Richmond Engel Bennah
The role of Cross Cultural Communication in stakeholder relationships
Any business that seeks to go global and reach a wider network of customers must be willing and prepared to satisfy customer needs based on the demographic factors of culture especially.
Business relationships differ across countries as culture plays a central role in helping business leaders understand how customers from diverse socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds react to their products, services and business relationships. Service companies especially must tailor their services to suit unique demands of their customers from different backgrounds. Cultural differences must be recognised by business leaders and married into company policies when conducting business or building a business relationship outside an organization’s traditional market or home country. This will help businesses from offending their customers through the delivery of their services. Customer assessment surveys and reviews can be conducted to test the market before penetration.
Also useful feedback from similar expatriate companies in the same industry can be used to understand the consumer behaviours of customers living in countries the business wants to enter in. Entering into a new market with an existing product or service can be tricky because of factors such as customer perception of a product or service. Thus businesses can first visit the countries they want to do business in as tourists to understand local customs and traditions relating to the way of doing business in those countries. Also, identifying key stakeholders and consumer segments that readily identify with the company’s product or service can easily help a business with market penetration in a new market. Essentially, services should be tailored to feedback or results analysed from data on user customization preferences.
Employing a diversified workforce, especially a greater percentage of employees in the new market can help the business scale up quickly and also promote trust in the business relationship between an organization and its local market.
Various communication tools and channels can be used by an organization seeking to enter into a new market. Aside organising hands-on and periodic customer care training for its workforce to meet the different needs of doing business with customers from diverse backgrounds in a new market, face-to-face interaction with indigenes or citizens in the new market will help identify the right questions and factors that businesses must consider. To make this effective, organizations can build local connections in the new market for over a year before entry. This will help them gather all the relevant information necessary to successfully launch and become sustainable in the new market.
Culture, Ethics and Social Responsibility
Being socially responsible is fundamental to the growth of every organization. Although most business entities see social responsibility as a mere legal chore to avoid a bad name, others actually capitalise on social responsibility to promote brand equity and brand power. Social responsibility does not only help an organization enlarge its market share. It also gives businesses a foothold in their respective markets and indirectly sets them above competition. For example, a business that is highly socially responsible would not have to spend more money on advertising campaigns to push away competitors and promote their products because instinctively, customer perception of brand equity and the socially responsible activities of the business will make customers patronise their products. Socially responsible businesses enjoy more customer goodwill as compared to businesses that are not in their entirety socially responsible.
Ethics is generally what people or society views about being right or wrong in any given situation. What is considered ethical behaviour or as being right and wrong varies across various cultures. For example, a business could require its employees to dress a certain way or give favours to certain classes of customers based on the core values or policies of the business. This specific way of dressing or service approach may be seen as insulting in a different market based on culture. For example, in the USA a customer service attendant may engage a customer using hand gestures such as a thumbs up to appreciate the customer.
This may however be seen as insulting in Asian countries like Japan. Company policies for an organization should differ when doing business in different socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds. Also, stakeholders such as governments play a key role in ethical decision making for businesses. The way a company may publish its annual reports or findings may be seen as ethical in one country and unethical in another. This may be because of the channels used in communicating the reports or the tone of language in the reporting structure. Global businesses can do well and understand matters involving ethics in doing business across different cultures generally through observation. This is because what may be considered ethical may not always be written down in an “ethical handbook”. With time, expatriate companies in new markets and cultures can analyse and understand issues on ethics generally by observing customer reactions and government behavioural responses to their business activities.
The brand as a means of international communication
The power of a brand is key in determining the useful life of the brand. A brand should communicate clearly what it stands for without creating any room for assumptions or uncertainty in the minds of its target market. “Born-global” organizations are organizations whose structure and business activities are specifically tailored to reach a globally diverse market. Thus, for born globals, marketing campaigns such as advertising and promotion are done differently based on the type of market in which the advertising is being done. This helps the brand prevent any forms of scandals that may tarnish its brand image. For example, in marketing a skin product in western European countries, models used for the advertising campaigns may be allowed to show a bit of skin as they apply the skin products on their body surfaces. This may be seen as acceptable because of lifestyle in those countries. However, the same advertising videos and imaging will not be acceptable in Arab countries where women especially are required to cover their bodies extensively. Thus, a different approach to branding and advertising will be required in this case.
Branding speaks a lot and creates an impression in the minds of customers. Factors like customer care experiences are usually top of the pile on the reasons why customers may patronise an organization’s product or service from another organization. Information on brand perception can be conducted through surveys and mystery shopping.
By: Richmond Engel Bennah & Jennifer Wealth
Richmond Engel Bennah (Writer, Business Developer, Brand Evangelist)