Building a better customer experience for global customers
Customers are the lifeblood of any commercial organisation. Most businesses, whether they run a local or global operation, understand the importance of keeping their customers happy and know how poor customer service can quickly lead to a drop in loyal customers.
Companies nowadays tend to look at the lifetime value of a customer and intend to benefit from it. For example, Banks and Financial organisations lend money to students and try to build a life long relationship with them as they are most likely to return as customers when they decide to purchase a new vehicle, get married or get a new mortgage etc. This is one of the fundamental reasons why most organisations put in a lot of efforts to excel service experiences for their customers every year.
When you are a local business, communicating with all employees, implementation, monitoring and measuring of service standards are not going to be a challenging as it would be for a global organisation.
Global organisations often face obstacles such as having no or very limited face-to-face communication. For them, maintaining customer service standards across all of their customer touch points can be a hard nut to crack. Besides the distance and time zone differences between global team members, they also have to take into account other barriers such as language and cultural differences. In short, a lot is going against them.
Let’s explore few ideas which global businesses could adopt for creating better experiences for their customers.
1. Establishing Global Customer Service Standards
Sometimes it may feel like walking on thin ice when deciding whether to maintain the same customer service practices across all countries or whether to customise them according to each respective country that you operate in. Not all countries share the same social and cultural values. A practice which is considered a brilliant idea in one country/region, might be regarded as offensive or an action frowned upon by another society.
A perfect example is: In Japan, it is common to exchange gifts with colleagues and business partners. The Japanese consider it as a custom or an etiquette. In a different culture such as England or the USA, it may be interpreted as an attempt of bribery.
Studying and learning about social/cultural norms and red flags in all countries where the business operations run is an essential task you must perform first and foremost if you are running a global business. A company can then define the customer service standards (avoiding any red flags) which all its global staff can follow to make and keep their customers happy.
2. Communication & Implementation of Service Standards
Communication is the key to success when it comes to teamwork. It is the same principle that applies when setting up global customer service standards. The practices chosen to be put in action to improve customer service experiences and their scope must be clearly communicated to all key stakeholders.
The most important stakeholder of them all is the internal staff. For these initiatives to work well, it is vital that all employees clearly understand the actions they are required perform as well as receiving feedback for improvements. For modern day businesses, communicating with overseas team members isn’t as challenging as it used to be, thanks to the development of technology. While you could always pick up the phone or send an email, you can also get in touch with global team members via texts, live chats on social media or adopting a specific communication software.
Although most companies use English as the primary language for business operations, there may be global team members who don't speak English or may not be competent enough with it. While some companies have strict policies to hire only the English speaking staff, some companies may follow a different strategy such as hiring interpreters to communicate with global employees/customers or providing extra training to staff to improve their English training skills.
If you are a start-up with a global presence, it would be ideal to plan weekly conference calls schedule webinars with each global team to ensure all teams are on the same page. And if you are an already an established large-scale global corporation, you can even afford to have a local manager based in each overseas office. They can ensure weekly meetings are conducted face-to-face, which are always way superior that digitally held meetings.
Apart from the employees, it is best to keep other key stakeholders and customers aware of the company’s service standards. Displaying/communicating the list of standards in corporate communications and the company website serves as a benchmark for the company's actions. And informing all relevant audiences of what is the service levels to be expected from the company allows the firm to manage customer expectations better.
3. Monitoring and measurement
Your job isn’t over right after the communication and implementation of service standards with all global employees and other stakeholders. It is equally important to have processes in place to measure success and evaluate what works well and what doesn’t.
Mystery Shopping is an excellent tool to assess the effectiveness of your customer service standards and how well your staff adheres with these. It provides a great deal of insights of the real life customer experiences. The anonymity of the mystery shopper who poses as a real customer allows you to check how the internal staff behaves in difficult situations or to check whether the current systems and processes work well with day to day business operations. These studies offer you with knowledge on areas for improvement, tells you which staff members requires additional training, helps you evaluate the current systems & processes in place. It also assists you in identifying and recognising employees providing best customer service experiences among the global teams and provide them with rewards and recognition to keep them motivated.
Conducting Customer Satisfaction Surveys is a great method receiving direct feedback from global customers. The surveys can be carried out over the phone or via online questionnaires and the results often displays trends across geographic regions, demographics or certain practices of the company itself. These provide valuable insights for the management team to review and come up with ideas to improve customer service.
Planning and conducting face-to-face reviews with each team member in your overseas office at least once in every quarter is another thoughtful initiative you can implement. Not only it allows instant and direct two-way communication between staff and the management, but also strengthen the relationship. Also, it helps you understand if the employees are happy with what they do and find out about suggestions or recommendations they think are best to improve customer experiences.
4. Review and redefine Service Standards
It’s a cycle that you must repeat to provide a quintessential experience for global customers. When you gain new insights from monitoring and tracking processes of the current standards and businesses practices, use them to your advantage.
- Review what works well and continue with those practices
- Brainstorm ideas for improvement
- Redesign the service standards for far better customer experiences
- Lay off any practices that aren’t working too well. Replace them with alternative standards
- Redefine new standards, set them in motion and repeat the other steps in the order we discussed above
Ensuring that these reviews take place at least once a year is an absolute must for every global business. It is a critical task which should be ideally undertaken by the management team.
Building excellent customer service experiences, specially when you are running few global offices, is not indeed a task that you can accomplish overnight. It is an endless process that requires constant and continuous review and improvement which requires time and patience.
Obtaining a good understanding of cultural backgrounds of the countries you operate in and the language barriers plays a key role in solving these challenges, and helps you with improving your overall global customer experience.
Created: September 14th, 2016