It’s important that you hire the right people as you begin your global expansion. After all, you may not speak the language of your customers, so you are placing a great amount of faith in your representatives. Here are a few questions to consider as you look for the right customer service specialists.
International Ecommerce Customer Service
Are You Local?
The trend of large multinationals outsourcing customer support operations to low-wage markets appears to have lost momentum. These days, companies are increasingly locating customer service operations as close to their customers as possible. Doing so enables representatives to be available during the same work hours as their customers, support the same languages, and be more sensitive conditions “on the ground,” such as holidays and product usage trends.
A major reason why this strategy is becoming popular is because cloud-based customer service software allows companies to retain specialists anywhere there is a computer and Internet connection. For example, when entering a new market, you can save upfront investment by hiring a specialist who works from home.
Are You Bilingual?
If you’re just getting started in a new country or supporting a new language, you want your first hire to be someone who is fluent in both your language and the language of your target audience.
Not only is it important for you two to be able to communicate, but you also may want this person to provide support across languages. For example, you may find that customer service requests from a newly targeted market are still slow, so your new hire can contribute with English-language service requests as well — which is also a great way to train new hires.
As your support team grows within a new market, this person can subsequently hire local language experts who may not speak English.
Are You Adaptable?
Customer support can mean different things to different people. One person may use Twitter to get in touch with your company, while another may look for your website knowledgebase or customer forum. Given all these potential support tools, you want customer support experts who are open to using all of them, particularly when you’re just getting started in a new market and need people who can wear many hats. And given the pace of change in technology around the world, you also need people who can readily adapt to new social platforms and new ways of working.
Are You Technical?
You don’t need support specialists who can program software, but you do need people who aren’t afraid of technology. As you expand into new markets, you may begin with just one or two people working from home. And they’ll need to manage their Internet connections and be able to support themselves to a large degree. So before committing to someone, prepare a “test drive” to see how well he or she can handle a variety of technically oriented tasks.
Speaking of software, if you work with in-country representatives, you’ll want to leverage cloud-based software (instead of requiring users to install desktop software). Three popular, cloud-based options that provide varying degrees of multilingual support are:
Each of these services provides localized interfaces (of up to 18 languages) so your support team can work with the software in their native languages.
Are You a World-Ready Boss?
You can’t assume that the methods that work best in your home market will work equally well in another. In fact, you should probably assume that some degree of localization will be required. That’s just part of going global.
Consider the plight of Walmart, a company that didn’t fully appreciate the challenges of expanding into Germany and ultimately withdrew from the market. Walmart required employees to participate in a pep rally before the start of each workday — a tradition that didn’t sit well with German employees. And the idea of a smiling “greeter guide” standing at the door was also off-putting to the locals, who are often more reserved than Americans.
You want local representatives who are empowered to localize your brand and your customer service. But you also want to listen to what your “ears to the ground” have to say about your company, your brand, and your products in each market you enter.
The most successful global companies are those that don’t view themselves as domestic companies serving foreign markets, but global companies serving local markets.