English has become the language of international business. In 2017, English proficiency correlated with Gross Domestic Product, Average Gross Income, and other key economic indicators. As a lingua franca – the common language between speakers of different native languages – English is undisputedly important. But to build lasting customer relationships, you need to speak to customers in their own language.

Indeed, trends in sales and marketing have been moving towards a tailored approach to improve the customer experience. The personal touch in communications and content proves to work to great effect. So how do you understand your customers and tailor your interaction with them accordingly?

How do you build lasting customer relationships?

In ‘Natural Language and Natural Selection,’ Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom theorise that languages first developed from our use of tools and resources. You need an agreed-upon vocabulary to teach someone how to use a tool, or share other useful information. Yes, basic trading is possible without language. But, as any good sales professional will tell you, to build lasting customer relationships requires mutual understanding – and a common language. English is often that common language. Around 1.75 billion people speak it at a useful level. And it’s the official language of many important international organisations, including Honda, the International Monetary Fund and Samsung.

But is English the best way to connect with customers? Not necessarily. Researchers have found that multilingualism actually boosts economic growth – and there are other reasons to turn to multilingualism too.

Connect with customers on their level

Adapting your communication with customers goes a long way. If content is in the customer’s native language, they are much more likely to make a purchase. Put another way, more than half of customers will pay more if you speak to them in their own language. However, also bear in mind the importance of intercultural communication in sales. Just speaking the language might not make you culturally relevant. Of course, traits such as open-mindedness and patience lend themselves easily to cultural sensitivity. And knowing whether a potential customer comes from a high- or low-context communication culture will make conversation easy.

Small changes make a big difference

Even simple tweaks to tailor your language can significantly improve your interactions with customers. Just including the word ‘understand’ lets the customer know that you are listening. Other words such as ‘you’, ‘free’ and ‘new’ are great for customer engagement. ‘Show’ implies you’ll help the customer – rather than ‘learn,’ which sounds like they have to do the work. And keeping your language short and sweet, whether verbal or written, has an even greater effect than you might have thought.

Verschlimmbesserung doesn’t mean improvement

If you’re considering how to connect with customers around the globe, think about where they’re from. Learning a new language can be difficult: Russian, for example, comes with significant linguistic and cultural differences. And English is no exception. Consider being fair at the fair (homonyms), or shedding a tear over a tear in your jacket (types of homograph). There are many words in other languages that have no English equivalent. Verschlimmbesserung, in German, means trying to improve on something but actually making it worse. Understanding differences in language and breaking down potential barriers enables clearer communication, in turn helping you to overcome cultural differences.

Make customer engagement easy

Large events attract a diverse, international audience. Being able to employ multiple languages helps you pull off the personal touch and build lasting relationships with more customers. Tailor your language to suit the customer at the tap of a button with Gather’s data collection app: Gather Pro. It’s easy to use and it’s GDPR-compliant.

See how Gather Pro can help you build lasting customer relationships. Contact the team today for a free trial.

By Aurelia DeFlandre.

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