Five Communication Challenges with Multicultural Clientele
It is important to understand that the way businesses comprehend and form critical decisions is rooted heavily in their individual cultural upbringing. A productive client relationship begins in an environment that supports diversity while balancing other elements such as time and cost. But how do you address the issues from cultural differences that create unexpected behavioral obstacles? Or language barriers which may make it difficult to communicate effectively? These potential issues may hinder the client relationships essential for doing business on a global scale. To help further your awareness, here are the five key communication challenges when working with a diverse client list.
Language barriers are the first roadblock to smooth client interaction. With English as the standard language internationally for business, many non-English speakers may feel uncomfortable and unappreciated when sharing their thoughts on a subject. If English is their second language, they may even hold off on contributing due to their inability to get their message across. Rough accents and varying levels of fluency can also increase the risk for misunderstandings that could negatively affect a business.
Direct Versus Indirect Communication
According to an article by Carol Goman in Forbes, high-context cultures such as central European regions, Latin America, or Asia tend to incorporate their message “through context, interpretation and non-verbal cues”. On the flip side, low-context cultures (most English-speaking countries) address direct messages face-to-face. For example, business cards are a staple of networking, but the exchange of the cards differs in many cultures. In Arab countries, you are required to accept the card with your right hand, while in both China and Japan, you would use both hands. How organizations interact with multicultural clientele becomes a major determining factor towards the cohesiveness of an organization.
Acknowledgment of Cultural Values
Communication problems can derive from differences in what people inherently value and convey. Emotion, for example, is reserved and rarely showed in Japan and the U.K., while the United States, France, and Italy are expressive with their emotions, even in business. Attire is an element that can shift a client’s perspective on your business. Some cultures are very conservative and hold strict dress codes, as seen in Muslim countries where women avoid short skirts, sleeveless tops, and low necklines. The practice of gift-giving is also a complex topic that can be difficult to address. In China, gifts are the norm and expected, while in other countries, some gifts may warrant negative responses in a business environment.
Conflicts with Expectations & Decision Making
Individual cultures mean individuals may include their own way of agreeing on important business decisions. From how long the decision-making process takes to what steps or effort must be in effect beforehand, there are different layers of decision making that might create conflict. For example, some clients can be heavily analytical before reaching a decision, while Americans tend to be very quick at deciding, according to the Harvard Business Review article. To maintain the respect of Asian contacts, avoid etiquette mistakes during meetings and other points of communication, as local customs can make or break your business relationship.
Attitudes Toward Authority and Position
Teamwork is essential for the continued success for any organization. In some cultures, teams respond to various level of authority and act on important decisions differently based on their rank within the organization. For example, if you work primarily in a global B2B space, you might assume the person you are dealing with holds a high rank in the company, but their office could have a different hierarchy in their European or Asian branch which affects the flow of response. A lack of cultural awareness could create delays and feedback issues for a project, especially when people are quick to jump to assumptions, instead of addressing cultural differences outright.
For an organization with diversity in both its workforce and clientele, Primior stands to advance how employees communicate with their clients to set the tone and foundation for a quality relationship. Primior is one of the fastest growing real estate investment and asset management firms in California and operates around the globe with investments and people in the US, Europe, and Asia.