Culture Shock and the Customer Experience

Laid up in bed before Christmas with the inevitable holiday flu, I was watching re-runs of QI, a very funny and clever British quiz show hosted by the wonderful Stephen Fry.  They were talking about Paris Syndrome which is the extreme culture shock experienced by Japanese tourists upon visiting Paris.  Apparently the difference in Latin etiquette, language and general cultural differences are so far removed from what many Japanese people are taught in Japan about Paris that upon arrival, about 20 people per year have to be repatriated due to a temporary psychosis. The Japanese embassy in Paris has a 24-hour telephone hotline especially for this occurrence and they attempt to warn first-time visitors.

As strange as Paris Syndrome may seem, I thought this also illustrates different cultural attitudes to customer centricity. As much as I love France, as a frequent visitor I am no longer surprised at the almost total absence of what I perceive as good customer service.  So how very customer-centric, I thought, of the Japanese embassy to respond in a pre-emptive way to Japanese visitors to Paris.

The perennial problem with gathering customer experience is what to do with it.  You can use it tactically, as the Japanese embassy have done, and respond to particular issues that were highlighted.  And you can use customer experience strategically and look at what the whole experience is telling you and implement holistic changes to the structure, process and people – the whole value proposition.

Customer experience is one of the new business buzzwords, a bit like value proposition. Everyone wants to know what their customer experience is, but once captured (and it should be captured on a regular basis, not once!), few people know how to use it, other than implement a few tactical changes.  The Value Proposition Builder™ is a holistic framework that takes you step-by-step through how to create your value proposition from your customer experience.

So the next time the Japanese embassy get a call from a distressed tourist on their hotline, I was thinking about offering to help them create a value proposition for Japanese tourists visiting Paris.  My ‘flu has clearly been giving me delusions of grandeur, so I’ll just send them a copy of the book instead…once it’s been translated into Japanese, of course.