How we do business is changing, not just due to the health emergency that we are going through. In recent months, many companies have tested out new tools for handling relationships with their stakeholders all around the world. Video conferences have become part of our everyday life, both professional and private.
Now that companies are opening up again, they need to consolidate the strategies tested out during the months of lockdown and apply them with greater awareness.
Benta Wiley (Oryoki) and Letizia Palladino (STUDIOTRE) will now tell us how important it is to adopt a cultural approach when communicating with foreign partners and customers, especially when our calls become business negotiations.
Benta Wiley was born in Australia and studied architecture at the Polytechnic University of Milan. She worked for over 20 years both as a designer and in the world of communication and strategic branding. She is the co-founder of the Between studio, which is part of the Oryoki group, with offices in Reggio Emilia, Milan and Singapore.
How are relationships with customers changing in the digital world?
Our generation has lived through various phases of the transition from on-land to on-line. We saw first-hand in the past how communication tools can change: from the first personal computers to the birth of the Internet, from the first mobile phones to smartphones, the state of technology has always influenced how we interact with our stakeholders.
In recent months, we have had further experience of how technology shapes the way in which we come into contact with customers, partners and suppliers and forces us to redefine the business and marketing tools which we have always used in face-to-face meetings.
Let’s not forget that people are always at the heart of every business, even when we are communicating remotely.
We continue to talk with people, just like during trade shows and traditional meetings; the difference is that the digital way really demands us to change the features and style of company communication tools.
So, how must communication tools be designed?
First and foremost, digitising does not mean taking the print version and saving it for the web one. It means thinking in a different way. Each tool meets a specific customer experience: would you ever design a website using the same logic as a Power Point presentation?
You need clear, simple, visible and effective content that interacts with the user. In one word, it must be responsive… And don’t forget to ask yourself the right questions: how do you communicate on other markets? How do you tropicalize the brand? What are the interlinguistic codes that change compared with local cultures?
Every project is managed by a specific team with complementary skills which works in a cross-cutting way to provide integrated proposals and concrete results.
Can you give us a few examples of communication tools designed using an online approach?
There are two tools which the Oryoki team is testing out and which are proving highly effective:
Letizia Palladino has always nurtured a desire to break down barriers between people, whether they are linguistic, cultural or physical. Twenty-three years ago, she also achieved this dream in her professional life, becoming a language consultant at STUDIOTRE, where she is now the CEO.
What is the secret to communicating with customers and partners from every language and culture?
When we build relationships with foreign partners and customers, we always have to remember that people have different languages, cultures and experiences which shape the way in which people perceive services and products.
We often think that using a “bridge language”, English for example, is a good solution. In actual fact, speaking a language that is not our mother tongue can lead to difficulties in communication, linguistic and relationship misunderstandings, especially when we are talking about business negotiations.
Then if the business negotiation is done through technology – Zoom, Teams, WeChat or any other platform – you must not underestimate the management of all those aspects relating to meta-communication, such as tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures, which have a crucial role and vary from culture to culture.
The secret is localising the content of our communication. How? By changing perspective, shifting our focus from the product/service that we want to promote to people and their cultural context.
This is why it is important to have the support of a language consultant to contextualise communication based on the culture of the country where you want to drum up new business.
Realistically, what support can a language consultant give in localising communication?
Let’s imagine that we have to conduct business negotiations with potential customers from the Middle East. A language consultant will advise you to always ask open-ended questions because closed-ended questions with a “Yes/No” answer could be a problem. In fact, “No” is a word that, if possible, they prefer not to say. A refusal in their culture is considered rude and antisocial because it makes the recipient feel uncomfortable.
Digital communication and translation: what is the language consultant’s approach?
Benta used the word “responsive” to describe communication tools. A term which we, as language consultants, feel is definitely our own. Technological evolution, together with training people, has always been at the heart of our problem-setting approach.
In fact, technology allows us to simplify the translation process helping the customer save time and money, while guaranteeing quality and confidentiality for them.
For example, by using CAT Tools we can translate tools like digital presentations or videos (with subtitles or voice-overs) by working directly in the source file.
What is the advantage? You optimise time and resources and, above all, you avoid typical “copy-and-paste” mistakes.
Being responsive also means supporting companies in choosing the right platform to conduct business negotiations or a meeting and finding the solution to integrate, for example, simultaneous interpreting.
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