Here is Elaine's classroom! We are assembled in the courtyard between the retail store and workshop at Reaching Out. Behind us the work goes on to create lacquer ware.
Binh is substituting for Quyen, who is the usual translator, but this week she was off in Ho Chi Minh City taking a business management course. Binh and Quyen are really trying to stay current with management theory and practise. It is great to see them applying what they have learned.
Even though we start the class at 8:30 a.m., it is crushingly hot one half way through the hour long session, so Teacher is mopping her brow and drinking a lot of water, between exercises and "lectures." It is difficult work for both students and teacher, as we try to bridge cultural differences as well as language differences.
Determining customer needs is really tricky, as it is not in the Vietnamese nature to ask questions, never mind "open ended" questions! Our store is full of such beautiful products, many of which go unnoticed or unappreciated, because the tendency of the staff is to go with whatever the customer is standing next to, or wait for the customer to find the treasures. How curious...... in a culture where asking one's age is very OK, it never occurs to them to ask "would you like a set of six?" when they see a customer handling a single coaster or " would your husband find a beautiful money clip handy for carrying his Vietnamese money while travelling here?"
We are making progress and have lots of fun. When talking about difficult or fussy customers, we explored the "wants" of the most difficult......teenage girls!!!! We found surprising similarities across the cultures and ended up with all sorts of suggestions for this target customer....we even learned the word "cool".