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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

How to Build Rapport with Multicultural Clients

Posted by Nara Venditti on February 18, 2010

Do you want to expand your customer base and increase revenue? QUIZ: How many of you know that one in five in the US speak a foreign language at home or that 70% of the economic growth in the US is due to minorities? When teaching a workshop on multicultural marketing, typical all hands will go up at the first question and only some at the second question. Yet seldom a hand will go up when I ask if participants know how to go about building rapport with multicultural clientele.

Mastering how to develop strong, lasting, and profitable relationships across cultures in the community may be as easy as remembering an acronym N.A.R.A.

Never Assume – Never assume that all clients are like you or that one size fits all. We tend to think that our way is the best way. However, this is not the case. For instance, for one culture making eye contact could be a sign of respect but for another culture avoiding eye contact shows respect. In another example, n many Asian and South American cultures looking down while addressing a customer shows respect while other cultures would consider this to be rude. 

Ask  – Always ask for their preferences. Our most common behaviors may not apply to all cultures. Rather, as a way of showing respect and gaining confidence, discuss their practices and preferences. For instance, ask questions like,  “Would you like to be addressed by your first name or last name?”,  “Should I extend my hand first to shake a woman’s hand?”,  “ Is it appropriate to ask about the customer’s health or family?”, “Should I embrace, bow or shake hands when greeting the customer?”

Relate– Try to relate on many levels. Americans tend to follow the principle “Let’s get down to business” while for other cultures “Let’s get to know each other first” would be more appropriate. A great relationship builder is to use basic phrases  in LingioClick$™. For instance try saying “shen-shen”(thank  in Chinese), “gracias” (thank you in Spanish) or “shukria” (thank you in the Indian languages) and you will see how your customers’ eyes light up! They may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. And, as with most consumers, more often than not our emotions shape our decisions.

Ask the expert – Learn about the cultural norms and values of the immigrant communities in your area by attending ethnic festivals, meeting your potential customers and their leaders face-to-face. Read literature, attend a seminar or organize a workshop. Also try building relationships on their turf and then invite them to your place of business. While we are not expected to be experts in every culture in the world, we should be aware of important issues pertaining to demographics that we want to do business with.

I have outlined a framework for building relationships and rapport across cultures. While it may seem simple, the devil is in details. Keep in mind that cultural competence is not a destination, it is a journey and that those who pay attention to the details will succeed.


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Focus on the Soft Skills to Get the Hard Stuff Done: The CLEAR™ Formula for Excellent Customer Service – Part II

Posted by Nara Venditti on August 17, 2009

In our previous article “Focus on the Soft Skills to Get the Hard Stuff Done: The Clear Formula – Part I we covered the first letter in CLEAR, C which stands for “Communication”.  Now, let’s move on to L, E, A, and R.

              L – stands for Listen.  A customer’s expectations from customer service personnel are the ability to listen, understand and take action on their specific needs. Active listening such as nodding when you are interacting face-to-face or an occasional “I see” over the phone reassures the customer that the service rep understands the problem and will recommend the best action.

               E – stands for Empathize.  Acknowledging another person’s emotional state by saying “I understand why you feel this way” demonstrates sensitivity to customer’s needs. Empathy will relieve the customers’ anxiety and turn a defensive attitude to one of cooperation. To quote Jack Canfield, “they don’t care what you know, until they know that you care”.

              A – Ask. To be certain of the customers’ intentions one needs the skills of Sherlock Holmes in the art and science of asking questions. Among the many types of questions which a service rep should be familiar with are: open ended and close ended questions, preview and probing questions, and confirmation questions to name a few. Each category can include right questions to ask and questions to avoid (depending on the situation). An example of a good close ended question would be, “Do you prefer to be contacted by phone or e-mail?” If a right question is asked at the right time the customer will recognize and appreciate the concern, trust and connect to the customer service professional.

              R – stands for Build Relationships.  All the above points add up to good relationships. Those who communicate well, listen hard and empathize sincerely build strong relationships. Creating a positive experience will leave the customer with a positive impression of both the company and its products and services. A satisfied customer will often lead to repeat business and favorable publicity.  “A Good relationship is good for business”.

Train your service professionals to use soft skills effectively domestically and across the globe and you will be able to satisfy your customer’s needs, exceed their expectations, sell more through good service, and make a big positive difference in your bottom line.

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Excellent Customer Service with CLEAR Formula – Part I

Posted by Nara Venditti on August 1, 2009

World-class customer service undermines a company’s long term survival, especially in today’s  service oriented economy. Not surprisingly, a study by The Forum Corporation showed that 65% of customers switch providers because of inferior quality of customer service. A company may have excellent products and a well trained technical staff but if it fails to provide more than adequate customer service, it may not sustain its business. Each phone call, e-mail or face-to-face interaction that frontline employees have with customers presents an opportunity to reinforce a positive company image. However,   the basic interpersonal skills to achieve this are not typically taught in school and academic life offers little opportunity for the art of dealing with people. During my many years of working in the customer service field I found that teaching CLEAR™ approach helps improve soft skills.

C  – Communicate

L – Listen

E –  Empathize

A – Ask

R – build Relationships

 In the Part I we will cover the first letter “C” that stands for Communicate. Words are powerful tools that affect and determine the outcome of  the business dialogue. They can trigger positive or negative feelings. In business, the words we speak (verbal communication) are one component of communication. Separate from technical substance, courtesy and understanding are crucial to good customer service. The service professional that can use words appropriately will have a clear advantage in the service interaction. A simple “Is there anything else I can help you with?” will be music to the customer’s ear when asked at the right time during the service transaction.

Non-verbal cues encountered in face-to-face situations are another component of communication that can be more revealing than what is said. Body language can often convey confidence and sentiments to the attentive reader more so than words.  Some of the more obvious cues in non-verbal communication are the smile, eye contact, hand shaking, personal distance and physical contact. For instance, in the US, an acceptable distance between conversing individuals is between one and a half to two feet. Less can trigger discomfort and anxiety and distracts from the subject. Except for the British, Europeans tend to stand closer while engaged in conversation. A good acceptable distance in Japan is about four feet. The essence of \ non-verbals vary across cultures and your service professionals need to be aware of them. Learning to recognize, interpret and react to body language cues becomes a powerful advantage.

      Stay tuned for Part II, and in the meantime do not forget to practice the “C” letter principle when communicating with your customers.

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The Naming Game: Global Diversity Speaker Intelligence

Posted by Nara Venditti on June 24, 2009

Names are an important element on the platform of human relationships. Correctly pronouncing your student’s or colleague’s name goes a long way towards earning the individual’s respect and trust.  This could be a challenge, however, when you’re up against a name like Javarkharlal. It is always appropriate to ask “Am I pronouncing it right?”  Then repeat the name a few times so that your mouth and tongue could practice the unusual sounds and combination of sounds.

When dealing with multicultural students, customers, or colleagues, it is helpful to keep these points in mind:

1. Naming tradition differs across cultures.  For instance, in some cultures, person’s last name comes before the given name. In my own country of origin, Armenia, I would be Venditti Nara, rather than Nara Venditti. Or, suppose you greet Hong Genfu from China as Mr. Genfu. That may be the same as addressing Bob Johnson as Mr. Bob

2. It is not always easy to distinguish which is the first name or which is last. We may greet Harlan Henry from the Caribbean, as Henry because it is the more common first name in the US.

 3. Hispanic names usually include both mother’s and father’s family names.     It is father’s name that is used in addressing the person.

To learn more about addressing etiquette across cultures, read my article  at

Nara Venditti, Ph.D., is a platform speaker, educator and author. She is the president of Succeed in America, LLC and author of “How to Get A Job in the USA ” and “Ameri$peak.”. She is an expert in foreign born employee development, global diversity and business English and a frequent presenter at Conferences, Companies and educational institutions. She speaks on careers, communication and diversity. She can be reached at +1 203 791 1107 or

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