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According to CARLA (the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition), culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors, interactions, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.
This is exactly why understanding cultural diversity plays an important role in shaping your call center performance, whether your support team deals with an audience from their own culture or one spanning multiple cultures. On the one hand, it helps them think beyond stereotypes and generalizations. On the other, it gives them a framework, beyond KPIs and metrics, to not just deal with customers but also delight them. In this article, we’ll be discussing 5 key aspects of recognizing cultural diversity and how to turn them into actionables.
You may or may not be familiar with the terms ‘high context’ and ‘low context’ — they refer to styles of communication — but you must have definitely come across customers who fall under either of the categories. High context communication is used by those who are inclined to assume that the agent has a higher level of intuitive understanding — the capability to read between lines. According to studies (Tung, 1995), 70% of the world is estimated to be high context. Examples include Russia, Japan, China, and the Arab nations. Now, what does this mean for customer support?
High context cultures, on the other hand, try to avoid as much as confusion as possible. They prefer to get right to the point. In most cases, they also skip pleasantries and engage in friendly conversation right away. Examples of high context countries include Germany, the USA, and Scandinavian countries. Here’s how you should interact with such customers:
There are emotional cultures, and then there are neutral cultures. Like the name suggests, emotional cultures value emotions and appreciate it when the customer support agent displays sentiment. They believe that this makes customer support more human, hence more trustworthy and warm. Examples of emotional cultures include Italy, Spain and Mexico. Here’s what you need to do to align yourself with this audience:
Neutral cultures, on the other hand, perceive emotions as a sign of being irrational. They restrain themselves from sharing if they are happy or disappointed. For a support agent who is sensitized to neutral cultures or is a part of one, this may sound very familiar. However, dealing with it will still be a challenge because there’s no immediate feedback or reaction they can leverage. You can consider the following actions in this scenario:
Time is a human construct and like any human construct, different cultures approach it in different ways — some view time as linear, others view it as flexible. In flexible cultures, adaptability is considered important. Examples include India, Brazil and Nigeria. You can keep the following action points in mind while interacting with such customers:
The saying ‘Time is money’ can be directly attributed to cultures that share a linear view of time. They believe that future can be planned and may attribute flexibility with shoddy service. Examples of such countries are Germany, Japan, and Sweden. In such instances, support agents should
Feedback is an important device to measure customer satisfaction. Now the catch is, not everyone gives it in the same manner. Culture plays a role here too! The important things is, you need to take this into consideration and normalize for it while measuring your performance. In some cultures, feedback — especially the negative kind — is given subtly and politely, at times indirectly too. Examples include Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. In such instances, you should
By contrast, there are cultures that are very direct with feedback. They will not cut corners when it comes to appreciating you as well as informing you that you are doing a very bad job. Examples include Germany, Israel, and Russia. You can handle direct feedback in the following ways:
Language is one of the most direct indicators of customer diversity. With remote call centers and virtual phone teams, more businesses are global than ever before. And the truth is that there is no one global language for business. Support agents themselves might not be comfortable with operating in English. If you are facing this problem, check out the localization options available in Freshdesk Contact Center. Currently, we support English, German, and French. We will soon be launching a localized product interface in 32 other languages including Dutch, Chinese and Portuguese.
At the same time, multilingual support is easiest with phone support because typing in regional languages is still not the best of experiences. There are two things that you can do to make the phone experience even better. One works at an individual level, and the other at business level.
According to a 2016 survey by USForex, 58% of small businesses already have international customers, while 72% are planning to grow their international customer base. About 96% of the surveyed businesses are confident about conducting business abroad.
As businesses of all sizes become increasingly global, focusing on cross-cultural communication is all the more important. What you’ve read so far are some of the fundamentals you need to keep in mind for embracing customer diversity. If you’d like to share your challenges with cross-cultural communication, do drop us a note at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you and tailor a solution just for you.
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