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Universal Training Solutions.

Kathy James was Universal Training Solutions’ top trainer. She had delivered client presentations, held one-day open workshops on sales calls, and had led national rollouts for large training implementations. The opportunity to lead the training for Universal’s new South African client, National Bank of SA, was simply too good to miss. She had met with Universal’s account manager for National Bank and felt that she had a strong grasp of what the client was looking for. National Bank of SA had recently invested $10 million (about 60 million rand) in upgrading its call center equipment, and its managers were looking for customer service Review Exercises training to ensure that the call center representatives (CCRs) could provide the highest level of service in their market. Market research had shown that South Africans weren’t accustomed to good service from their banks, so this initiative was seen as a good way to gain some market share. Universal’s customer service training program—First Class Service (FCS)—had a phenomenal reputation with dozens of Fortune 500 companies and several global implementations to its credit. It was designed to be delivered in three days with average class sizes of 10 to 12 employees. It was a logical choice for National, which was eager to get the program rolling. Kathy asked to lead the cultural adaptation team, working with a translator in Johannesburg to translate FCS into Afrikaans (although she had been told by the account manager that most of National’s employees spoke very good English). She anticipated that most of the group activities within the program would remain the same—that was what National’s buyers had seen at the demonstration. She set up the first of what she thought would be several conference calls with the translator and looked forward to another successful project. However, the first call brought things to a dramatic halt. As Kathy and the translator got to know each other, the translator asked how much Kathy knew about the South African culture. Kathy had been doing some extensive research on the web after she had been assigned to the project, and she did her best to dazzle the translator with her knowledge. Then the translator asked a question that stumped Kathy: “Why are you only translating this into Afrikaans? Did you know there are 11 national languages in South Africa and that not recognizing those languages is considered to be a social blunder?” The translator went on to describe how in many formal presentations (such as the training events Universal was planning to roll out in all National’s regional offices over the next six months), it was considered rude not to recognize all the nationalities present in the room—particularly in group activities. Kathy started to panic. How was she supposed to turn an American three-day program into a South African threeday program that allows time to recognize 11 languages and nationalities in the group exercises?

1. What is the right thing to do here?

2. Why shouldn’t National just deliver the American version of CFS? If it works here, it should work there.

3. Which stakeholders will be affected by Kathy’s decision?

4. What are her options here?

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