Tips on Embracing Multilingualism as a Small Business Grows

by / Tuesday, 27 May 2014 / Published in Productive Business Tips

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A growing business should seek opportunity where it can be found, and put the needs of its clients as a priority. Generally, the better the business meets the needs of the community it is in, the more successful it will be. That’s why as small businesses grow, they should increasingly consider the potential that having bilingual staff can bring.

Whether or not there is a need for increased language support in a business can sometimes be difficult to determine. The reasons for this are varied but most of the time, business owners will simply not know whether or not there is really  demand for their products among different language groups, and without speaking other languages themselves, they may not have any idea of how large the populations are that they could be serving and whether or not it makes sense to reach out to them from an investment standpoint. One suggestion for business owners who would like to know more about the languages in their communities before they invest in language support is that they take some time to look at Census data for their area. While the Census is not an infallible barometer of the size of a linguistic population, given that fact that some speakers may not respond to the Census, it can still give you a good rough sketch of the size of a bilingual or foreign language speaking population.

If you decide to adopt a multilingual approach to your business, be aware of how it will effect your processes and how it may necessitate some organizational change. Depending on the way you run your business as well as your industry, accommodating multilingual clients may be as simple as hiring bilingual staff, or it may be as complicated as updating website materials and signage and creating manuals and documentation of processes in a foreign language. As with any major organizational change, you should make yourself available to your employees for coaching, contextualization and education. Non-bilingual employees should be aware of how to handle and forward inquiries in other languages, and you may need to have a couple of training sessions in order to ensure that your staff is able to work as a single unit that is able to effectively distribute multi-language leads and respond to customer inquiries.

Multiple language support can also be announced as positive PR for your growing business. It’s important for business owners to keep up outreach to their communities and stay connected to their client base, both in person and through social media and digital networking. Public relations are important, allowing you to put the best foot forward that you can and cement your place within the fabric of your community. Announcing your bilingual or multilingual customer support showcases your commitment to serving and bringing your community together.

Photo Credit to DVIDSHUB on Flickr

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