When Robert Dziekanski arrived in Vancouver on a flight
from Frankfurt, Germany, the 40-year-old Polish immigrant
stayed in a secure baggage area, as directed by his
mother. After ten hours he attempted to leave the area.
However, speaking only Polish, he was unable to
communicate with the members of Canadian Border
Services, the agency responsible for the baggage area.
When the agitated Dziekanski began throwing items at the
secured exit door, members of the
Royal Canadian
Mounted Police were called to assist.

Twenty-five seconds later Dziekanski would be zapped by a
Taser. Two 50,000 watt Taser shots followed within a short
time frame, and Dziekanski was lying on the airport floor --
dead.

This issue exemplifies the need for businesses to be aware
of the cultures they serve. None of the Mounties understood
the Polish language or culture, nor did they wait for cultural
assistance. One did, however, radio to other officers that the
man was speaking only in Russian.

Had a cultural advisor or linguist been available, there would
undoubtedly have been a very different outcome.

Impact
Vancouver International Airport has a stigma that will last
many years to come. Although travelers do not always have
control over the specific airports they use, there are options
existing for connecting passengers that will take them (and
the passenger fees associated with them) to other airports.
This may also have an impact on the airlines they choose. If
a traveler has no choice but to use the specific airport, they
still have the discretion to spend money within the airport at
the stores and restaurants. This is an area where an airport
will take a direct hit for poor treatment of their traveling
customers.

The best business practices indicate that in these days of
unparalleled competition, businesses cannot afford to give
up a single customer, particularly when providing cultural
customer service is a relatively inexpensive option.

The need for cultural customer service
The Dziekanski incident reveals a need for cultural customer
service that extends far beyond Canadian airports.
Throughout the world cultures are shifting where they live,
work, and recreate. Ethnic, racial, and generational
populations are still the most identifiable cultural groups,
however other cultures emerging in new areas include
economic, dietary, and health-conscious.

Businesses and their employees coming in contact with the
emerging cultures need to be aware of the cultures – or
where they can get cultural assistance.

Related articles:

  1. 6 ways to provide cultural customer service.
  2. 3 benefits from giving cultural customer service.
Cultural customer
service imperative
More business by the numbers here,