Friday, 7 November 2014

Mind your Selling language #Lidl Polish kerfuffle in Kirkaldy British Xenoglossophobia or Clique eradication ?

Alexandr looks on puzzled  my  mug of
Polish Beetroot soup. I can't understand
the Polish but the diagrams are clear
The recent story of  Polish staff at the Lidl store in Kirkcaldy, Fife, being banned by their management from conversing in Polish during their breaks and told to only speak English on the shop floor has caused quite a kerfuffle.

The story was covered in the Scotsman ,The Edinburgh news and London Daily Mail.

One worker in the store, who did not want to be named, is quoted as saying: “I tried to explain to the manager that many customers who do not speak English correctly come to our shop just because they know there is a Polish service at the cash desk, bakery and shop floor as well.

The manager became irritated and told me to carry out his orders. If I am not able to accept them, I should be free to leave for home. My answer was to stay at work. I am the sole bread winner in the family and I cannot be without a salary.”

Apparently some customers have already complained to Lidl’s head office in London and a petition has been launched.

The worker added: “I have been living in Scotland for nearly 10 years and I have never experienced any kind of discrimination."

“It is very sad to be forced to speak English to people who do not understand it and feel confused as they expect to be served in Polish.”

A Lidl spokesman said: “It is Lidl UK company policy that staff speak in English to customers at all times, irrespective of nationality."

There is clearly more to all this than meets the eye - with respect to obedience to management, employee handbooks and induction policy but it also touches the very sensitive  embarrassment of  British business and its attitudes to foreign languages .

What has all this to do with selling ?

Speaking more than one language opens up a whole new stream of potential clients for we in selling and customer care.- both here and abroad 

It makes your non first language speaking prospective clients and partners feel more comfortable and at ease, which is a good starting point for doing business.

It  also goes down well with existing customers from overseas if you make the effort to speak in their language,

  •  demonstrating respect,
  •  interest 
  • and cultural awareness that will stand you in good stead to develop the business relationship.

With English as the dominant world business language, it is easy for English-speaking companies to assume that they do not need to learn another language.

 But having bilingual  sales and customer care staff can have huge benefits for such a business.

The Guardian reported in 2013 that over the past 16 years, one-third of universities have given up offering specialist modern European language degrees.

 The number of universities offering degrees in the worst affected subject, German, has halved in that time.

What the danger of this to selling for the UK ?

Reliance on foreign peers

UK salespeople will continue to have to rely on their foreign peers to be able to communicate in English. 

Spanish is the official language in 20 countries and it has become an increasingly important language for US businesses because of their proximity to Latin America. 420 million native speakers of Spanish in the world

BRIC Countries

Brazil, Russia, India, China

Brazil is an important emerging market and the world’s seventh largest economy. With an annual GDP growth rate of 5%, Brazil represents lots of potential business for enterprises that can speak Portuguese. 220 million native speakers of Portuguese

Better languages skills deliver more effective business performance.  

In sales and customer care communication skills are  vital . Cultural considerations play a significant part as well, such as how to greet one another, when and how to exchange business cards, how to show gratitude, and what gestures or comments those in selling should avoid.

A global study that looked at the attitudes of more than 250 global HR directors, learning and development professionals and C-level executives – found that the main benefits of a strong communications strategy were 
better collaboration across borders (43%)

and improved competitive advantage in global projects (39%).

A similar number (38%) noted a corresponding increase in the quality of customer care that resulted from an agile workforce able to respond to customers across borders and in different languages.

One-third of respondents also reported a reduction in internal conflict arising as a result of improved communication.

 Difficulties caused by the language barrier and cultural variations in communication can lead to frustration, mistakes and delays, hampering the agility of a mobile, global workforce.

Almost a quarter (23%) of organisations also reported that they had achieved cost savings through improved communications and language skills.

e.g.Significant cost savings might arise from identifying and using appropriate internal resources for cross-border projects, rather than hiring expensive contractors simply because of language issues. Organisations can also make substantial savings on the costs of recruitment and training and development, as enhanced communication skills enable global employee mobility.

Benefits that may be less easy to quantify arise from enabling employees with language skills.

Employee retention is likely to see improvement if staff are offered the opportunity of global deployment, overseas travel or postings and the chance to grow and apply their skills within a larger enterprise pool. 

Research suggests that the recruitment cost of replacing employees can be as high as 60% of a worker’s annual salary, with total costs associated with the impact on company turnover adding up to 200% of salary.

Finally  - TESCO Raising a smile !

The media are quick to bash the supermarkets at the moment. This week it's Lidl last week it was  poor TESCO. 

In Aberystwyth Britain's largest supermarket chain put a sign up at an ATM for their store in Welsh. It should have read "arian am ddim" meaning "free money" but the supermarket wrote " cordiad am ddim" meaning "free erections". The sign has since been taken down


London Languages 



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