Last week I heard about another poor decision and rant that someone made with regards to someone’s culture and/or language. While it’s easy to say, and for some of us believe, that we should all work together and there aren’t any differences between cultures, races and sexes, there is a rather large challenge that isn’t always possible for businesses to conquer.
It’s the challenge of language.
You’ve probably been to some websites that are in a language that you don’t speak. You’ve also probably been to some websites that offer on-site translation options so that it’s easy to switch to any number of languages and have the site translate itself into a decent representation of what’s on the original site. Of course you can always use Google or the Chrome option to translate a page or site for you but they’re not as reliable. As great as these options are and as smart as it is to offer a properly translated page to your potential customers, that only solves one of the two challenges when it comes to language.
The other side of the language challenge is from our end, the end of the business owner or employees. Using myself as an example, simply put I only speak English well. I have very minimal Spanish and French language knowledge, and nothing else. So while I could go ahead and have my website and other materials translated into other languages or offer on-site translation options, the simple fact is that since I offer only services and no physical products if a potential client doesn’t speak English and won’t get a translator, we’re not a good match and I probably can’t help them regardless of how much I would like to.
If you really want to grow a global business you’ve got a couple of choices because translating things back and forth between you and your customers works to an extent, but once you get to a certain level of service you really need to do better for your customers. One option is to, hire team members who speak other languages. A second option would be to learn those languages yourself. A final option would be to create relationships with people around the world who offer similar services or products as you do but speak languages or work in cultures that you don’t and form affiliate relationships with them.
What are your tips for making things work when you don’t speak the same language as a customer?