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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Trials of Providing International Customer Service


The rise of the internet has created an international marketplace unlike anything the world has experienced before. As technology progresses, geography is an increasingly minor concern in how companies do business and professional communities interact. There are many benefits to this: an expanded marketplace for products, greater opportunities for innovative collaboration between different countries and the rise of the virtual business model, just to name a few. With the territory many businesses serve expanding globally, the ability to effectively provide international customer service is a growing concern.

Positive word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools available to any company and repeat business is a crucial component to staying competitive. Social networks and online review sites have further heightened the power that a customer service experience has on future sales and branding efforts. Having a committed staff, well trained in the techniques of keeping customers happy is one of the most crucial resources any business can have.

How does a company equip staff with the proper knowledge to handle the distinct set of issues that arise with international customers? There are several primary challenges one is likely to encounter; listed below are some suggestions to improve customer service and avoid many common issues.

Language Barriers and Cultural Differences
This is probably the most conspicuous of the distinct issues a customer service representative will have to address with international customers. While it’s surprisingly common for individuals in much of the world to have some grasp of English, a company can’t depend on this and even many who have a conversational ability may have a hard time successfully communicating the problems they experience.

Utilize Bilingual Employees
Assign international customers to the appropriate bilingual employee and seek out people with a grasp of the most common languages you encounter in future hiring efforts. With Mojo Helpdesk it is possible to filter all tickets from international customers into specific queues prepared to handle the language barrier or directly to support staff that speak the language.

Use E-mail Correspondence and Mojo Helpdesk
Phone conversations are especially difficult when a language barrier is in play, but utilizing written options such as e-mail and Mojo Helpdesk affords both parties the opportunity to consult dictionaries and translating services to improve clarity.

Be Aware of Different Customs

Amongst other differences, international employees will have different holidays, different ways of addressing one another and different topics that are considered appropriate for discussion. Make sure customer service representatives are trained in the basics of the cultures of customers they’ll be working with.


Different Time Zones
International time differences are often considerable. Most customers will recognize a company’s inability to provide an immediate response to inquiries that arise, but it’s possible to take steps to ensure quick response times.

Use E-mail or Mojo Helpdesk to Communicate
Both options allow the customer and representative to send and receive messages during their respective business hours. It is important to try to respond to these customers within 24 hours to ensure their issues are handled in a timely manner.

Set Up Phone Calls in Advance
When a phone call does become necessary to work out a customer service issue, both parties can ensure availability by setting up a time in advance.

Expand Business Hours
It can be beneficial to employ a customer service representative to be available during the hours the business is traditionally closed. If the need for this is relatively light, assigning representatives particular days to be on call to respond to customer service inquiries that come in during off hours, whether from home or in the office, is an option.

Additional Costs of Doing Business
Most companies are aware that providing international customer service is going to increase their support budget. However, with technology and good planning, it is possible to lessen these costs while still providing quality customer service.

Long Distance Calling
If the company’s phone plan doesn’t allow for affordable long distance calls, Skype, or other online calling services, can offer a more cost conscious alternative and even make it easier to determine the correct country calling code.

After Hours Customer Support
Having employees work longer will increase labor costs, but it is possible to implement a system in which employees can trade out the extra hours worked for time off at another period to save the company money.  Also, hiring a night shift may be the best solution to ensure you have staff on hand for international customers.

Additional Offices
If you have enough international business to merit it, you may find it necessary to open up new offices in the countries you work with the most, requiring additional costs such as new staff, equipment, real estate costs, maintenance and office supplies. Depending on the company's needs, it may be possible to avoid many of these costs by hiring contractors who work from home.

The greater accessibility to global communication in today’s age of technology offers countless benefits in commerce, but it can also complicate the process of providing consistently exceptional customer service. A devoted team can offer positive international customer service experiences with just a little bit of extra effort and awareness of the unique trials involved in working well with customers across the globe.


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