Bridging the Global Customer Service Gap


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Many of us joke about living in a small world and these days, it is fairly easy to cross paths with people from all parts of the country and all parts of the globe. We even have the ability to connect with the most remote and formerly unreachable locations without ever leaving the comfort of home.

Inarguably, our world has gotten even smaller in recent years as connections with our global neighbors have become much stronger and more effective through the use of better, faster, and more portable technology. Who among us has not texted or used an instant messenger product to chat with friends far and wide, joined a web conference with colleagues from around the globe, or attended online university with fellow students who aren’t even in the same country? We are also living in the age of Smartphones and social media, two 24/7 tools that have brought service organizations and their customers much closer than ever before.

For these and many other reasons, a growing number of companies who have enjoyed a strong domestic presence are giving serious thought to expanding their operations globally. If your customer service operation is thinking of going global, here are a few considerations to bear in mind as you and your business contemplate this exciting leap.

Learn, Know, and Document the Differences. Good customer service means many things to many people, particularly when the team and the customer base exist in multiple countries. Find out what makes for great service at home and abroad by taking the time to learn and document the processes and procedures that drive success in each location. Then compare the results to see what can be added, adapted, adopted, or deleted to arrive at a global customer service design that will delight all of your customers, no matter where in the world they are. Also note that in order to deliver successful service on a global scale, you may need to do some things differently from one location to the next or make changes to existing practices that have been in place for years. You won’t know what those changes may be, however, without undertaking this important exercise. Omitting it can result in a significant knowledge gap that can lead to embarrassing and completely avoidable blunders, both with your customers and your global service delivery team.

Define What is Non-Negotiable About Your Service. Regardless of the organization or where it is domiciled, customer service should always mean white glove service. It doesn’t matter if the product or service costs $1 or $1,000; customers deserve to have a professional, engaging, and effective service experience whether they’re calling your Tokyo office this week or your Denver facility next month.

According to the results of Accenture’s 2008 Global Customer Satisfaction Survey, customers look at 5 critical factors in determining whether a customer service experience is satisfying or not:

  • The ability to resolve an issue by speaking to a single service representative rather than being forwarded to multiple representatives
  • Fast resolution of problems
  • High-quality response
  • Customer service agent’s manner and approach
  • Speed of response

When mapping out a global service strategy, it pays to include the universal fundamentals of white glove service to ensure that these core customer expectations can be met:

  • An upscale, professional approach
  • Courtesy and respect for the customer
  • A friendly, approachable demeanor
  • A willingness to help and go above & beyond
  • A focus on the positive
  • A well-defined knowledge base
  • Attention to detail and a high level of accuracy
  • A consistent delivery experience throughout the globe

Making the leap from domestic customer service to worldwide service delivery also means keeping an open mind to new ways of doing things. What we learn from other countries and cultures can introduce an added dimension that customers will love.

Know Your Audience and Cater to Your Audience. These marketing adages have stood the test of time because they’re all about smart business. Whether going global or introducing a new domestic product to market, companies have to ensure that they are reaching their target audiences effectively and with sensitivity. That requires knowing your demographic inside and out and taking the time to understand all of the nuances, including those that are not necessarily intuitive.

When expanding globally, you may suddenly find yourself going from one core, well-defined audience to many uniquely challenging audiences, each demanding special handling and attention due to cultural traditions, societal mores, or legal restrictions. It takes time, it takes research, and it takes being open to change. Ignorance of a local culture is never an excuse for poor service or violating a custom or law, so this is where doing your homework really pays off. Are there aspects of your service delivery today that won’t work well (or at all) in other parts of the world? What could offend, alienate, or compromise your target customer base overseas? What can you learn from your global counterparts that could take your service to the next level? Most importantly, will your customers be able to receive consistently superior service from one part of the globe to another?

Don’t Be the Bull in the China Shop. Going global is about change and change management is a tricky thing. Your company’s way of introducing new concepts in the U.S. may be highly effective and generate a lot of team buy-in, but it may require a completely different approach with your offices in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Gaining the trust and confidence of your global leadership counterparts is key to understanding what will and will not work well in their locations, so don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing those valuable relationships.

Regardless of where your service centers are housed, location should never be a rationale for accepting or delivering substandard service. Amazing service in the U.S. should translate into amazing service overseas and vice versa. Customers, for the most part, don’t care where the service center is located (Accenture, 2009 survey). They simply care that their expectations are being met and that they receive a consistently exceptional service experience no matter where in the world they or your representatives are located. Would we expect anything less?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Sinel
Teresa Sinel is the Director of Operations, Analytics and Innovation for VIPdesk, the award-winning pioneer of home-based virtual customer care solutions for global brand leaders committed to enhancing their brand experience. Serving over 40 client programs and 10 million customers, VIPdesk specializes in delivering Concierge Programs, Contact Center Services, and loyalty programs for national brand leaders in the travel, auto, financial services, real estate and retail industries.


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