12.2.4 Cases of good practice

External assistance to contact customers in their native language

A manufacturing company realised that they needed to develop the language skills of their employees. The company was based in the UK and did business there whilst 80% of their products were made for the international market. This meant supplying all the continents, dealing with clients and having to speak many different languages. Not being able to speak the native languages had proven to be an obstacle to conducting business in the different countries.
A local language centre was approached. The language centre provided a language trainer who was assigned to provide in-house training.
The language skills required were quite specific. They had to enable the sales teams to conduct their business abroad by identifying the needs of their clients and being able to advise them and supply products that would correctly meet their requirements.
A glossary was developed, containing entries related to their products and the associated industrial sectors, as well as general terms used in business. The glossary was translated into the languages most important for their business. This enabled the company to establish initial contact, by sending emails or faxes in the native language and introduce itself and its products.
Sending out the information in native languages significantly increased the response rate from the clients approached.
The company has generated lot of additional business (which they would have missed in the past) by contacting potential clients in their native languages. Thus, the investment that was necessary to implement the new linguistic skills has certainly paid off and has opened new sales opportunities on the international market.1


1 Example presented in: InnoSupport Innovation Guide, 12.2.5, viewed 27 May 2008,  http://archive.innosupport.net