Considering Cultural Differences in Customer Experience: Lessons from Indonesia


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Beyond Philosophy, a global customer experience consultancy, and Hachiko, an Indonesia-based customer loyalty consultancy, partnered to conduct a Net Promoter Score study among more than 2,700 respondents in Indonesia.

Respondents were first asked how likely they are to recommend each of the main competitors in a range of sectors. Next they were asked to rank the extent to which they feel certain emotions toward each of these companies. The results were then benchmarked against Beyond Philosophy’s database of more than 25,000 interviews.

The results were interesting from both a local market and an international perspective. The most intriguing result came from our analysis of emotional profiles by industry sector. When broken out by sector, we saw far better numbers when comparing them to our Overall Business Index (an index of more than 25,000 interviews across a variety of sectors and countries).

For example, Figure 1 illustrates that if we compare Net Promoter Scores in the banking sector in Indonesia with our overall financial industry index, the positive emotions (the greens) are at the 7-8 point range for Indonesia vs 4-6 point range for the financial services index (the black line), while at the same time the negative emotions (the reds) are felt to a much lesser extent in the Indonesia banking sector compared to the financial services index (the black line).

Figure 1

If people in Indonesia are saying that they feel the positive emotions to such an extent and almost don’t feel negative emotions toward businesses in Indonesia, you would expect that they would be willing to recommend those businesses. This, however, is not the case.

As you can see in figure 2, when we asked individuals how likely they were to recommend a brand, 76 percent were passives (responding between 7 and 8) vs. 29 percent of those in our global NPS index. However if we compare the NPS scores, we’ll see that they are almost the same: -4 percent for Indonesia vs -3 percent for our global NPS index. Therefore, there seems to be a cultural bias in Indonesia for people anchoring their responses toward the 7-8 range on a 0-10 scale, being shy to give a low score but also equally shy or not convinced enough to give the highest score.

Figure 2

Implications for Market Research

The implication for marketers is that if you ask people what they think of a certain product or service, you may well get encouraging results, but you shouldn’t be fooled by them.

However, we don’t recommend avoiding market research; you just need to dig deeper in order to uncover the drivers of consumer behavior. That’s what we did, and we found interesting results when we applied a proprietary analysis method using structural equation modelling (SEM), which is used to identify causal relationships, not just correlations. We looked at:

  • the main touch points in different sectors,
  • the customers’ emotional response to them, and
  • the value outcomes businesses seek (e.g. spend, likelihood to recommend, likelihood not to discourage someone from using a brand).

We found “Warm welcome and goodbye” to be a driver of value for the banking sector as a whole. Businesses in Indonesia should not overlook this point, and businesses across the globe should consider that this may or may not be the case for the banking sector in their markets.

In the Automotive sector, we found that “timeliness of product delivery” was an important factor in the experience, as often there have been delays dues to shortage of stock. An interesting finding in the SUV car sector showed the importance on focusing on emotions that drive value. The interactions with employees were making people feel “safe,” “cared for” and “pleased.” In other words, Indonesian automotive sales managers were emphasizing these emotions in the SUV sales process. However, those emotions were not driving value in the SUV sector. The emotions that were driving people to recommend a brand and spend more were “happy,” “interested,” “stimulated” and “valued.”

In the telecom sector, we found that the feeling of indulgence was a particular driver for the market leader.

Other key differentiators for the sector market leaders were the timeliness of delivery and their company promises. The former relates to the notion of a trustworthy relationship, while the latter gives subconscious clues about the organization. Overall, the biggest driver of spend across all industries was interactions with employees. Again this brings to the surface a key cultural peculiarity – in Indonesia people highly value personal relationships, and once they’re in place business will follow.

The message is clear: regardless of the market, it’s of utmost importance to take local cultural differences into account when conducting your market research, when designing your experience and when doing business. If you consider the cultural biases you may find in your research, think about cultural perspectives when assessing your key touch points, and make sure you understand which key emotions drive value for your business in that region, you will eliminate a multitude of factors that can hurt your business and set the stage for success.

Zhecho Dobrev
Zhecho Dobrev is a Senior Consultant at Beyond Philosophy with 7 years of management consultancy experience and more than10,000 hours devoted to becoming an expert in customer experience management. He has worked with a wide range of sectors and countries. Some of his clients includeCaterpillar, FedEx, American Express, Heineken, Michelin etc. Zhecho's expertise includes conducting customer research on what drives customer behavior, journey mapping, customer complaints, measurement, training and more. He holds an MBA and Master's degree in International Relations.


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