The world may be shrinking, but differences in language, culture, and business practices make it smart for a retailer who sells internationally to use a call center based in the country where customers are located. Processing orders, providing customer service, and simply communicating with customers all go more smoothly when call center agents and customers speak the same language and share a similar cultural background.
But selecting a local call center to work with is just the beginning for an international retailer. Setting up operations and providing the necessary training for agents located abroad takes some extra planning. European-based retailers, for instance, should plan to send a representative to their new U.S.-based outsourced call center for several weeks to help hire and train agents to service customers according to the company’s brand culture. In addition, the U.S. call center should be prepared to have the manager responsible for the account travel to the retailer’s home office to absorb the company culture and see first-hand how the retailer takes orders, fulfills them, handles customer service issues, and more. If the retailer has stores in the U.S., the account manager can benefit from not only visiting them, but actually working in one for a week or more to get acquainted with the retailer’s customers, product line, merchandising strategy and store layout.
Integrating Systems for Better Service
Training agents on culture, products, and procedures is essential, but supporting them with the right technology can make the difference between good and outstanding service. By integrating the retailer’s OMS (order management system) or CRM (customer relationship management) software in the call center, agents are empowered with information and processes are standardized and simplified. For instance, when a “WIsMO” call (“where is my order?”) comes in from an existing customer, the agent should be able to quickly access the order detail and tracking information. For other customer service issues and questions, a comprehensive case management system to track, manage and escalate issues will shorten call times and improve first-call resolution (FCR).
Two-way communication between the retailer and the outsourced call center is key. Each company’s IT managers should talk, plan and execute the systems integration together. The call center’s IT manager needs to fully understand not only the retailer’s existing systems and platforms, but also the processes, strategies and goals behind the technology. By replicating these systems and processes on the call center floor, the outsourced contact center functions as an extension of the retailer’s enterprise.
How Global Response Does International
Global Response serves a range of established international retailers that are new to the U.S. market. As with any of our retailers, faithfully representing the brand is our highest priority. To do that, we need to train our U.S. agents on the brand, and we often start that process by sending one of our managers abroad for a for a multi-week stay at the retailer’s headquarters. While there, she immerses herself in the company culture—meeting marketers, listening to in-house agents handle customer service calls, and learning the company’s customer service policies. When she returns to the U.S., she may do a stint in one of the company’s stores, if they have any in the U.S. Working alongside regular employees helps her get to know the customer base and the company sales culture.
We usually recommend that the retailer send one of its customer service managers here for a multi-week stay, ideally to help interview, hire and train the Global Response agents who will work on the account. If possible, the hired agents, just like the account manager, should spend several days in the retailer’s store working with customers.
To keep in touch after the training period is over, some international retailers use videoconferencing for daily communication. Using this channel in addition to email or phone calls enables our agents to see body language, which helps communication when the two sides speak different languages.
An especially valuable role Global Response plays for its international retailers is that of being an advisor on U.S. business and retailing practices. We don’t assume that international retailers are familiar with the cultural aspects and practices around such U.S. retailing events as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. We act as their U.S. retail culture consultant, offering advice on buying habits, how best to boost sales, how to differentiate themselves from the competition and more.
A Smart Business Investment
Selecting and establishing a strong relationship with a U.S.-based call center requires extra work from both the international company and its domestic partner, but the benefits in terms of practical market knowledge, better communications with customers, and higher-quality service make it a smart business investment. As their partner and expert on U.S. customers, Global Response provides advice that helps our international retailers succeed here and optimize the value of their investment they’ve made in expanding their brand and operations into our market.