Communication Through Language Barriers

Communication Through Language Barriers

March 1

Author’s note: The following is an email written to our support team at StorageCraft, but the advice is useful to anybody interested in effective customer communications.

Last week, StorageCraft support received a case that was escalated to Tier 2 (that means it’s bad).  The customer was Russian and had been attempting to work with support in Australia but due to some perceived miscommunication, Tier 2 at StorageCraft headquarters was asked to step in and sort it out.

After we read the customer’s email, there was still confusion about:


  1. What the problem was.
  2. What he needed from support (Australian or otherwise).


I was asked to come over and see if I could make heads or tails of the problem.  I started reading the email and was a little confused by his use of English.

The problem was that I expected an American English structure in the email but instead it was written in English but with Russian language structure.

I had to stop and start over but this time I decided to read it aloud with my best “Russian” accent.  It became clear almost immediately what the customer’s problem was and what he expected of StorageCraft.

Yes, it was funny because I sounded like a fool doing a fake Russian accent. But it was also enlightening and fun. It was day and night reading the email with no accent and reading it with the fake accent. Oddly enough, hearing it the way the customer might have said it really helped us to clarify.

Enjoy the idea of me reading the email in a Russian accent but please remember:


  1. If you don’t understand what a customer is telling you, try to think about it from his or her perspective.  If you have language and communication barriers (this doesn’t include people who have grating personalities), consider what options you have to make back and forth communications easier.
  2. Do not mimic an accent back to a person.  EVER.  (This was done off the phone, and was not done to mock or belittle him in anyway but merely to clarify).
  3. As funny as these things can be, these are real people with real questions and concerns. We’re trying our best to understand and we should always be courteous and considerate of our customer/company relationship.


For those still wondering, our Russian customer had discovered that when using an earlier version of the ShadowProtect 30 day trial, he could restore a backup that would reset the trial, giving him another thirty days.  Once he updated to ShadowProtect version 5.0.1, this was no longer possible.  He wanted us to fix this “bug” because he had not finished testing his servers and his boss would not pay for the software until all tests were completed.

Unfortunately for him, we will not fix that “bug” because the 30 day trial was never supposed to reset.  The real bug was that it did reset but the 5.0.1 upgrade will keep that from happening.

Photo Credit: laffy4k via Compfight cc