Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Emailing the Factory / Supplier in China

If you’re emailing specifications and confirmations to your Chinese supplier remember not to write to them the same way you would write to your cousin or your colleague.   

Spring Festival: Enjoying Traditional Lanterns
Keep in mind with your supplier, whether factory or trading company, English is their 2nd language.  I know this is obvious, but the way most overseas buyers email their suppliers, you would think they are not aware of this. 
 Avoid using slang, local expressions, cutesy phrases and the like.  The simpler and more direct, the better.

A case sticks out in my mind, where the buyer emailed us wanting a quote for beach sandals, “his and her” set. 

“His and her” although may sound completely normal if you’re from California or London, isn’t easily detected if you’re from China.  A person using a second language is likely to skip something they don’t fully understand or put it at a lower importance (especially here in China-not being rude, it’s the truth.  Most folks here are topic-minded, not detailed-minded). 

My staff fielded the email and when quoting the buyer, they didn’t quote the “his and her” set, only a standard sandal.  We learned from our mistake, which was not self-educating ourselves on English we didn’t fully understand and we eventually fixed the misunderstanding with the buyer and got back on track. 

Keep in mind, we’re a company that is more international, positions ourselves on our Western-style service and has expat influence.  Think about when emailing a factory direct how much more issue they’re going to have with the English. 

How much of everyone’s time could the buyer save if, instead of saying “His and her set”, they say,

Please quote 1 set:  each set includes 2 pairs.  1 pair for men, 1 pair for women. 

I think it took me 15 seconds longer to type that; but spending the 15 seconds up front, saves both sides a world of trouble on the back-side. 

This “his and her set” was a small case.  I’ve seen larger cases.  Isn’t it worth slowing down and simplifying your email when thousands of dollars are on the line?  Or when you have an urgent delivery time and you’re needing fast quote / fast delivery? 

Factories, suppliers, trade companies are graciously using English to adapt to the overseas buyer.  The good news is you don’t have to send your RFQ in Chinese.  The not-so-bad news is that slowing down and typing bullet-pointed specs, can save a large headache in the end.  

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