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.