How To Manage Cultural Mismatches With Clients

A read on what to do if you have cultural mismatches with a partner
Siri Kaliparambil
Jan 21

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

In today’s workplace, a company’s culture is bound by many factors like it’s beliefs and values, the vision and mission etc. which defines the way it communicates with clients as well as the customer services they provide. When singling out a partner to take on a tech project, it is important to single out a company that has the same perspective and goal for the project but it is also equally critical to ensure that they share the same cultural beliefs and values to ensure there are no clashes during the run of the project.

Misunderstandings may happen during a collaboration due to cultural differences with the partner and there are a number of reasons that this could happen. A partner may be angry or upset because he feels that his requirements are not being met or that the project is not being given the due diligence it deserves and most of the time, this could simply be because of lack of effective communication. It is important that both parties are on the same wavelength for harmonious collaboration during the project and there are multiple ways that this can be achieved in case of a fallout during the development process. Let’s look at some of them here:

Actively listen and document

If a client feels that his requirements are not being understood and the project is going off-course, the first step is to find out why they feel that way. Writing down the particulars of their needs and documenting it can help with figuring out what exactly they require which can help in determining how to go about the solution. Problems can arise during partnerships because every company has its own value system and sub-culture which regulates how they function as an organisation and this may necessarily not meet yours. These issues can be caused by factors like differing time-zones or simply because of cultural diversity. It is essential to ask your partner open ended questions to understand how they want to go forward before setting out to find a solution.

Finding the middle ground

When trying to manage cultural mismatches and differences with your client partner, the best way to go forward is to find the middle ground that both parties can compromise on. In a scenario like this, the most effective way to win the partner back is to reestablish confidence by making them feel comfortable. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Maintain etiquette and persuasively communicate with your client to explain your stand to them and keep the conversation as uncomplicated as possible. 
  • If you’re working with a client who speaks a different language, set together a team which majorly speaks or is familiar with a few phrases of the same to reduce language barriers. 
  • If a client feels that the team on-call is unable to cope up with deliverables, find out what the issue is and communicate the same with the client. 
  • If the roadblock is caused by internal dependencies, it is essential to find an immediate fix whereas if the problem is caused by changed requirements, the next step is to strategise an effective plan forward. 
  • Understand your team's work schedule and patterns and align the same with the client’s plan for the project to ensure that both parties are in accord with the milestones and the end-vision of the project.

Managing cross-culture partnerships

While a company’s culture can be affected by both regional, personal and individual factors, the most successful partnerships are those where it manages to effectively communicate and align its culture with the clients. One way that your compatibility of a partnership can be assessed is by inspecting your company’s organisational structure and decision making methods and seeing if this matches the way that the partner works as well.

After conducting a thorough research, come to an agreement with your client partner about the details of the project and terms and conditions of the work that will be involved as this will prevent a mix-up later. It also helps to understand whether your partner wants you to be proactive in terms of the input that you provide to the project or they simply want someone who’ll enhance their in-house team by supporting their activities.

Conclusion

Understanding your partner’s organizational culture and his requirements while proactively managing them to align with the project’s demands is tantamount to any collaboration’s success. Managing cross-culture partnerships is the lifeline of any company’s customer service, especially one that is hoping to make it big in the global market. While partnering with a company which shares a different organizational culture can cause many challenges in the way each party perceives the project and its goal, effective and regular communication can help both partners to be on the same page.