If your company is planning on expanding its global presence, it’s important to know that no matter which market you’re looking to appeal to, what remains the same is universal: the customer’s satisfaction. Therefore, ensuring that your business provides the best customer service to international customers is paramount, and it can be achieved by following a few obvious and not-so-obvious guidelines.
Here are a few tips to ensure your international customer service remains up to par and able to please all of your customers, regardless of where they are located.
Speak the Language
This one is a no-brainer, but if you don’t have staff that speaks the language of your target market, you’ll have to reconsider how well your business will be accepted in new markets. English may be the lingua franca of business, but consider that customers appreciate how your business accommodates their language. For some businesses, it may be important to outsource these language-based calls to call centers that specialize in this service. Other businesses may want to hire staff that is bilingual. However, this one tip is non-negotiable: if you don’t speak the language nor accommodate those who do, you may want to look elsewhere for advertising your business.
Understanding Time Zone Differences
In most cases, your potential international customers will generally have a different time zone than the one that your business operates in. This means that your business — not the customer — has to bridge the gap and accommodate the time of the day that your customers are operating in. While your NYC-based business (time zone: EDT) may have operating hours of 9 AM – 5 PM, customers in South Africa (time zone: GMT +2), for example, only have a few hours overlapping in which to communicate.
There are a number of strategies to fix these problems, which includes having a call center established to handle customer inquiries outside of your business’ hours of operation, which may either process calls for the next business day — or handle the call just as your business would.
Furthermore, it is important to realize that differences in time zones can also affect a person’s receptiveness and willingness to deal with your business. For instance, calling a customer during their lunch hour may decrease the likelihood that you’ll be accepted warmly. Similarly, calling during dinner, outside of working hours, or during a holiday can also adversely affect the receptiveness. Therefore, pay attention to where international customers are in their day.
Understanding Cultural Differences
There are many cultural norms across cultures that can impact how your business is received, especially in business. As an example of contrast, the United States is predominantly known as a place where business is direct and formal, with rapport being established typically after transactions have occurred and money has been exchanged. Conversely, the Middle East has a business culture where trust must be established between two parties before any long-term business can take place. By training your customer service reps to anticipate the expectations of these customers, you can increase the likelihood that your business will be accepted in foreign markets.
Understand that international customers want to do business with companies that match what they’re familiar with. This process for foreign businesses is known as “localization.” Because the world is moving to a more virtualized environment, businesses can achieve localization in more efficient ways than ever before. The easiest way to achieve this? Using virtual phone numbers, from service providers like United World Telecom.
Virtual phone numbers are not only identical to local area numbers (with country code and region/ area code), but also function the same as well. This is because virtual phone numbers are powered by VoIP (“Voice over Internet Protocol”) and cloud computing, which routes calls to another destination anywhere in the world.
By using the call forwarding capabilities of virtual phone numbers, your business can build its local authenticity and engage customers all over the world without missing a beat in terms of excellent customer service.
This means that if your business is based in Canada, it can get in contact with customers in the United Arab Emirates without any obstacles (i.e. long distance fees, blocks by service providers, preferences of dealing exclusively with domestic businesses). Consider your communication needs simplified, while having the ability to handle clients with the right care, regardless of where they are from.
By Tom Senkus
Author’s Bio: As an international entrepreneur and writer, Tom Senkus provides solutions for small businesses and startups to achieve their business presence worldwide. For more information about his list of services and published work, visit www.tomsenkuswriter.com