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Customer Service: Skills for Success, 4th Edition

Chapter 8 Customer Service in a Diverse World
Chapter 8 focuses on a variety of diversity issues in the customer service environment and provides strategies for dealing with them. As the world becomes more globally connected and people move around more easily, customer service providers are going to need a broader range of knowledge related to differences and similarities possessed by a variety of people and groups. The better a service provider understands the demographic shifts and other factors influencing today’s society, the more adequately prepared he or she will be in handling various situations and people. Throughout the chapter, students are asked to analyze their current skill levels and to think of new ways to implement the strategies outlined in the text. The features, interactive exercises and ancillary materials provided with Customer Service: Skills for Success, 4e are designed to facilitate better student comprehension and learning.


The textbook outlines the chapter with the following headings to focus and direct major lecture topics.

  • Learning Objectives, p. 192

  • In the Real World – Retail, p. 192

  • Quick Preview, p. 193

  • The Impact of Diversity, p. 194

  • Defining Diversity, p. 194

  • Customer Awareness, 195

  • The Impact of Cultural Values, p. 196

--Modesty, p. 197

Impact on Service, p. 197

--Expectations of Privacy, p.197

Impact on Service, p. 197

--Forms of Address, p. 198

Impact on Service, p. 198

--Respect for Elders, p. 198

Impact on Service, p. 198

--Importance of Relationships, p. 199

Impact on Service, p. 199

--Gender Roles, p. 199

Impact on Service, p. 200

--Attitude Toward Conflict, p. 200

Impact on Service, p. 200

--The Concept of Time, p. 200

Impact on Service, p. 201

--Ownership of Property, p. 201

Impact on Service, p. 201

  • Providing Quality Service to Diverse Customer Groups, p. 202

--Customers With Language Differences, p. 202

Let Your Customer Guide the Conversation, p. 202

Be Flexible, p. 203

Listen Patiently, p. 203

Speak Clearly and Slowly, p. 203

Use Open-End Questions, p. 203

Pause Frequently, p. 203

Use Standard English, p. 203

Use Globally Understood References, p. 204

Be Conscious of Nonverbal Cues, p. 204

Paraphrase the Customer’s Message, p. 204

Try Writing Your Message, p. 204

Try Another Language, p. 204

Avoid Humor and Sarcasm, p. 205

Look for Positive Options, p. 205

Use Questions Carefully, p. 205

Use a Step-by-Step Approach, p. 205

Keep Your Message Brief, p. 205

Check Frequently for Understanding, p. 205

Keep Smiling, p. 205

--Customers with Disabilities, p. 205

Customers with Hearing Disabilities, p. 206

Customers with Vision Disabilities, p. 207

Customers with Mobility or Motion Impairments, p. 208

--Elderly Customers

Be Respectful, p. 209

Be Patient, p. 209

Answer Questions, p. 209

Try Not to Sound Patronizing, p. 209

Remain Professional, p. 210

Guard Against Biases, p. 210

--Younger Customers, p. 210

Be Careful with Your Remarks and Jokes, p. 211

Make Sure That Your Language is “Inclusive,” p. 211

Respect Personal Preferences When Addressing People, p. 211

Use General Terms, p. 212

Recognize the Impact of Words, p. 212

Use Care with Nonverbal Cues, p. 212

  • Summary, p. 213

  • Key Terms, p. 213

  • Review Questions, p. 213

  • Search It Out, p. 213

  • Collaborative Learning Activity, p. 214

  • Face to Face, p. 214

  • In the Real World, p. 215

  • Planning to Serve, p. 215

  • Quick Preview Answers, p. 215

  • Ethical Dilemma Summary, p. 216


The objectives will help you and the students discover the concepts and information that should be understood upon completion of the chapter. You may want to access the PowerPoint (PPTs) slides for Chapter 8 when you begin the study of the chapter and discuss each Learning Objective briefly. Each Learning Objective will be discussed separately in the Lecture Notes below, but are shown here in total as an overview of the sections being presented in Chapter 8. Use PPT1 and PPT2: Chapter Objectives in discussing the Chapter Objectives. You may want to flip back to the PPT1 and PPT2 as you discuss each objective in the next sections.

After completing this chapter, the students will be able to:

  1. Recognize that diversity is not a bad thing.

  2. Describe some of the characteristics that make people unique.

  3. Embrace the need to treat customers as individuals.

  4. Determine actions for dealing with various types of people.

  5. Identify a variety of factors that make people diverse and that help to better serve them.

  6. Communicate effectively with a diverse customer population.

KEY TERMS, p. 213

Key terms are posted in the student textbook margins and placed in bold in the copy. They are listed alphabetically here for your quick reference.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, p. 206 Hispanic cultures, p. 198

attitudes, p. 200 inclusive, p. 212

baby boomer, p. 208 individualistic cultures, p. 200

beliefs, p. 195 interpersonal relationship, p. 199

blogs, p 212 Latino cultures, p. 198

Chicano cultures, p. 198 mobility or motion

collective cultures, p. 200 impairments, p.208

concept of time, p. 201 modesty, p. 197

conflict resolution style, p. 200 monochronic, p. 200

cultural diversity, p. 194 ownership of property, p. 201

customers with disabilities, p. 206 Platinum Rule, p. 195

diversity, p. 194 Podcasts, p. 212

expectations of privacy, p. 198 polychronic, p. 200

face, p. 205 respect for elders, p. 198

foreign-born people, p. 202 values, p. 197

form of address, p. 198 vision disabilities, p. 207

gender roles, p. 199 wiki, p. 211

hearing disabilities, p. 206 younger customers, p. 210


General Teaching Suggestions for Chapter 8:

Instructor Note 1:

  • This chapter helps emphasize the importance of understanding diversity and the characteristics that make people unique. The chapter emphasizes dealing effectively with various types of people and treating them as individuals. Communicating effectively with a diverse customer population is also an important concept discussed. Depending on the students’ level of knowledge or expertise, you may want to bring in additional articles, handouts and activities to supplement and reinforce the text content.

  • Additionally, as suggested in the Search It Out activity on page 213 in the chapter, you may want to have students do some Internet research and report findings to the class. This research might be collecting other organizational philosophies and material related to the topic helping with customer service breakdowns and difficult customers as well as service recovery strategies.

Instructor Note 2:

  • Before the students arrive: Write the terms that you will be emphasizing in this chapter on the board. When the students settle in, you may do a quick review of the terms by asking students to provide an impromptu definition. This activity may serve to let you know what information students remember from reading the chapter or from experiences in the business world.

Instructor Note 3:

  • First day of the class: Take attendance and take care of other administrative duties or paperwork. Here are some optional activities to supplement those listed in the chapter. Use these as you wish to supplement and enhance the content of the chapter.

  • General Notes for Selected Activities: Use these as you have time and as students’ interest dictates:

  1. Activity: Set up a panel of people to come in to discuss positive and negative service experiences they have faced because of their diversity. For example, an elderly person, someone with a disability, or several people of different cultural backgrounds.

  2. Activity: Begin the class by dividing learners into equal groups of 3 or 4 people (depending on class size). Give each group a marker and sheet of newsprint (flipchart paper). Ask each group to brainstorm a list of strategies they believe contribute to good customer service and may help with service recovery. Have them explain their list to the rest of the class. Tie in their comments to chapter content.

  3. Activity: You may want to gather additional reference material related to organizations that have had breakdowns and have dealt with difficult customers. Get personal experience input from learners. You may find interesting stories on various company communication issues in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, and your local newspapers.

  4. Activity: Assign an out-of-class activity for learners to gather additional articles or information about chapter-related topics. Have them write a brief (no more than one typed page) summary of the article properly documented.

  5. Activity: Have learners conduct field research and write a brief report before the next meeting. The focus might be on a visit to a local mall to experience service restrictions for people with disabilities (e.g., doorways and aisles may be too small for mobility impaired customers, not enough restroom facilities, inconvenient entrances and elevators, lack of Braille signage, and so on).

  • If you have not secured the Video to be used with Customer Service: Skills for Success, 4th Edition, you may want to order it now so that you can use it for the end-of-chapter video scripts.

  • Chapter 7 Activities from last class meeting: Activities may have been assigned to student groups from last week to turn in this week or at another time you have designated. If you assigned or plan to assign any of the activities noted in Chapter 6 Lesson Notes, you may want to discuss them during this class meeting. You may also want to spend some time reviewing the activities from the Search It Out, Collaborative Learning Activity, Planning to Serve, and the In the Real World sections, which are listed in the end-of-chapter materials. Note: Your students may need additional time to do some of the research activities. If so, assign the reports to be completed by another class meeting of your choosing.


The following are specific instructional strategies related to Chapter 8: Customer Service in a Diverse World.

Instructor Note 4:

  • Consider beginning with another brainstorming activity that generates a list of factors that make people diverse. As students do this, capture their responses on a writing board or flipchart pad to make them visible. Once you have a list, begin your discussion of diverse customer service by briefly exploring the topic of diversity. Stress the need for workers to understand diversity and to focus on similarities and positive factors rather than on negative ones that make people different. This will help students avoid biases and to better serve their customers. The Quote on page 192 may stimulate some discussion: what did Edward de Bono mean by the statement, “The winner is the chef who takes the same ingredients as everyone else and produces the best results”? How does this relate to the study of customer service? (Student answers will vary for all class discussions; you can contribute your interpretations of the quote as well).

Instructor Note 5:

  • Show PPTs 1-2: Chapter Objectives to briefly introduce students to the topics in Chapter 8. As you briefly introduce each objective, ask students for comments about what they think each objective will involve.

  • Move quickly on to the In the Real World on pages 192-193. Review the information about Nordstrom. Review with the students how it started and how they rate customer service in this organization. What awards has it been presented? Review its mission statement and reflect how you think it affects customer service.

  • Ask students if they know anyone who is or has been an employee of Nordstrom or if they shop there; ask them what they think of the Nordstrom philosophy (answers will vary).

  • Quick Preview—Have students respond in (orally or in writing) to the Quick Preview questions. The answers are located in the student text on page 215. A show of hands will give you an understanding of these questions. Tie the information to the objectives and the material in the chapter.

Instructor Note 6:

  • Learning Objective 1: Recognize that diversity is not a bad thing.

  • Learning Objective Note: PPTs 1, 3 should be used with Learning Objective 1, page 194.


  • Students need to understand the concept of diversity since it is an importance trend in the workplace today. Use PPTs 1-3 as you introduce the Learning Objective 1 and the definition of diversity.

Instructor Note 7:

  • Learning Objective 2: Describe some of the characteristics that make people unique.

  • Learning Objective Note: PPTs 3, 4 should be used with Learning Objective 2, pages 194-195.


  • Students should understand the concept behind this objective: everyone is unique; reviewing the characteristics that make this true is necessary if a service provider is to learn that the workplace is now more diverse and that the chances of working with people from many different backgrounds while serving in a customer service position is likely.

  • Stress that diversity is not just a cultural or color issue. Diversity includes a broad range of differences and similarities in any group. Many people only associate the term diversity with the word "cultural," which indicates differences between groups of people from various countries and with differing beliefs. What they fail to recognize is that diversity is not just cultural. Certainly diversity occurs within each cultural group; however, many other characteristics and factors are involved. For example, within a group of Japanese people, you have diverse subgroups such as male, female, children, old people, young people, athletic, non-athletic, heavy, thin, gay/lesbian, heterosexual, Buddhists, Christians, disabled, non-disabled, tall, short, married, unmarried, parents, childless and numerous other variations of characteristics, beliefs and values.

  • Diversity is not simple; it is also not difficult to deal with if you are fair to people and keep an open mind. In fact, when you look at diversity more closely, it provides wonderful opportunities, because people from varying groups bring with them special knowledge and value. This is because, even though people have differences, they share many similarities. These similarities serve as a solid basis for successful interpersonal relationships if you are knowledgeable and take the time to deal with people as unique individuals. Failure to do so can result in stereotyping behavior, such as lumping people together and treating them the same. This latter practice is a recipe for interpersonal disaster.

  • The basic customer service techniques related to communication found in this book can be applied to many situations where customers from various groups are encountered. Coupled with specific strategies for adapting to special customer needs, they provide the tools you need to provide excellent customer service.

  • Some of the factors that make people different are innate—such as height, weight, hair color, gender, skin color, physical and mental condition and sibling birth order—while other characteristics cannot be changed. Regardless, all contribute to our uniqueness and help or inhibit us throughout our lives based on our perceptions and the perceptions of others. Other learned and adapted external elements that are learned or adopted also make us unique; however, they are often used to group people. Such characteristics as religion, values, beliefs, economic level, lifestyle choices, profession, marital status, education and political affiliation are used to assign people to categories. Caution must be used when considering such characteristics, since grouping people can lead to stereotyping and discrimination.

  • The bottom line is that all of these factors impact each customer situation that you experience, as well as the outcome of these encounters. Your awareness of these differences and of your own preferences is crucial in determining the success you will have in each instance.

  • Show PPTs 3-4 to review the definitions of diversity and cultural diversity.

  • Have students complete the Work It Out 8.1 activity on page 195. Have them write their definition of diversity and list some situations they have personally encountered. Use this information as a basis for a general discussion about how diversity impacts the world of customer service.

Instructor Note 8:

  • Learning Objective 3: Embrace the need to treat customers as individuals.

  • Learning Objective Note: PPTs 5, 6 should be used with Learning Objective 3, pages 195.


  • Students will find this an interesting objective since they need to know how to treat others as individuals. Present PPTs 5 and 6 to define customer awareness, values, beliefs and the Platinum Rule.

  • Aren’t all customers alike? Emphatically - NO! No two people are alike, no two generations are alike, and no two cultures are alike. Each customer has needs based on his or her own perceptions and situation.

  • In a highly mobile, technologically-connected world, it is not unusual to encounter a wide variety of people with differing backgrounds, experiences, religions, modes of dress, values and beliefs within the course of a single day. All of these factors impact customer needs and create a situation where you must be alert to verbal and nonverbal messages that indicate those needs. Additionally, the diverse nature of your customer population requires you to be aware of the various ways people from different cultures interact in a business setting. Applying Western rules to a situation with someone from another culture can result in frustration, anger, poor service and lost business.

Instructor Note 9:

  • Refer students to the Customer Service Success Tip on page 195.

  • Use PPT6 to lead a discussion based on the Tip and on the Platinum Rule. Discuss the impact of applying one’s personal values to others. Elicit examples from students of situations where this has occurred.

Instructor Note: 10

  • Learning Objective 4: Determine actions for dealing with various types of people.

  • Learning Objective Note: PPT 7 should be used with Learning Objective 4, pages 196-201.


  • This section will provide the student information on the impact of cultural values, which often dictate which behaviors and practices are acceptable. This section will be valuable for the students studying for customer service careers.

  • While many cultures have similar values and beliefs, specific cultural values are often taught to members of particular groups starting at a very young age. This does not mean a particular group’s values and beliefs are better or worse than any other cultures; they are simply important to that group. These values often dictate which behaviors and practices are acceptable or unacceptable. While these values may or may not have a direct bearing on serving the customer, they can have a very powerful influence on what the customer wants, needs, thinks is important and is willing to seek or accept. Being conscious of such differences can lead to a better understanding of customers and potentially reduce conflict or misunderstandings when dealing with them.

  • Many service providers take values for granted. This is a mistake. Values are the "rules" that people use to evaluate issues or situations, make decisions, interact with others and deal with conflict. As a whole, one's value system often guides thinking and helps him or her determine right from wrong or good from bad. From a customer service perspective, values often strongly drive customer needs and influence the buying decision. Values also differ between cultures based on its orientation toward ethics, morals, religion and many other factors. For example, if customers perceive clothing as too sexy or too conservative they may not purchase the items, depending on what need they are trying to meet. Or, they may not buy a house because it's in the "wrong" neighborhood.

  • Values are based on deeply held beliefs of a culture or subculture. These beliefs might be founded in religion, politics or group mores. They drive thinking and actions and are so powerful that they have served as the basis of arguments, conflicts and even wars (e.g., holy wars in various parts of the world over the centuries).

  • To be effective when dealing with others, service providers should not negate the power of values and beliefs, nor should they perceive that their value system is better than that of someone else's. The key to success is to be open-minded and accept that someone else has a different belief system that drives his or her needs. With this in mind, you as a service provider should then strive to use all of the positive communication and needs identification skills that you have read about thus far in order to satisfy the customer.

  • Cultural values can be openly expressed or subtly demonstrated through behavior. They can impact upon your interactions with customers in a variety of ways. In the next few pages, consider the connection between values and behavior, and how you can adjust your customer service style to ensure a satisfactory experience for a diverse customer base.

  • The goal is to provide service to the customer. In order to successfully accomplish this goal, service providers must be sensitive to, tolerant of and empathetic towards customers. You do not need to adopt these beliefs, only adapt to them to the extent that you provide the best service possible to all of your customers.

Instructor Note 11:

  • Present PPT7 as you begin your discussion of the impact of cultural values. You will discuss modesty, expectations of privacy, forms of address, respect for elders, importance of relationships, gender roles, attitude, the concept of time, and ownership of property as major items affected by the impact of cultural values. Have the students follow along with you in text pages 196-201.

  • Review the photo on page 196; what is happening in this photo? If you were this server, how would you provide service? Elicit some suggestions from the class about what to say and/or do.
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