3 Ways to Efficiently Communicate with International Customers
As any organization knows communication is an essential part of doing business. Communicating in domestic markets is fairly straightforward, as you intimately know who your target audience is and what they value. However, things become more complicated when you want to tap into an international audience that comes with their own culture, time zones, and accessibility. In this article, we’ll take a look at three ways your business can efficiently communicate with an international audience.
Understand Time Zone Differences
One of the biggest logistical hurdles to international communication is to understand time-zone difference in countries that you’re communicating with. For instance, the US’s West Coast is 8 hours behind London; this means that an entire workday begins for your organization while those in the UK are closing up shop. This may not be ideal for your business because while your office may be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about the start of the workday, your audience in another country may be about to have dinner. Clearly, this shows that you have to prepare for some disconnect between the mood that’s being conveyed.
Similarly, people’s willingness to conduct business really depends on the time of day. For example, if you’re calling clients in Spain, you have to keep in mind the daily observance of the siesta hour, where business slows down and people relax to wait out the hottest point of the day. Therefore, your organization should have a general idea of whom they’re calling, what time of the day the country is in, and what general mood a person can be expected to be. After all, your business may have more success pitching a new payment plan when someone’s on their daily commute or on their lunch hour when their mind is on their personal affairs.
Make Your Organization Accessible
If your business can’t be contacted, it doesn’t exist in the minds of international customers. You’ll want to bridge the gap through every means possible. Often, international calls are ignored by recipients; the task of calling an international organization, even an adjacent country, may not be possible for those that don’t have long-distance payment plans or those that don’t want to incur a fee just for the privilege of conducting business.
One solution is to use virtual phone numbers, which route calls instantly from one phone number to another located elsewhere in the world. Virtual phone numbers function just like “normal” phone numbers in each country. This opens up access to your customers. However, you may want to go one step further with international toll-free numbers and remove financial barriers altogether. With international toll free numbers (possible with the functionality of virtual phone numbers), you allow callers to reach your business without a financial impediment. For example, using a Germany toll free number can enable German callers to reach your business toll-free, which can then be handled by your call center elsewhere. If a German caller tried to call your U.S.-based toll free number, they would be charged long-distance fees — or the call might not be possible.
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
Of all the ways to efficiently communicate with international customers, the most obvious is that you need to be able to speak the language. While English is spoken as a language of business, don’t assume that your callers can — or want to — speak in English. Imagine if you received a call from another country that began speaking in a language that you weren’t familiar with — would you immediately assume the call was erroneous or a spammer? Probably yes, as would most people.
As a general rule, if your staff can speak in the country’s language, that’s the best course of action. This may mean that your organization may have to pay more for its bilingual capabilities of staff, but there isn’t really a way around this. As a courtesy, you may have your staff use greetings in the language and then ask whether the caller can communicate in English, but this isn’t an ideal solution. While translation apps are available, there becomes a disconnect between what’s spoken, whose turn it is to speak, and what is exactly being conveyed in real-time.
Similarly, if your business is run with a US-based ethos, be aware that other countries conduct business differently. The United States is known as a place where business is informal and direct, using first names and generally avoiding titles. However, this can be off-putting to people from many countries, such as most of Europe, where a title is an important part of one’s identity. Having your customer service representatives trained to understand what people in each country value can make a big impact on how your business is accepted in foreign markets.
Author Bio: Tom Senkus is a freelance writer and online marketer, with over fifteen years of experience. His passion is sharing his insights with readers to gain an edge on the competition. For more information, visit tomsenkuswriter.com.