Communication and language play a crucial role in the success of businesses or personal relationships. As highlights in her article (link below), simple changes in word choices can end disagreements or lead to a sale. As simple as it sounds, businesses and organisations do not have to look far for answers on how to solve communication problems that often result in missed opportunities, particularly in cross-cultural contexts. Recorded interactions such as phone calls and emails can provide evidence of what works or not and provide an opportunity to update employee handbooks and other organisational resources that offer suggestions on business communication that unfortunately often do not work in real-time.
Often, businesses record telephone conversations which they claim are used for quality assurance purposes but only end up as data that adds little or no value to their businesses. Having an expert look at that data in linguistic detail can provide insights that can be easily missed, yet may be critical in increasing business revenue particularly in multi-cultural contexts.
Research has shown that cross-cultural communication is a site for miscommunication because language is culturally bound. A prominent factor that contributes to this are the different unconscious conventions about how to use English or any other language. Examples of these include how to emphasis a point, indicate contrast by tone of voice, or show politeness. This often leads to misunderstanding and frustration, and because the people involved are unaware of the underlying causes, it is difficult to address the relevant elements of cross-cultural communication such as different cultural assumptions and ways of structuring information.
The good news is that raising awareness about these unconscious conventions and training on how to overcome them can help minimise miscommunication. Additionally, equipping call takers or customer service personnel, who are often the first point of contact in most organisations, with an understanding of the complexity of such unconscious language conventions will improve their ability to communicate with people of different cultures and social backgrounds.
The best news is that this allows organisations to be more effective in building their businesses by improving their communications with their stakeholders (staff and external customers). This can be done by analysing their communication (face-to-face, email, and telephone calls) with their customers and providing interventions such as training to help meet their business objectives. If this resonates with you and you would like to find out more, I would be delighted to talk to you.