Perhaps the most critical form of communication in business is crisis management. The rule here is to “get out in front of the story”. That implies a quick initial response to the situation and continued updates as it develops. The communication must be seen to be clear, concise and accurate to convey the impression that the company is concerned and is dealing with the situation in an open and honest manner. Often the media is involved and written statements will be required but it is again best to have spokespeople face-to-face with reporters to transmit the sentiments in a human fashion.
“If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen,” Willy Brandt, a former German Chancellor once said. This quote illustrates perfectly that sales’ success and indeed success in any form of business communication abroad will be increased significantly when the message is transmitted in the local language. Language skills are very poor in the UK and the reason always trotted out in our defence is that English is spoken or at least understood across the world. That may be case but when your competitor arrives to your foreign client speaking their language – who do you think will make a better impression? A translated text adds even further risk of misinterpretation to the situation.
So we come to an evaluation of the impact of technology in communication. Here there have been some extremely positive developments that have improved our ability to communicate including; social media that has expanded immensely the options for interaction with end-users; video conferencing that allows for calls to be enhanced because you regain at least some of the non-verbal content of a conversation; and mobile phones/email that mean that people are much more contactable and communication is faster than before.
However, as mentioned, people tend to use email too often when a phone call or meeting would be better; video conferencing should not be used to replace business travel as a general rule because whilst an improvement on a phone call it cannot
replace the personal visit to country; and the immediate contact offered by messenger apps can lead to a confusion between what is “effective communication‘ as opposed to “simply chatter”. There is a lot still to be said for the considered response.
I began this piece by saying that to communicate is to be human and that we should always try to transmit messages in a human fashion. Managers should be considerate and open in the manner that they communicate with staff; businesses should try to be conciliatory in discussions with partners; and we must always strive to listen and respond to our customers in order to constantly improve their experience with our product or service.
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