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Do Not STEREOTYPE Your Customers


Guest articles > Do Not STEREOTYPE Your Customers


by: Viganesh Kumar


Stereotype is defined as having a fixed mind-set about an individual based on their background. This attitude is seen as a weaken character that discriminates, bias and prejudice. Whenever we make conclusions about someone without knowing them, it means we are stereotyping them. There are several key factors in stereotyping which includes nationality, origin, race, religion and gender.

How does stereotype evolved and why it is tough to nip the source? Culture imposition is one of the main reasons for the existence of stereotype. Culture imposition encircles the belief of “We know what’s best for you, if you don’t like it you can go elsewhere”. For few races, they self-imposed themselves superior compared to minorities and thus feels their thoughts, ideas and views has stronger authority and command. Besides than that, ethnocentrism concept emphasizes their culture is superior and inability to accept another culture view. It has evolved in this world long time back and most of it referred to started long way back from the time of colonial and imperial power. Clearly it channeled the process of using assumptions to evaluate other culture’s action and messages, thereby concluding their ulterior purposes and motives. Culture blindness contributes to the final straw of stereotype with simply ignoring difference and individuals proceeds as though no differences exist with the perception of not worrying what other cultures. However stereotype has continued evolve with major contributors are poor education system, lack of knowledge, poor attitude, lack of management’s responsibility and simple ignorance.

Have you entered an attire shop and you liked a choice of attire colour but your preferences are shot down by the outlet’s sales person who stated “I didn’t know that you’ll too can wear this shirt with this specific colour? Words such “I didn’t know” shows lack of knowledge, “you’ll too can wear” is termed as provoking that refers to a set of group and “wear shirt with this specific colour” is termed insulting in this conversation. The statement does not carry an understanding to seek clarification but related to having an already fixed mind set. That sentence may not go well with several customers as it seems diminishing prejudicially by comparing the evolution of lifestyle.

Several negative stereotypes includes women are not strong as men, only anorexic can become models, Russians are violent people, all Italians linked to mobsters, Irish are alcoholics, women do not drive well, Germans are Nazis, Asians have no fashion sense, Middle East peoples are fussy customers and Indonesians are illegal trespassers in Malaysia.

An Indian colleague of mine constantly said he likes to eat at Chinese restaurants but grew unhappy with the stereotypical service. He said whenever he is at a Chinese restaurants, the waitress shall ask “Mahu minum Beer apa? (What choice of beer you want to drink?). He is a person that does not consume alcohol thus you can imagine the increased tense whenever the questions are constantly asked. Once at his regular dined Chinese restaurant, he got angered when being posted with the same question by the same waitress. He claimed he has gone to the restaurant up to 50 times and the waitress shall ask him the same question. He politely replied this time that he was not an alcohol drinker but this time he got an abrupt shocking reply from the waitress who stated in a broken Malay language “Semua orang India minum beer. Sini ramai India datang makan, mesti minum beer punya. You tak minum, betul kah Boss? (All Indians drink beer. A lot of Indians that dine here shall drink beer. Really sure or not that you won’t drink beer?). The waitress had stereotyped that all Indians drink beer whenever they come to a Chinese restaurant and her statement includes the claim that it is impossible that Indians do not take alcohol.

A single question being posted back to the affected customers “Will you go back to the same outlet that has treated and provide discriminating service?” It is pretty clear that organizations with such negative services shall risk losing customers and revenue. Being stereotype can be offensive, hurting and affect the image of an organization. Employees should be trained through cross cultural communication training to provide skills, information and techniques to manage customers. The training shall be vital with employees being taught to suspend judgements and avoid pre cultural conceptions when dealing with any customer. Organizations’ needs to play a pivotal to ensure that each customer is well taken care because staffs need to use the right choice of words, be tactful and apply the right body language when they communicate with various cultural customers. Employees’ that are trained on the valuation of each customer culture shall possess a better knowledge and understanding which deprives stereotypes services. It is advisable that stereotyping especial religion, race, gender and negative should be prevented at all costs, as it leads to treat our customers as a narrow unit. Instilling empathy communication through key elements such as respect, tolerance, appreciation, courtesy, politeness, cautious, flexibility and patience can bridge a better cross cultural understanding with customers and stem out the unrequited STEREOTYPE.


Viganesh Kumar, a HRDF approved consultant, trainer and lecturer in the fields of Management, Operation and Hospitality. A Human Resource Strategist with distinctive career and has provided consultancy & training for over than 200 organizations in various industry.

View his complete profile.

Contributor: Viganesh Kumar

Published here on: 20 Apr 14

Classification: Development



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