This is the thirteenth installment in an examination of customer service in nine countries. (for the previous installment, see this link)
Malaysia is an interesting study in business practices and customer service. In some way, very different than ay other country I have been to. To do it justice, I'm doing this over two installments. This first one is simply my take on Malaysia as a country.
It's 3:00pm in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (most commonly referred to as simply "KL"), and a soft drizzle begins. I head into a nearby restaurant, because I know what's coming. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, a violent thunderstorm of mammoth proportions begins. In Ottawa, where I live, it would have made the nightly news. In KL, though, nobody bats an eyelash. It is, after all, three o'clock. You can set your watch by it. 40 minutes later the storm is a passing memory, with the ground briefly a little wetter, and the 32 degree air a little less humid.
Malaysia is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. it is one of the most gentle, peaceful and diverse countries on the planet. From the absolute serenity of tropical islands like Redang, to the breathtaking beauty of Kota Kinibalu in Sabah, to the never-ending motion of downtown Kuala Lumpur, it has anything anyone could want.
Although this emerging nation is becoming best known internationally for its powerful oil & gas and financial industries, the true heart of Malaysia is its people. I find it interesting, with a twist of irony, that this country is so focused on modernizing - on establishing itself as a true 'first-world' nation. The truth is, most first-world nations would do well to try and learn from the Malaysians.
Malaysia is, by and large, a peaceful country. Like all countries, of course, there are some worrying social undercurrents, and strongly diverse political differences, but the overall culture somehow manages to remain gentle. There are also some long-standing tensions that exists between ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese, which is exacerbated by the "Bumiputra policy" law designed to give preferential treatment to ehtnic Malays. But even with that, they still manage to make it work.
Religion plays a large role in Malaysia. It is, by law, a Muslim country, and is perhaps a global role-model for religious tolerance, with people from all religions living and working side by side. From an outsider's perspective, there appears to be far more respect for each other's differences than there is division.
Malaysia a relatively safe country - with severe penalties for most crime and zero tolerance for drugs. Interestingly, Malaysians are by far their own worst critics and will tell you that crime in KL is rampant. In comparison to other large cities, and especially other emerging nations, it's really pretty good. I think that the Malaysian dismay over the crime that does exist may actually speak more towards their culture and high standards than it does reality.
Even in the short decade that I have been visiting Malaysia, I have seen profound change and growth in business practices and customer service. It is at an interesting stage right now, however, with technology and growth far exceeding their current business ideology and culture. Although most business people I have met here are too close to it to see, they are very much at a crossroads. In my next post, I'll review the good and the bad - and some of the big changes organizations in this country will have to make to really make it to the global dance floor.
Stay tuned for part two coming in a couple of days!
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 23 years
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