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Language: A Unifier And Divider In Business

By Kristine Kjerulfa, Chief Operating Officer at PayPugs

Can we truly understand a culture without accessing its language? Culture and language are so closely intertwined. 

Most people in business are more comfortable engaging and transacting within their native language and their own business culture – which can include more than one language of course.  

But in a global economy, we should be intentional in embracing intercultural communication in business. 

Language should never be a barrier

For me personally, language is something I deal with every day and feel strongly about — we deal with customers from all over the globe. 

There’s just a wonderful shift in the energy of a meeting or call when I talk to a customer in their native language. I do believe it makes people feel more comfortable and sets the foundation for trust and openness.

At PayPugs, our customer base is predominantly in Europe, and English is used as the bridge language for business in this region.  

A lot of business resources and social media  communications are in English. This means that  those who aren’t able to do business in English can put a business at a distinct disadvantage.

According to The Language Guide for European Business some of the pitfalls experienced when there is a language barrier include a lack of confidence when speaking in another language, making errors when conversing and interpreting, and also losing the opportunity to capitalize on sales opportunities.

If we consider the sales environment we know that the cultures within the European landscape can vary; whilst some prefer the ‘get to the point’ approach, there are many others who like to ‘chit chat’ beforehand and build that connection.

Another challenging communication barrier in telephonic sales for example, is that , without face-to-face interaction, body language is no longer able to speak for itself, and this highlights the key importance of customer support,  they need to be very much in-tune with these nuances.

Language as a unifier

Language should never be a deal breaker  for doing business, and with a diverse customer range at PayPugs, our team goes out of their way to make communication with all of our customers more comfortable even if we do not share a native language. 

This philosophy helps us connect more with our customers, build trust and nurture relationships into the future. There are areas in our organisation — such as legal matters and onboarding– that we conduct only in English to ensure there’s no loophole for interpretation.

For me, I pride myself and my team on our culture of languages within the company – this has a positive impact on the entire organisation and increases awareness of cultural diversity and the various unique qualities that come with each.

This means that our customer support team focuses on the listening side of things, rather than just hearing. Engaging with culture and language in our global economy is critical to foster broader working relationships and remain ‘open for business’ across the globe.

I firmly believe that embracing and working our customer service strategy with the broad spectrum of languages advocates for a more inclusive workplace, one that welcomes all cultures and in turn customers from all over the world.

A closing thought

Try your best to adjust to the native tongues that you find your organisation engaging with – encourage your employees to do a short introduction on themselves in the customer’s foreign language.

This can be a great ice breaker and  build a stronger connection, especially in the digital age we find ourselves in. People appreciate this ‘human’ gesture and  effort and value it too.

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