Myths About Multicultural Customers
By Michael Soon Lee
one-third of all Americans today are minorities plus there are over
a million people from overseas immigrating every year. The numbers
of people from diverse cultures are growing so rapidly that the U.S.
Census Bureau expects this group to be nearly half of the population
by 2050. This is a huge market for retailers and service providers
all across the country – if you know how to meet the unique needs of
customers and clients from other cultures. Consider the
“People from other cultures only want to work with or buy from
someone from their own culture.”
could be further from the truth unless there is a language issue.
Most of the people who complain about having trouble with
multicultural customers are European American salespeople. They
just need to understand how to meet the wants and needs of people
from other cultures. In fact, many cultural groups would prefer to
work with a salesperson from outside their own culture. Asians, for
example, are very private about their financial affairs and many are
afraid that if they work with an Asian salesperson they might
disclose their income, debts, and purchases, to others in their
impossible to get personal financial information from multicultural
people because they’re so secretive.”
one of those myths that is actually true. When making a large
purchase, many people who are new to this country can be extremely
private about their finances. Remember that they may be unfamiliar
with the banking and legal system in America and do not know whom to
trust. In addition, merely asking a question as innocent as “How
much do you have for a down payment” on a large purchase can
actually endanger the lives of your clients. Why is that? Many new
immigrants do not believe in banks and keep much of their money
hidden as cash in their homes.
ever heard of “home invasion robberies” where the occupants are
threatened until they reveal the whereabouts of their valuables?
These kinds of crimes are commonly committed against Asians or
Hispanics, not because they have nicer furniture or stereos than
everyone else, but because that’s where the money is often hidden.
The author personally knows of one Hispanic client who lost $75,000
in cash to a home robbery.
easiest way to find out how much a new immigrant client has for a
down payment is to give them a “menu” of choices. Show them the
required investment and resulting monthly payments for ten percent
down, twenty percent down, etc. The client may also be interested
in a “quick qualifier” or “no document” loan so be sure to explain
the requirements for these as well. Usually, the loan that the
client expresses the most interest in is the one they have the down
don’t forget to remind your customer that they can also pay cash for
their purchase. Many cultures believe it is a sin to owe others
money and many not believe in borrowing, even for very large
purchases. The author has had customers show-up with as much
$750,000 in cash for a major purchase!
“People from outside this country are unreasonable when it comes to
Remember, there are two types of countries in the world –
negotiating and non-negotiating. The United States is a
non-negotiating country where we generally pay the price asked by
vendors. In most other countries around the world, people haggle on
everything from groceries to clothing to homes. To expect someone
from one of these places not to bargain is tantamount to asking them
not to breathe.
Experienced negotiators know that when they first make an offer on
an item it is the lowest they will ever be able to go. They can
only go in one direction from there – up. This is why they may
start embarrassingly low with their initial offer even if they might
be willing to pay full price.
retailers and service providers do not negotiate the price of their
goods and services. In this case you can simply explain the
situation this way, “We have sold all of our items (or services) to
other buyers (or clients) for this price. To save face with them we
must sell this one to you (or provide the same service) for the same
price.” People from other cultures can usually relate to the need
to “save face” and will not ask another person to lose face with
veteran hagglers are aware that they have the most bargaining power
just before the transaction closes or the item is delivered. This
is when they will usually ask for one extra concession to show their
skill. Smart vendors will build an incentive into the deal so they
can set something aside for this time otherwise it will likely come
out of the their own pockets. For instance, if a new car dealer is
willing to throw in the floor mats it’s best not to include it in
the purchase regardless of the culture of the buyer. At delivery of
the vehicle it can be thrown in to “sweeten the deal” as long as
there is no more negotiating.
“People should do as Americans do when they’re in this country.”
ever wonder why we are called the “Ugly Americans” when we travel
outside our borders? We will fly to Germany, France or China, and
expect the people there to accommodate us in terms of providing the
food and other amenities we are familiar with. We commonly expect
to be served pizza in Asia and to speak English in France.
it’s difficult for us Americans to leave our 200-year-old culture at
the gate when we travel abroad it’s even harder for those coming
here with cultures that are thousands of years old to do as we do
here. While they do try to assimilate it is hard for them. Also,
if we want a little piece of business from the fastest-growing
segment of the retail market it is we who will have to adjust – a
little. Take the time to learn about other cultures, languages, and
foods. As a bonus you will become a much more interesting person to
talk to in the process.
should treat everyone equally, regardless of culture.”
it’s true that we should treat every customer fairly but this does
not necessarily mean equally. For instance, if a buyer who is blind
comes into your store or office would you simply hand them a
brochure to “read”? This is equal but is it fair? Hardly.
Wouldn’t you try to treat them equally?
Similarly, by taking into account the unique needs of every customer
or client aren’t we serving them better? This would be equally true
for being culturally sensitive.
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about Michael Soon Lee.
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