Competencies in Cross Cultural Settings
The implication of
globalization means that individuals who come from different
cultures and possess different levels of language competence
will require specific strategies that can help them achieve effective
communication. The core competency in a call centre, is communication,
but here just good language command is not enough but an awareness
of major cultural differences between agents and call recipients,
is essential to make interaction easy.
Call centre communication is a dynamic two-way, multiple-influenced
translation process. The process is complex and various in that
industries send and receive messages via multiple language and cultures
in different business and social environments. These critical skills
enable the agent to be open to differences for interaction to achieve
positive outcomes in cross cultural business transactions. A
Call centre agent has two dimensions in her ability to communicate,
that is interpersonal dimension and an intercultural dimension.
This paper is based on the premise that all those present here are
familiar with the basic precepts of communication. Where communication
is the interaction between the self (staff and organization) and
the partner (call recipient) in a formal business setting. Here
in the call centre, communication is a structured situation as opposed
to say a visitor on a foreign shore. Whatever the difference, nevertheless
it is also true that people everywhere are more often than not captivated
by human characteristics rather than simply captured through database
There are several
(more than 500) definitions of culture but the most exhaustive
is “Culture is the sum of learned values, beliefs, perceptions,
attitudes, practices, traditions, customs, of a group, usually
passed from one generation to another.” These are shared symbiotic
ideas and meanings that a community uses to interpret and
give meaning to their experience.
Another simplistic view of ‘Culture is communication’
means what we do and what we say is a reflection of our culture
and us. Thus even when the language is same the chances of
error are high. ‘Usages’ and contextual inferences may be
completely different between cultures.
So even though the
speaker has learnt the vocabulary of others language, selecting
the most appropriate word and the correct intonation will define
communication competence in a cross-cultural setting.
Coming to the core
communication precepts, there are four important ones in a call
center communication model.
Simply put it means ‘Knowledge of self and self-capabilities. We’re
influenced by our culture to form certain beliefs and values. This
dictates how we judge and react to events around us. Also as individuals
we have skills such as advising, persuading, instructing, interviewing,
exchanging information, public speaking, delegating, problem solving,
listening, etc. This performance ability to handle and cope helps
us achieve personal, group and organizational goals.
2. Culture awareness: Or Knowledge
of others culture. Being ethnocentric, we logically believe that
own culture is the only superior culture. But here as a cross cultural
communicator we need to be not only aware of being influenced by
own culture, but also realize and recognize that there are people
from other cultures who’ve also been influenced by their own culture.
This is also called emotional competence, or openness to dissimilarity.
Only with this attitude we can adapt, accept appreciate the other
culture. By embracing the other culture we can avoid ridicule, and
be serious about others viewpoints. Thus during interaction we can
monitor and regulate own and others emotions for a productive communication.
What it means is when we react and this is very important, we need
to be non-judgmental. As an outbound calling agent we initiate contact
and thus we have to be aware of various reactions to our contact.
For example, if we
perceive others to be patronizing or rude, rather than judging harshly
we can overcome our negative attitudes by our emotional competence,
which is an acquired trait. Thus an. agent is able to empathize
and provide a culture-appropriate response. Without this knowledge
other parties may deduce lack of integrity on agent’s part. Being
able to view the cultural distance as a positive aspect or as an
opportunity is more welcoming.
3. Communication skills: Whereby we prove our ability
to communicate with influence. Command over language, reflective
listening, overcoming objections, negotiating, paraphrasing,
when to repeat and when not to repeat, clarity of speech,
diction, enunciation, ability to reflect cheerfulness through
intonation and cadences, language simplicity, voice control,
attitude, sincerity and so on and so forth. An important part
of it would be conflict management skills. Because communication
in a cross-cultural context will always result in conflict,
and our ability to understand what’s happening around us can
reduce the pain. We use tools like tact, diplomacy, knowledge,
maturity, and a passive aggressive stance, to create a win-win
Organizational Knowledge. This is business process knowledge,
and product knowledge, system skills, strategic knowledge of company,
its capacity, the hierarchical structure within, protocols and internal
procedures. Who are we?
And how different
we are from others, and where we stand in relation to them. What
are our goals, missions, and visions? How do we go about doing our
business? Our personal status within the hierarchy etc. When
we study the 4 precepts it is easy to see that apart from self-awareness,
(which has been a part of us since we began to know ourselves),
all the other core competencies are acquired. Communication skills
are generic and common to most industries and easily gained through
is specific to the company and it’s the responsibility of the center
to provide adequate training to the agent, though again it is common
to all employees of an organization. Whereas cultural awareness
has to be an acquired knowledge, specific to the particular culture
the agent will be dealing with. It may not be part of agents existing
skill sets and would definitely need to be addressed. It is not
enough for a call center agent to neutralize his accent and hide
the non-verbal signals to effect competent communication. But before
we begin to understand how an agent can acquire or refresh his cultural
awareness, we should look at some of the differences in the two
The views and thoughts expressed in this article are purely
those of the contributing writer.
Cultural Norms And Value Differences Between
Australian & Indian Cultures
Writer: Lalita Bhalerao I've a Masters in Communication
and have worked in customer facing roles more than a decade in Australia.