Cross-cultural issues in Service Development

culture2  sami  culture3

Are you interested in different cultures, curios and want to get a deeper understanding of how you can tackle cross-cultural issues within service development? Laurea offers an elective course within this topic, which can be integrated in your MBA in Service Innovation and Design, and I highly recommend it!

The course consists of a group of students small enough to discuss, without the greatness of feeling intimidated. It also brings together people from different backgrounds, both students from different classes and students from different countries from all over the world. This creates a good arena to discuss and get real insight and case examples, which can vary a lot from where you come from.

The aim of this course is described as: “deeply understanding preferences and cultural needs, when offering services to customers and end-users from different cultures. Services are often offered globally, and this kind of understanding is described as “prerequisite” for effective Service Design”. In order to learn this, the study offers a theoretical basis of cultural perspectives, which is taught through assignments (individual and in groups), group discussions and lectures, a lot of them being guest lectures. We even had the opportunity to work on a real case for TAX Finland, which I found very motivating!

If you now feel motivated to start this elective,

this is some of the theories you can expect to learn more about (based on my experience):

– Cultural theories (examples displayed below)

– Service Quality GAP model

– Critical incidents in services encounters

– Cross-cultural issues related to service business

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You pretty much stand “free” to decide how you want to gain knowledge about the theories, and course work is often based on own experiences. If you want to focus on “Cross-cultural issues in Service Development” in your Master thesis, this course definitely shows you how to combine different theories, and I believe there are good opportunities to relate course work directly to your final thesis. You can for example combine a “Service Gap” with a “Cultural theory”, maybe even combined with a “Service Design theory” (example from my group work is displayed below).

merging theories

By comparing two countries according to Hofstede or The Lewis model (some of many options), you get to know your fellow student better – on a personal and cultural level. You also start reflecting over own cultural experiences, by looking at cross-cultural issues in service business or describing a “critical incident”. If you are lucky, Heidi Layne from Unidos Oy, is there to discuss these incidents in class. You might also find insights from Kone Oy, one of the global leaders in the elevator and escalator industry, operating in five geographical areas: Central and North Europe, West and South Europe, Greater China, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, and the Americas, having interesting insight and experiences regarding this topic!

I have created a figure below to sum up some of the knowledge and skills, which is needed or must be taken in consideration when developing services in multicultural organizations, as well as major learning outcomes:

culture summary

Looking back at my favorite moments, I really liked how Heidi Layne from Unidos Oy created a circle for us to discuss critical incidents in service encounters. She really reflects the slogan “when cultures meet, Undios are there to support”! Even though this was during our third session, it helped gather the class as a whole and make us share our own experiences on a more personal level. I would recommend this approach earlier, as it can be hard to get to know fellow students outside your own class. The schedule is usually packed, and during short brakes it is no time left to “socialize”. Another thing that could support this is more hands on experiences, preferably during class, or physical visits to companies who deals with cross-cultural issues. Even having a “cultural dinner” downtown as a class could be an excuse to bond, and a real “kick off” for this class. Another highlight was working on a real case for TAX Finland regarding their communication plan towards foreign construction workers. I was very lucky to work with a multi-cultural group within my own class, which were able to come up with suggestions based on theories we had been introduced to during class. I believe that working on a real case creates extra motivation and enables creativity! Without this case, we wouldn’t have dig as deep into theories and found ways to combine theories as explained previously.  As 3/4 of us lived abroad, I would have appreciate to gather information and visit the organization during the class.

If you have decided to take this course “just because you have to complete your electives”, and always come up with an excuse to leave early, I will suggest you to chose another course. This course DO require you to complete a certain amount of work and “stay awake” from 4:30 pm -7:30 pm after almost 8 hours of school, and leaving early affects the class in general. You must be devoted because this course requires you to listen to your fellow student presenting, or working as a team and I assure you that unless you already know a lot about theories related to cross-cultural issues and how they can be used, you will learn A LOT!

This blog post was created by Caroline Chaffin, SID student 2013.

It represents the “course wrap up” within the course: 01044 Cross-cultural issues in Service Development.


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