customer service language barrierIn today’s global village it is not uncommon to find yourself face-to-face, or on the telephone, with a customer who is struggling with your language.  It can be a tremendously awkward and frustrating customer service situation for all concerned.  Here are six rules for overcoming language barriers:

Be Patient
If you think you’re frustrated, imagine how your customers must feel!  If you have ever tried to function in a second (or third or fourth) language, you know how inadequate you feel when the service person you’re dealing with doesn’t understand you and is looking at you like you’re stupid.

Look Pleasant
Smile, for goodness sake!  Let your face send the message that, despite the communication barrier, you care about this customer.

Listen For Creativity
Often, when people are searching for words, they will try different strategies to get their ideas across.  So, for example, if someone says, “I need an eyes-closed place,” don’t just shake your head in frustration.  He (she) may just be wondering where the nearest hotel is.

Use Body Language
Ever play charades?  Great body language can often compensate for other language barriers.  Use your hands!

Use Visuals
A picture is indeed worth 1000 words.  Use pencil and paper, maps, calculators – any prop that might help facilitate communication

Involve Other People
If there are people you know who might be able to help – get them involved!

It takes a lot of courage to try and conduct business in a language that’s not one’s own.  Make sure that you treat this customer with the respect they deserve!

Good luck!

“Don’t be too hasty to assume it’s the other person who has the communications problem!” – Shaun Belding customer service keynote

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group is a global leader and speaker on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance

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