In an increasingly globalized and digitalized business environment having the right communication skills is paramount. Many companies underestimate the risk for unintended consequences when communication is not adapted to new media channels and the global playing field.
Swiss companies have a multi-lingual, international outlook ingrained in their very DNA. But today communication is changing fast. Not only has it become even more important in and of itself, with a strong focus on customer experience. With the forceful corporate push to digital communication every message and image is exposed to billions of potential readers. It is no longer enough to look at a well-defined, targeted market and use the correct language or make the relevant cultural considerations for this particular area.
“The number of communication channels at companies’ disposal adds immensely to the complexity,” says Pius Fellner, Country Head Switzerland for Lionbridge. “Businesses need to tailor their communication so that it is not only locally relevant, but also works on a global basis, where anyone, anywhere will be looking at the website.”
Even overlooking a small detail in an image or using a single word that may be ambiguous to some readers can trigger unpredictable negative reactions. And once the damage is done it can take time to rebuild corporate image and customer confidence.
“These completely inadvertent oversights can lead to very acute and sensitive situations, whether they are temporal and confined or represent a broad cultural challenge. A recent example is when a major soda producer’s marketing slogan, mixing English with Maori, backfired in New Zeeland. Most companies, large and small, underrate these risks,” he adds.
AI has been used by businesses for many years to facilitate translations and its use in corporate and public communication is evolving quickly. However, Pius Fellner points out that relying too heavily on AI entails considerable risks.
“Language is more art than science. It involves hundreds of rules and nuances. The question is to what extent we want to embrace the bulk work of machines. It definitely has its place, but in the end it is still the expertise and judgment of the human communicator or interpreter that will prevail.”