per the sense check below). The fact is everyone is generally happier after receiving a payout - Eastern Cultures included.


Sense check :

To analyse their theory for validity I re-calculated the scores to see what would happen in a theoretically “ideal” complaint resolution experience, that is where a combination of both distributive and interactive justice is used. What matters is not the raw scores but the proportional value represented by these drivers of satisfaction. This is what I found - that when both factors are present in an “ideal” situation, the percentage of what drives satisfaction still shows that compensation still rates very highly. All cultures receive over 50% of their satisfaction from the compensation package. Their position should be rephrased to say more clearly that Eastern customer complaint  resolution preferences is more equally weighted towards both drivers of satisfaction, but that Western customers have an exaggerated bias for compensation.


Turkey: Managerial Practices ( by Özen Sukru & Berkman Ümit)

Mattila and Patterson’s study does not include respondents from Turkey. However, in terms of values orientation, one could say that there are some important parallels to Asian cultures, in the sense, there is significant emphasis on hierarchy, group cooperation and harmony (in other words, it is not an individualistic culture, but a collectivist culture). This is supported by a study from Sükrü Özen and Ümit Berkman, who wrote about managerial practices in Turkey which they described as having a strong bias for collective decision-making mechanisms.


Japan & Turkey: An unlikely pair?

Another fascinating aspect of their study (which was new to me) is how the Turkish business sector displays enormous  sympathy and admiration for Japanese managerial practices. The authors explained how this is related to how deeply affected the Turkish culture is by “Kemalism”. “Kemalism” refers to the cult of Mustafa Ataturk Kemal, who you may know as the leader who reformed and modernised Turkey. He is admired and revered by all Turks. The principles espoused by Kemal are profoundly ingrained in the national psyche. Kemal promoted ideas for national development, reform, cultural and national pride. Their study entitled Cross-national Reconstruction of Managerial Practices mentions how the Turkish business sector has been incredibly influenced by the TQM (Total Quality Management) model adopted by the Japanese in the post-war period (high efficiency and zero error targets). The success attained by the Japanese manufacturing sector (which helped to gain position and turn round their economies during this period) has inspired the Turkish in their desire to become a manufacturing hub for global products.


An obscure theory? Is this true? - Other references examined

It is interesting that the Turkish have a more positive identification with Japan than the United States. I was so intrigued by this incongruous pairing of Japan and Turkey by Özen & Berkman; it motivated me to look for other references (to make sure it was not an obscure “one off”). Surprisingly, there are several other references by Turkish authors who appear to be studying closely how Japanese business practices could work for them. For example, this is also a theme explored in a publication by Cemil Ulukan, a Professor of Management at Anadolu University called “Mapping Out National Cultural Characteristics of Japan and Turkey” (2001). His study argued that Turkey has modernised, that it was becoming less collectivistic, but he basically draws strong parallels between Turkey and Japan. He used the famous Hofstede model, (which he also criticised as being dated), but like myself, Ulukan has not been able to propose an alternative (to the individualistic/ collectivistic, power distance, uncertainty avoidance) model known by all intercultural management students.


Ethos, Logos, Pathos

Going back to Özen and Berkman, they did find another model. It is based on Aristotle’s Ethos, Logos, and Pathos model. In brief:

  • Pathos appeals to emotions of individuals (e.g. fear, greed, and so on) and to an audience’s self- interest.
  • Logos appeals to the methodical calculation of means and ends. It is a pragmatic approach for justification
  • Ethos appeals to moral or ethical sensibilities by appealing to socially accepted norms and mores. Rather than individual concerns and interests, ethos appeals focus on social and collective interests that produce moral legitimacy.


According to Özen and Berkman all these principles are very coherent with Turkish character. In their study, they interviewed Turkish corporate executives and asked them to identify which strategies were used as justifications for their decisions. (the questions were about TQM and achieving customer satisfaction ) In their results, they found the Ethos justification appears in all responses, alone or together with other strategies: out of a total of 38 hits,


  • Ethos strategy receives 21 hits (55%)
  • Logos strategy 6 hits (16%).
  • Pathos strategy 11 hits (29%)

This would suggest that collective harmony (Ethos) and individual empathy (Pathos) are considered higher in priority versus cost (Logos). One of the interviewees mentions that “the motto ‘müteri velinimetimizdir’ (customers are always right). This motto has been for centuries written on the wall of local grocery stores; this has become a part of our culture”.



In terms of practical application, one should consider that Turkish customers may appreciate upfront some simple statements like “we are committed to doing the right thing” as Turkish customers see the world in very moral terms (Ethos). Of course religion plays a role, but I will not be exploring religion here, only the results of their survey. My next recommendation would be to always address the customer in the wider context of who he/she is – “we will look after this for you and your family” “I apologise for the inconvenience to you and your associates”.(Collective relevance). Pathos is relevant for making an individual connection. This is important as many interactions in the business world are one to one (Individual relevance). Of course the “Logos” (financial) aspect is present, but remarkably less pronounced compared to the other two priorities.

My only disappointment with Özen and Berkman’s study is that it only covers Turkish managers. Therefore, we cannot rule out the fact that perhaps individualistic cultures could rate themselves similarly on ethos, logos, pathos. Many would argue that sample data is only useful if it can be compared with another sample. It is not a useful study for comparative purposes. Nevertheless, it is a useful study Turkish businesses.


The roots of Turkish business culture - Akhism

Billur and Gurdal Ulger have written about how Turkish business practices are influenced by its roots in Akhism. Akhism is the Ottoman version of trade guilds where people of the same industry share technical expertise and knowledge. Akhis formed to make it easier for them to stand up for their interests, for example in politics or business. They may be watched over other people who did the same job to make sure that they didn't cheat any customers. Being a member of a guild was a privilege, which had to be gained. Business attitudes in modern day Turkey are still influenced by ancient Akhi traditions.


Old traditions – business has changed, but values are the same

Values and guiding principles of Akhism are teamwork, empathy, being trustworthy, being generous and avoiding prejudice in judgement, and finally the importance of friendship and protection of those you are associated with. Going back to the case study, Yilzin’s interaction with Generica very few of these elements were present in the communication experience. Only the financial compensation could be described as generous, all other elements were absent.

Of course, business practices have modernised since the age of Akhism. Turkish businesses have moved a long way from divans producing artisanal products to corporate executives running large-scale manufacturing operations. The reason I have presented this brief background to Turkish business is to illustrate that perceptions of what are “good” and “bad” ways to do business tend to remain quite stable in cultures. Practices may change but values tend to remain constant. The old values of Akhism correlate to the high Ethos and Logos ratings given by Turkish corporate executives today. (Özen & Berkman)


The Art of the Apology

An exploration of complaint resolution would not be complete without an overview of the key element in the communication piece. That is the art of the apology. Are there really cultural variations in how people apologise? It stands to reason that if values differ, then ways of communication would differ as well. Studies in this area are predominantly from the Linguistics field.

Spencer Oatey One of the most interesting texts in this field is by Helen Spencer-Oatey in her book “Culturally Speaking” published in 2008. She explains how collectivist cultures tend to apologise for a wider range of people.

  1. Individualist – apologises only for self
  2. Collectivist – apologises for self, and all associates implicated

There is an example of a Japanese student in Australia who purchases a desk lamp that he discovers has a technical fault. He brings it back to the shop, and the shop assistant simply asks him if he prefers a refund or an exchange. He is shocked that she makes no apology on behalf of the company. On the other hand, the shop assistant sees no reason why she has to apologise for the shop or the manufacturer. To her this is simply a) where she works, and b) the faulty desk lamp is the manufacturer’s responsibility, not hers. In another example, he goes to the house of the person who ran into the back of his car. She was not home, but the parents were there. They simply said they would leave her a message. He is in shock because if the same thing happened in Japan, the parents would apologise profusely on behalf of their daughter. The parents of the Australian girl see things differently – that she is an adult and can handle this by herself without their help.

Karen Grainger and Sandra Harris are academics in the field politeness research. In their article published in Language, Behaviour, Culture (February 2007), they explain the different types of apology mechanisms.

  • Implicit: Politeness only, (no intention) - alleviates socially awkward situation (“Face saving”) for both hearer and speaker
  • Explicit: Politeness and Intentional (corrective steps are described) Face saving only for the “hearer”
  • Apologies with self-justification: defined as a “tentative apology”, no intentional elements. Face saving is only for the “speaker”.

These are used according to the degree of social damage perceived by the apologise. The apology might begin in one category and switch to another if the apologise finds the perception of seriousness does not match the addressee’s perception of seriousness. Their study is about the linguistics of communication, rather than the cultural aspects of communication. It does carry some business value – as the preferable one for service complaints is the one involving self-correction (explicit). Some basic awareness of these three tiers of apology mechanisms is helpful for the communication piece in complaint resolution.


Prasongsukarn & Patterson – Hierarchy & Rank

In terms of the cultural aspect of the communication interaction, a study conducted by Kriegsin Prasongsukarn in 2005 is a useful complementary supplement to the study performed by Mattila and Patterson. Not surprisingly, the results show that customers with  higher power distance orientation are more sensitive to the status of the employee delivering an apology than their counterparts with a lower power distance orientation. Higher power distance oriented customers felt a greater sense of distributive justice when the apology was provided by an employee with higher status, while lower power distance oriented customers report no difference in feelings of distributive justice whether an apology was provided by employee.




If we go back to the Yilzin case, he obviously felt he was not given access to the "right "person. The customer complaining was high ranking owner/manager. He was under the impression that Albertina Van Der Heijden did not match his own status. In reality, she is the Lab Manager. Her mistake was not to identify her position and responsibility in the organisation from the beginning of the interaction.



Complaints are an important opportunity for suppliers to understand where they can improve their service levels and ultimately recover their reputation in the eyes of the customer.

Everybody likes to be treated correctly when they have a complaint, but what is perceived as correct, and the sense of satisfaction a customer derives from the complaint resolution is like any other social interaction. It is influenced by culture.The results of these various studies confirm that there are different preferences in complaint resolution. A cynic would suggest that these results are simply manipulated by the researchers to obtain the results they are looking for. That could be true, but when a supplier has paid out a customer, taken remedial action (to avoid reoccurence), and still has an unhappy customer on their hands - what other possible factor could be the cause of dissatisfaction? It would have to be the interaction that is the cause of dissatisfaction. Even if one refuses to accept that culture plays a role, the quality of interaction is generally accepted as the most frustrating part of the whole complaint experience.

Interactions between people with different values will always be vulnerable to misunderstanding – be it gender, age, profession, political or religious leanings. Culture does not necessarily always have to be “ethnic”. However, there is a fascination with national culture in the business world, simply because an increasing number of business transactions are taking place with partners from different countries.



My criticism Mattila and Patterson study is that it lacks detail about the interactional aspects of what Eastern/Collectivist cultures consider good interactional communication. Essentially, the weak point of this study is that it does not actually define what is considered missing in the interactional experiences. It simply has a hypothesis but does not back it up with much more than saying that the customers are collectivist. The practical application of their study is left up to the reader to define. This can lead to sort of false conclusions I defined previously, from non-practitioners lacking communication experience or knowledge (that is about the right things to say and to ask). One could go as far as saying that it irresponsible to leave out such a key point. Simply being aware of differences is not enough.

In their defence, one the co-authors of the study, Paul G. Patterson appears to have recognised this problem by publishing a follow-up study with Kriegsin Prasongsukarn.This looks at the issue of hierarchy and rank. Although their insights on power distance and service metrics are useful, I would still argue that it is still inadequate in terms of practical recommendations, as it only provides one service variable that can be improved in customer satisfaction. Another weakness is that yet again, there appears to be an over-reliance of the Hofstede model.

Ozen and Berkman’s study provides some relief from the over imposing Hofstede model, by offering an alternative model based on Ethos, Logos and Pathos.The problem with this study is that there are no comparative values examined. Despite its limitations it is useful as evidence of collective values being present in their behaviour and strategy of Turkish corporate executives. The work of Ulger and Ulger is meaningful in terms of providing some historical context and some evidence that collective values did not come from “nowhere” but has been present in Turkish business contexts and provides a link from the past to the present.

Therefore, what we have here is a collection of theoretical frameworks for examining culture and complaints resolution. To make these meaningful, a series of recommendations follow below.



Practical Application of these results Recommendations for suppliers:

  1. Customers from Individualistic cultures - (such as the US and Netherlands) need upfront reassurance that refunds and other kinds of financial compensation can be quickly and easily implemented when they have a complaint. Due to high uncertainty avoidance, the mechanism should be clearly and visibly communicated from the start of business relations. Descriptions of process are helpful but don’t over-engineer them. Scales of compensation should not require specialised mathematical tools to understand. Interaction should be sympathetic, simple explicit apologies are adequate.
  2. Customers from collectivist cultures (such as Turkey, Asia), in addition to compensation, the communication process may need to be more involved. If we go back to the case study, Yilzin's point of view is that "Loyalty goes beyond price, awards, and rewards.These are all carrots. Once a customer eats the carrot, he’s on to another food source“.
  3. As collectivist cultures tend to be more “High Context” it is important to ask more questions, as the customer is less likely to describe their dissatisfaction as thoroughly as customer from a low context culture. The details of his/her dissatisfaction will lie beneath the surface, as a customer from will assume the supplier understands the context unless he/she is asked. The questions need to be open-ended questions, to obtain more descriptive elements from the customer's perspective. (rather than yes/no questions) Suppliers need to make sure employees responsible are prepared for this (in terms of time & energy – ie: they should not be distracted with other competing tasks during a complaint interaction).
    If we go back to the Yilzin case study, one of his gripes was that there was only a small space on the complaints form to describe what the customer thought was best for resolving a complaint. He spent the majority of his time answering a series of yes/no questions which presumed user related fault from the outset. The attitude of Generica was that they are the best at determining a complaint resolution. Although the technical aspect was fixed, the service aspect remained unresolved in Yilzin's opinion.
  4. Causal explanations can be useful for purposes of context, but be careful not to fall into the trap of forgetting to round it off with an explicit apology (or it will be perceived as a tentative apology). Going back to the case study, Albertina Van der Heijden’s complaint report explains what went wrong (apology with self justification= tentative apology) She would have been a lot more popular with Yilzin if she rounded off her complaint with an explicit apology. In order words, corrective steps should be acknowledged. For example, that Generica will be fixing the faulty translation and will re- check all other product documentation in Turkish to avoid this happening again. Instead, her complaint report just detailed the size of compensation he was entitled to.
  5. Your apology should be formulated to acknowledge direct and indirect inconvenience caused (to your customer but also indirectly to his wider group). “I apologise for the inconvenience to you and your associates”. (Collective relevance)
  6. This should come from a senior member of staff matching the rank of the customer complaining. It should ideally be someone the customer knows beforehand. In describing the remedial actions that will be taken by your company, the customer may find it reassuring to know from the person describing the service recovery effort that it is not only the individual he/or she is talking to that cares about the problem but a collective group of functions within the company who are handling the entire process. (due to lower confidence in the problem-solving ability of an individual, and higher confidence in group efforts).
  7. For buyers: This outline of cultural differences can help you reflect on your own preferences for service expectations and ways of building trust with your supplier. It can help you to re- examine them critically and check whether they are in line with the characteristics of the supplier.
  8. For researchers: During the research for this paper it became evident that there are many “generalist” publications about intercultural business. For example books about east versus west (where Asian countries as different as Indonesia and Vietnam are thrown into the same category) These are generally unsatisfactory. There are of course, specific books on China and Japan but rarely any specifically on Turkey (which tends to get only one or two pages of coverage in most intercultural business books) Many European businesses see Turkey as their next target for customer growth, so it may an interesting research opportunity that would be worthwhile to develop further.






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(Links to some background on Turkey)