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U.S. Consumers Love Attentive Brands. Other Countries? Not So Much.

U.S. Consumers Love Attentive Brands. Other Countries? Not So Much.

Hal Conick

china on globe

If you’re too attentive to Chinese customers, they may think that you have ulterior motives

Consumers in the U.S. tend to love brands that are attentive and provide extra care. But a recent study in the Journal of International Marketing finds that high-service attentiveness may hurt brands in East Asian markets.

In one experiment, the study—titled Consumer Responses to High Service Attentiveness: A Cross-Cultural Examination—found that when brands are highly attentive to Chinese consumers, they become suspicious and lower their patronage of that brand. For Western customers, they would have to surmise an ulterior motive to become suspicious.

“This finding suggests that high service attentiveness by itself may be enough to trigger suspicion and result in negative responses among Chinese consumers, who are usually associated with an interdependent self-construal,” the researchers write in the study.


Researchers wrote in the “managerial implications” section of the study that service employees must be tactful and sensitive to country needs depending on the culture. If they’re overly warm or offer unsolicited care in East Asian markets, the researchers say that they could trigger a suspicion of a hidden agenda.

“Nonetheless, our results suggest that this response may be overcome if employees mitigate consumers’ suspicion of ulterior motive,” the researchers write, “such as by revealing to customers that their income is not commission-based, or by showing high attentiveness out of genuine concern.

Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.