Who are your customers? Where are they from? What’s the best way to communicate with them? Do you consider their ethnic background when planning on speaking with them? If not, you should take in account their culture and the cultural differences that you have with them. What is culture? Culture, as defined on Dictionary.com is:
the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group
the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
Think of how differently someone from Japan acts compared to someone from India. Would you use the same communications strategies for each person? I would hope not. You need to consider and research what values and beliefs that that particular culture holds and tailor your communications to fit their cultural dimensions. If you do this, you will be speaking “their language” and your chances of success will be much greater because you will reduce the frustration and anxiety that both of you may feel.
A terrific website that explains the cultural dimensions for cultures all over the world is http://www.geert-hofstede.com/. The site ranks each country in five cultural dimensions. Here’s a brief description of each from the site.
Power Distance Index (PDI) Power and inequality, of course, are extremely fundamental facts of any society and anybody with some international experience will be aware that ‘all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others’.
Individualism (IDV) on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are inte-grated into groups. (Does the culture value the individual or the collective group more)
Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations.
Long-Term Orientation (LTO) versus short-term orientation. Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one’s ‘face’.
Let’s look at the differences between Japan and India, specifically the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI).
As you can see Japan has a much higher UAI than India. This means that people from Japan are have a very low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. Whereas people from India are more comfortable in unstructured situations, more open to bending the rules.
This is important information for you to have if you are making a business presentation to a group from Japan. With this group there can be no gray in your presentation, every point you make must be black or white. And the presentation must be delivered with confidence and conviction. If they detect the slightest bit of uncertainty, they could be very uncomfortable moving forward with you.
If you make the same presentation to a group from India, you would want some gray. By having some gray, you can encourage their input and have an active discussion and negotiate on how to move forward.
As you go over each of the five cultural dimensions you can design your presentation to fit how your audience is comfortable receiving information. If they value the collective more than the individual, maybe send a team to make the presentation to show how your organization also values the collective efforts of the company. If your audience values Long-Term Orientation, show examples of how your solution while benefit their organization long into the future. And so on.
Does it work? I have used this information when meeting with prospects and by incorporating this information into my presentation I strongly believe that is was a factor in converting those prospects into clients.
What do you think? Have you used this type of strategy before? If not, would you consider it helpful for future customer communication strategies?