Wherever you sell online, in the UK or abroad, customer service is an important part of the sales process. Get it right and your conversion rates can go up by 5% and client loyalty by a factor of 6. But get it wrong and you pay the price. 66% of shoppers who experience bad customer service will change seller and 40% avoid the seller for two or more years.

Providing the best customer service possible might make your customers happy, but the expense could impact your bottom line, at least in the short term. So when it comes to your customers in other countries, how do you provide the customer service they expect but that makes financial sense at the same time?

We asked Salesupply, our strategic customer service partner, for their advice. Their approach to customer service is very much in line with our focus on offering a fully localised customer experience. They support retailers, manufacturers and brands globally with customer care and fulfilment solutions to achieve an optimal customer experience.

In this blog post, Frank van den Berg, Managing Director of Salesupply UK, gives his tips on how you should successfully approach customer service in global markets.

Tip 1. Be aware of local differences

To ensure optimum customer satisfaction worldwide, being aware of cultural diversity is a must. Across different countries, it is not only the language that may differ but also the needs and expectations of the customers.

Let’s start with something seemingly basic: how do customers in different countries like to communicate with you? Based on 180,000 customer contacts, we examined the popularity of mail contact versus telephone contact, on an international level. Here are the results:

Diving a little deeper, it is important for us to differentiate between the universal expectations and requirements.

  • 26% of French and 21% of German online shoppers prefer not to order abroad for fear of communication problems
  • 41% of Italian customers value customer service representatives who are empowered to proactively solve problems
  • 26% of customers in both Hong Kong and Japan value politeness over other aspects.

These findings portray how each country requires a different approach, and this also extends to the style of writing and different terminology used. Some countries value the polite and personalised approach, whilst others are accustomed to a firmer and more formal approach.

These findings also accentuate the demand for a localised customer support service, who not only speak the language fluently but who also have a wholehearted understanding of the customer expectations within the specific country. While customer expectations differ by country, the good news is that in general people across the world want the same: to be helped effectively and fairly, not to be kept waiting and not to be kept in the dark.

The potential for success with this strategy is supported by the following:

  • 52% of companies see multilingual customer service as an important differentiator from the competition
  • 60% of companies say that customer satisfaction has increased through mother-tongue customer service.

Tip 2. Consider different customer service models

1. What language?

We hope that by now you will agree that providing customer service in the language of your clients is by far the best option. It creates trust, credibility, appreciation and loyalty. It also helps build your brand, increase sales and reduce your customer cost through improved clarity and understanding.

2. Location?

In principle it does not matter where your customer service team is based as long as it is perceived to be local by your customer – so be mindful to take a local telephone number and local return addresses, for example. There is nothing wrong with working with foreign language speakers based in your own office in the UK, but be mindful to recruit true mother-tongue speakers, and be sure to have at least two available on an ongoing basis (to cover all shifts, illnesses, seasonal peak times etc).

3. Make or buy?

Are you going to hire your own team of customer service employees or are you going to outsource this to a third party professional company? Outsourcing your customer service offers benefits including personnel and planning security, lower fixed costs through shared seat models, easier internationalisation and ease of covering all channels. Outsourcing also allows your own employees to focus on the most crucial customer tasks – deciding on the approach, monitoring quality, training and dealing with serious problems.

Your options:

  1. One large call centre, with multiple languages 
    The advantages of this option include one location, one point of contact, one process. However, it is often only suitable for larger volumes as a minimum of one person per language is required.
  2. Local call centres, operated by different companies in different locations
    This option allows you to achieve a local approach and often local contact details are included. However, it requires working with several companies, which increases complexity and costs. Shared seats are often available.
  3. Local call centres, operated by the same company in different locations
    This option allows for a fully localised approach often with local contact details and shared seat options. There should also only be one point of contact and one common process across all markets. Decent economies of scale should be possible as your business scales across markets.

Whilst there are many options to consider, for many SMEs or smaller corporates the third option can provide the benefits of scalable growth, commonality in processes and flexible capacity planning. There is also a low risk associated with working with one large call centre, whilst reaping the benefits of working with truly localised teams. To use the phrase just one time: for many companies, this might provide the ideal GLOCALs.

For further help with international customer service and logistics, contact Salesupply. If you have any further localisation and website translation queries, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts.