In Search of Cultural Competence: Your Customers and Team Will Thank You

Feb 15, 2024



What is cultural competence, and why does it matter to the Amazon Seller? According to Georgetown University, “cultural competence is the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions.” Indeed, cultural competency was popularized in the healthcare industry, but as time goes by, and Amazon teams expand to include people from different ethnic backgrounds, and Amazon Sellers expand their business globally, it’s crucial that developing cultural competence becomes a priority. Cultural competence may help you manage teams better, communicate with customers across the globe, and deal more effectively with people. It’s a valuable interpersonal skill that has become a cornerstone for e-commerce businesses aiming for global expansion. Cross-cultural understanding isn’t an option anymore; it’s a prerequisite for fostering effective international team management, and engaging with a customer base from different parts of the globe.

In this week’s blog, let’s go deep to better understand cultural competence, and see how to develop cultural awareness in your team, to the benefit of your customers that belong to different cultural groups.

The Definition of Cultural Competence

The Nebraska Extension released a fantastic paper on cultural competence, and why it’s an important skill set for the 21st century. Cultural competence is a person’s ability to interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people from different cultures. On the individual level, increasing one’s understanding of culture involves self-awareness, developing social skills and behaviors around diversity, and advocating for others. It’s a crucial skill when you try to build relationships with people from other walks of life. The research recognizes that people consciously or unconsciously express bias when they interact with people across cultures, and these ethnic tensions impact their ability to develop relationships with their customers or teams (or both).

In fact, holding biases and prejudice negatively impacts each and every one of us. The research shows that people with racial biases who interact with people of color show increased levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. In other words, racial biases, and a lack of cultural competence, could lead to health risks.

So, not only will your business continue to suffer, but so will you.

In the e-commerce realm, cultural competence is crucial. In any given day, the average Amazon Seller will interact with people from a myriad of cultural backgrounds, and not all of them may speak English as well as you do. Perhaps it’s your VA in the Philippines, your web developer in India, your suppliers in China, or even – closer to US soil – your Hispanic and African American workforce. Global barriers break down every single day, so it’s so crucial in 2024 to transcend language barriers, respect cultural nuances, and embrace diversity, to create a harmonious working environment and a customer-centric shopping experience.

Plus, according to the research, you’ll feel better about it, too.

The Significance of Cultural Competence

In the competitive landscape of global e-commerce, understanding the cultural dynamics at play within your team and customer base can be the difference between thriving and merely surviving. Cultural competence paves the way for enhanced efficiency, productivity, and innovation, driving international growth and fostering a sense of unity and understanding. Essentially, cultural competence can enhance interpersonal relationships, professional effectiveness, and organizational success in diverse and globalized contexts.

Here are some reasons why cultural competence is significant:

  • Improves Communication: Cultural competence breaks down barriers to communication across different cultures by fostering a deeper understanding of varying communication styles, traditions, and social norms. This leads to clearer, more effective interactions both within organizations and in external engagements.
  • Enhances Teamwork: In diverse working environments, cultural competence enables team members to collaborate more effectively. It encourages respect and appreciation for diverse perspectives and strengths, leading to more innovative problem-solving and a cohesive team dynamic. More on that later.
  • Increases Inclusivity: Culturally competent individuals and organizations create environments where people from all backgrounds feel valued and included. This inclusivity boosts morale, reduces workplace conflict, and promotes a sense of belonging among employees.
  • Strengthens Customer Relations: Businesses and service providers that demonstrate cultural competence are better equipped to meet the diverse needs of their clientele. This sensitivity can enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and the overall customer experience, contributing to business growth and reputation. More on this later, too.
  • Supports Global Engagement: For organizations and individuals operating in a global context, cultural competence is essential for navigating international relations, conducting business across borders, and engaging with global issues. It enables effective cross-cultural interactions and the ability to work successfully in diverse international settings.
  • Personal Growth and Development: On an individual level, developing cultural competence is a journey that enriches personal growth. It expands one’s worldview, fosters empathy, and cultivates a deeper understanding of the complexities of human interactions and societies.

Cultural Competence in the Workplace

Diverse teams, when managed with cultural competence, can leverage their varied perspectives to foster innovation, solve problems creatively, and collaborate more effectively. This competence ensures that team members feel valued and understood, crucial for remote or virtual teams scattered across the globe.

Let’s go back to our prior example. An Amazon team will likely consist of people from Eastern Europe, India, China, the Philippines, and Mexico. VAA Philippines, which connects Amazon Sellers with virtual teams based out of the Philippines, extolls the business opportunities from hiring an Amazon VA:

  • Executive Focus: Delegating tasks to VAs frees up time for more strategic business activities.
  • Adaptability: VAs quickly adapt to technological updates and changes, keeping your business current.
  • Boosted Productivity: Trained VAs complete tasks efficiently, enhancing overall business productivity.
  • Long-Term Partnership: The arrangement isn’t fixed, allowing for growth and development of both the business and the VA.
  • Scalability: Professional assistance from Amazon VAs can lead to operational improvements and increased revenues, accelerating business growth.

The same holds true with VAs from across the globe. Hiring teams with different levels of competency at different disciplines can help you scale your business. Now, the ability to communicate effectively with people of diverse backgrounds can help them get even more efficient. Plus, your employee turnover is probably going to decrease, because when you’re able to understand and interact with people from different experiences, you’ll find that people are more likely to stay with you.

Now, when it comes to the daily grind, employing people from different backgrounds is a great idea, because those different perspectives from different backgrounds bring an interesting nuance to today’s workplace. Let’s say you’re selling winter caps, and you’re wondering why your PPC isn’t doing well. It’s possible that one of your VAs knows exactly why – even if they don’t live in Japan themselves. Like Gary Hamel said, “An enterprise that is constantly exploring new horizons is likely to have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent.”

In short, diverse cultural perspectives are a breeding ground for innovation. Cultural competence allows e-commerce teams to pool varied viewpoints, leading to creative solutions that might not emerge in a monocultural environment. This dynamism is essential for navigating the fast-paced changes in Amazon selling – especially if you plan to scale internationally.

Cultural Competence and Customer Engagement Strategy

Cultural competence plays a pivotal role in shaping effective customer engagement strategies, especially as you expand your business internationally. As businesses cater to an increasingly diverse clientele, understanding and respecting cultural differences becomes essential for building strong, lasting relationships with customers. Culturally competent businesses are able to engage with customers in a more meaningful and respectful manner. Here’s how cultural competence can enhance customer engagement strategy:

Integration into Customer Engagement Strategy

  1. Personalized Communication: Tailoring communication to reflect cultural sensitivities and preferences is key. This might involve using language appropriately, understanding cultural norms around formality, and recognizing significant cultural dates and holidays. Personalized communication fosters a deeper connection with customers, making them feel valued and understood.
  2. Product and Service Adaptation: Adjusting products and services to meet the unique needs of different cultural groups can significantly enhance customer satisfaction. This might include offering product variations that cater to specific cultural preferences or providing services that acknowledge and respect cultural practices.
  3. Marketing and Advertising: Culturally competent marketing involves creating campaigns that resonate with diverse audiences. This includes using culturally relevant imagery, themes, and messages that reflect an understanding of the target audience’s cultural background. It’s also about avoiding stereotypes and ensuring representation across marketing materials.
  4. Customer Support: Providing customer support in multiple languages and understanding cultural differences in communication styles can improve the customer service experience. Training support staff in cultural competence ensures they can handle inquiries sensitively and effectively, building trust and loyalty among diverse customer groups.
  5. Feedback and Adaptation: Actively seeking feedback from customers of diverse cultural backgrounds and being willing to adapt based on this feedback is crucial. This demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement and responsiveness to customer needs and preferences.

Benefits of Cultural Competence in Customer Engagement

  • Increased Customer Loyalty: Customers are more likely to remain loyal to brands that understand and respect their cultural background.
  • Broader Market Reach: Cultural competence enables businesses to appeal to a wider audience, opening up new markets and opportunities for growth.
  • Competitive Advantage: In a crowded market, cultural competence can differentiate a brand, making it stand out to consumers looking for businesses that reflect their values and understand their needs.
  • Reduced Risk of Cultural Missteps: Understanding cultural nuances reduces the risk of offenses or misunderstandings that can damage a brand’s reputation.
  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: Demonstrating cultural competence can improve a brand’s reputation, positioning it as inclusive, respectful, and customer-focused.

Developing a Culturally Competent Business

Here are some tips on building cultural competency in your Amazon selling business:

1. Assessment and Educational Initiatives: Begin with a thorough assessment of your team’s current cultural competence levels. Implement targeted educational programs to bridge knowledge gaps, ensuring that your team is well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the global marketplace. We’re not just talking about Americans and Europeans, either; if your Filipino VA understands where your Chinese manufacturer and Bulgarian PPC expert are coming from, you’ll find that you’ve developed a team that will avoid miscommunication, learn from one another a lot more seamlessly, and effectively interact with one another on a daily basis.

2. Enhancing Communication Skills: Adapt communication practices to be inclusive and clear, minimizing the risk of misinterpretations. Embrace the diversity of communication styles, and ensure that all team members can express themselves freely and respectfully. Your people should feel free to ask questions even if they’re embarrassed or shy. It’s also important for everyone in the team, regardless of race or ethnicity, knows that your workplace is a judgment-free zone.

3. Promoting Inclusivity and Empathy: Cultivate an environment where empathy and inclusivity are at the forefront. Encourage team members to share their cultural insights, fostering a deeper understanding and respect for each other’s backgrounds. Why not have regular team building activities, whether on Zoom, face-to-face, or a combination of both, where team members share about their countries and cultures? On one hand, the other team members would find this fascinating, and on the other hand, it might inspire everyone to travel to other places they’ve never been before!

4. Leveraging Technology for Global Collaboration: In the digital age, technology is a bridge connecting different cultures. Utilize collaborative tools and platforms that facilitate seamless communication and project management across time zones and geographical boundaries. Think about Slack, Asana, Click Up, Monday.com, or any other platform, that will make communication and coordination so much easier, bypassing the issues that time zones might bring about.

Overcoming Cultural Competence Challenges with YLT Translations

Jana knows a thing or two about developing teams that are adept in cultural competence. She employs a fully remote team of 83 people from across the globe. The bottom line for success in managing multi-cultural teams? Showing each and every person that she cares.

“When they feel valued, they want to work for you, they feel part of the team,” she has said previously. “A lot of people have been with us 4 to 5 years; they’ve been there since the start. That’s a tremendous success. I’m really proud of my team and the core values we all share.”

Jana herself employs cultural competence with every thing she does. Whether it’s speaking at a major Amazon conference in the USA, or guesting on a podcast with a European thought leader, or traveling to Japan on holiday, Jana understands it’s so helpful to understand the different backgrounds of the people she interacts with daily.

On the global side meanwhile, YLT Translations employs only native speakers, who fully understand what will resonate with each culture. When it comes to translating your Amazon product listing, chatbot, and website, to wording things in a culturally-neutral and sensitive way, YLT Translations is your partner in navigating the cultural differences between you and your customer, paving the way to a solid and long-lasting relationship.

Conclusion: Active Listening, Avoiding Microaggressions, and Cultural Competence

In the dynamic world of e-commerce, where interactions transcend borders and cultures, the significance of cultural competence cannot be overstated. Its pivotal role not just in team management but also in global customer engagement cannot be denied. As businesses stretch their wings to cover more of the global marketplace, the ability to understand, respect, and effectively engage with diverse cultural backgrounds becomes paramount. Cultural competence is indispensable for anyone looking to thrive in the e-commerce domain.

Cultural competence, originally a concept rooted in healthcare, has found its relevance magnified in the realm of e-commerce, where sellers interact with a diverse array of cultures daily. From managing virtual assistants (VAs) in the Philippines to negotiating with suppliers in China, the modern Amazon Seller is a global citizen, necessitating a shift towards inclusive and culturally aware business practices. It’s so important to foster cultural competence within teams, enhance communication, promote inclusivity, and ultimately strengthen customer relations. This involves active listening, avoiding microaggressions through curiosity and acceptance, and self-awareness of one’s own biases.

Developing cultural competence is an investment in your business’s future, with tangible benefits ranging from improved productivity to expanded market reach. The strategies outlined here — from educational initiatives to leveraging technology for global collaboration — serve as a roadmap for Amazon Sellers committed to cultivating an environment where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated.

As we conclude, it’s clear that cultural competence is more than a strategic advantage; it’s a cornerstone of ethical and sustainable business practice. In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to navigate cultural complexities with sensitivity and understanding is what will differentiate successful businesses from the rest. For Amazon Sellers poised for international growth, embracing cultural competence is not just a choice but a necessity. We applaud you for prioritizing cultural competence. Your customers and team will indeed thank you, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll be setting a standard for the kind of world we all want to live and do business in — one where diversity is not just accepted but embraced as a source of strength and innovation.

Interested in expanding globally? Or getting advice on how to manage teams with sensitivity and cultural competence? Follow us on social at https://www.facebook.com/YltTranslations, https://www.instagram.com/ylt_translations/, and https://www.linkedin.com/company/ylt-translations.