Across multiple cultures, ethnocentrism in business communication is often a main reason business collaboration fails, potential clients are lost, and reputations tremble. This is clearly observed in the supply chain industry, where cross-cultural communication is almost inescapable. What are the most effective ways to avoid errors in intercultural business communication? International transport and logistics provider AsstrA shares its approach.
Subtle forms of ethnocentrism are near impossible to recognize by yourself. This is why while managing international business communication it is particularly important to carefully understand how the perception of a message you send changes according to the culturally determined point of view of those with whom you are communicating. Linguistic, environmental, and technological considerations as well as social organization, contexting and face-saving, authority conception, nonverbal communication behavior, and time conception are all key factors affecting cross-cultural business communication. These factors are particularly evident in the supply chain industry.
Are there difference between eastern and western partners?
AsstrA Sales and Marketing Director Natalia Eremenco notes that language is never a barrier to doing international business: usually both sides finds one language both possess fluently. Normally it is English in the West, Russian in the East, and if an expeditor speaks the language of the market he works in, e.g. French, Spanish, or Chinese, it is always a plus for the logistics services provider when chasing after new clients.
AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG sales teams communicate with customers in English, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, German, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Serbian, Greek, Turkish, Azeri, Farsi, and Chinese. And the opportunity to talk with business partners in their native language always supports better mutual understanding and faster transport project completion.
“Normally, there are no major difficulties working with people from different cultural backgrounds. Business is business, all around the world. The most challenging part of the job comes at the beginning of cooperation, when you are still trying to understand your client’s attitude and needs. You may not speak all the languages of the world, but if you speak fluent business you will be commercially successful in any cultural environment. Of course, knowing at least some basics about your client’s culture helps to move through the sales cycle faster,” says Mrs. Eremenco.
She has observed that the first impression is more likely to be positive if negotiations involve attention to details and subtle cultural preferences. For example, Francophones value polite manners and clarity of speech and have liberal views on doing business with foreign businesses. On the other hand, Anglophones prefer to speak with locals and deal with locally registered units of a multinational logistics group. German decision makers tend to test the trustworthiness of a potential partner before setting up a deal. Slavic cargo owners are more likely to choose and appreciate a partner providing the best priced logistics solutions and may even forgive a few operational mistakes if they see potential for a long-term business relationship.
Lessons to learn
The best things you can learn while working with cross-cultural business partners are flexibility, patience, and respect. Each culture has a different set of values, ethics, etiquette, and expressions. Not knowing the differences will lead a business to communication voids that make messages ineffective and unsuccessful.
“One of the most important lessons to learn in international business is the ability to listen, hear, and understand. Only then will you be able to work productively with carriers and customers from any cultural background. Thanks to the internet and smart technologies, the world is now smaller and closer than ever before. Distance is no longer a border. Differences between cultures are highlighted, and with technology we can perceive mentalities better. That is why communication in the supply chain industry is far easier than it used to be 15-20 years ago,” says Denis Gural, Chief Operating Officer at AsstrA.
For logistics professionals, not paying attention to cultural differences is a fatal mistake that prompts potential partners take their business elsewhere. And to resolve cultural differences it takes much more than knowing how to drink coffee in Italy and how to use chopsticks in China. In the supply chain and logistics business, cultural differences are accommodated while establishing relationships.
“Generalizations like ‘Estonians are very slow’ or ‘Germans are never late’ are very dangerous and you should pay attention to individuals’ mindsets just as much as the cultures you find them in.. Sound difficult? Always remember that if you cannot manage on your own, you can always count on your team. International logistics operators like AsstrA have employees from all around the globe. Their savvy while managing cross-cultural business communication leads to strong long-term relationships with every single international partner,” comments Mr. Gural.