Correspondence diplomacy is an area in export business that is not given importance by many of our exporters – and yet the consequences of not practicing correspondence diplomacy may sometimes result in losing foreign buyers.
Here are some pointers for exporters on how to practice correspondence diplomacy:
• Never send a letter to a foreign buyer when you are angry or in a bad mood. Without the angry sender of the letter realizing it, the text of the letter conveys too an angry mood of the exporter. Especially women exporters. By nature women are more impulsive and their adrenalin shoots up whenever they are excited. I have seen a lady-exporter suddenly getting into a hyper-mood upon receiving a letter from a foreign buyer questioning the quality of the goods shipped out to the latter.
• Do not use high sounding words in your letter to your foreign buyer. This is not the right occasion to show off your journalistic ability. Many foreign buyers cannot even speak English. The more complicated your English is, the more costly the interpretation expenses incurred by the foreign buyers. Rates of interpreters naturally escalate with the complexity of the English words that you use in addition to the length of your letter. It is always safer to use Grade I English and avoid using English words that are susceptible of various meanings. If you cannot control a bad habit of using high sounding words, rethink of your profession as an exporter.
• Avoid verbosity in your letters; avoid discussions on politics and religion. You are not a politician or a preacher. Even assuming that you hold a dual position of being a politician or a preacher and being an exporter at the same time – your letters to your foreign buyers is not the proper venue to voice out your political and/or religious views. Watch out for foreign buyers from Saudi Arabia. Don’t start preaching the Holy Bible to them.
• Whenever you receive a letter from your foreign buyer that offends your senses – control your emotions and do not run amuck and do not vent your ire on your employees or on your marital spouse or on your children. Always remember that your foreign buyers have cultural peculiarities that may be very different from our own culture. Many foreign buyers who can speak and write a little English may not want to hire interpreters to prepare their letters to their international suppliers. They may wish to write the letters themselves. When this happens, the letter will naturally be flawed with faulty grammar. But worse, the tone of the letter may be so demanding, dictatorial, and so obnoxious. Relax. The foreign buyers do not really mean what they are saying in their letters. It is just a case of cultural and communication gap.
• Even when you are collecting from a foreign buyer unpaid accounts that are already due and demandable – maintain your tact and diplomacy. Sometimes, foreign buyers also experience temporary setbacks in their businesses. For example, the foreign buyers have not also been paid by their customers. Or the market of the goods that you shipped out to him slumped unexpectedly. In the same way that exporters also experience temporary setbacks in their businesses – foreign buyers also go through this stage.
• If a foreign buyer tells an exporter that he is going to file a case against the latter for one reason or another, do not write back and say : “Go to hell. I dare you. If you do that I will have you blacklisted in our Bureau of Immigration or with the Department of Trade and Industry. ‘Rather than take this strong approach, soft talk your foreign buyer and explain to him in a very courteous way your side. Your foreign buyer whatever his nationality is also a human being and definitely he also has a soft, compassionate side.
• Do not be irritated or offended by a day-today follow – up fax message sent to you by different persons working in the office of your foreign buyer. If you do not have the patience to deal with this kind of situation, better quit as an exporter. Like in other businesses, export business demands that you know how to deal humanely with other people. This includes correspondence diplomacy.
• Make it a habit to reply to letters/fax messages of your foreign buyers. There are exporters who neglect to answer letters. Sometimes the lapses extend to months. Your regular correspondence with your foreign buyer is a visible sign to the foreign buyer that you are giving personal attention to his export order.
• Avoid sending letters to malign, slander, libel, or discredit other exporters and other Filipino businessmen for that matter. Everything that an exporter does reflects on how other Filipino exporters and businessmen do business – in the eyes of the foreign buyers. Understandably so.
These tips are applicable too in our dealing with others. Courtesy, tact, and diplomacy in correspondence should also be practiced by government employees as well. It is saddening to note that many times we all receive at one time or another letters that hurt our feelings so much.
The best test as to whether letters we send to others observe courtesy and tack is simply to read the letters and ask ourselves: does the letter that we are going to send to others hurt our feelings if we ourselves receive these letters?
Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected]).
Note: Continuation of my article about Banco Filipino will appear next week.