How often does the customer experience management of a company actually match the expectations of the customer?
According to research conducted by Freid Reichheld, creator of the Net Promoter System of Management, 80% of companies believe that they offer superior customer experience. However, only 8% of the customers actually agree to this.
So, what causes this alarming gap in perception? The inability of the companies to adapt to cultural diversity in customer approach is a key reason.
In a highly global atmosphere, it becomes increasingly necessary to be sensitive to differences in communication, trust determinants, and physical features.
So, what key practices can be adopted to establish cross-cultural customer experience that increases brand loyalty?
Back to Basics
We know that English is a globally accepted language of business. And so, even for a native of China or France, it becomes imperative to learn the language. Despite being a universal language, there are differences between how English is spoken and interpreted by native speakers and non-native speakers.
Bridging this gap requires companies to simplify communication. And, this can be achieved by…
- Short Sentence Structure
Those who have newly learned English often think in their native language before translating it for business purposes.
To simplify communication, it is better to keep your sentences short and simple. This is not to say that you ‘dumb it down’. But, keeping the structure limited to the noun, verb, and object, leaves little room for misinterpretations. Such sentences can be easily translated by a designated translator or software.
- Don’t Go Over the Top
Adopting a cross-cultural approach requires that you don’t go over the top.
Instead, stick to simple words and prefer active voice over passive. Also, avoid the use of idioms, phrases, and slang. Colloquial slangs may throw the recipient off simply because they often lack a reference point. Idioms and phrases, too, may not be understood easily. Therefore, they are best avoided.
- Talk in Points
Make sure your content is easy on the eyes. Break your communication into several short paragraphs, and use bullet points.
Splitting your case into points and short paragraphs can help in better understanding. And, any reply can be easily referenced. Information flows better, and it is easy to adopt the short sentence structure and active voice. Whether over e-mail or while talking to the customer, having points keeps the communication precise. This makes the customer experience hassle-free.
- Understand how to Present Details
While presenting information, keep in mind business etiquettes and differences in things, such as date and time. Different countries follow different protocols while specifying the date and time. It is best to mention the time zone, day, and complete dates while fixing an appointment. This can avoid embarrassing customer encounters wherein a morning appointment is mistaken for the evening or the following day.
Also, avoid local jargon and abbreviations in official communication. Unless specified at the beginning. Be mindful of the fact that some cultures prefer a casual approach while communicating, whereas some find the formal approach more respectful. Educate yourself about which path is more acceptable.
- Always Summarize
At the end of every communication – written or spoken – it is best to summarize what you have already said. This is just another way to reiterate your point so that misunderstandings can be avoided.
For the Customer
When put in action consistently over the long-term, the following three benefits become evident:
- Global Customer Support
When you follow the best practices of customer experience, you can exercise more diversity in customer service. This allows the business to cast a wider net and increase global business footprint. The customer is aware that the brand will solve issues while being sensitive to the local culture.
- Increase in Sales & Customer Satisfaction
The more you educate yourself about cross-cultural diversity, the more your chances of enhanced customer satisfaction. You are aware of what is acceptable and what is not.
For instance, Americans prefer to keep communication casual. However, the Germans prefer a formal style. Staying informed about local festivities, events, and celebrations also help you package your brand and sell better. This means that even though Christmas may be the most significant shopping period in the U.S., in India, Diwali is where the profits really lie.
- Enhanced Customer Trust & Loyalty
When brands customize their support to match the culture, they are naturally more preferred and trusted over the ones that don’t. When you are aware of cultural differences, you can speak to customers in a way that reassures them.
For example, the Germans are usually perceived as more doubtful about data security. Knowing this helps a company tailor its communication in a manner that puts their German customers at ease.
It also isn’t always necessary for native English speakers to communicate with customers whose first language is not English. Personalization is a great customer experience management strategy. Brands must invest in local experts who can be the voice of the business and offer support to customers. The personalized nature of customer experience management leads to brand loyalty.
A segment survey of 1000 people concluded that customers will buy more expensive items than they intended to, will be a repeat customer to the brand and will purchase even if they didn’t plan on it, simply because of the personalized support.
How Does It Help Business?
Let’s look at two real-life case studies of how cross-cultural training not only benefits customers as pointed above, but also helps your business to expand.
IBM is a company with a global footprint. Hence, to make sure it puts its best foot forward, the IT company has developed an online program that educates employees about the culture that they are about to enter and (potentially) do business with. It focuses on decision making and communication styles, task orientation, etc.
Here’s how it benefits the company…
An IBM Industry Consultant from Hyderabad was looking to seal a management relations contract with a Dutch company. Thanks to cross-cultural knowledge, when the Dutch envoy arrived in India, the consultant took him to a waterfront restaurant.
What is so special about that?
Dutch people like waterfront views since it reminds them of their country. This little fact helped the consultant to set up an environment where the Dutch envoy could be at ease and thus, make a positive decision. And, it worked!
The lesson here…
The more sensitive you are to cross-cultural customer experience management, the more you allow your business to expand.
Coca-Cola believed in on-ground training. Whenever they relocate their employees or send them on a short assignment, they bring in an intercultural trainer. The trainer familiarizes the employee with the new land they are in plus its customs and norms.
A Coca-Cola employee used this knowledge for better communication when he went to Africa.
He had learned during his training that African professionals were more likely to be impacted by passion and expression than the cold logic. So, he switched around his communication style to align with the native way of expressing.
Implementing the knowledge of this cultural difference in marketing helped him to have a successful exchange.
Businesses today cannot flourish if they are limited to a place. In order to grow, they must expand. And, taking your business to other countries entails hiring local talent, engaging with customers, and conducting business as per local norms.
Employing cross-cultural experience management will ensure that both company and customer service objectives are achieved. It also creates more trust and loyalty among customers for your brand simply because they perceive you as respectful and adaptive.
So, craft a customer experience management strategy and watch the magic happen!
Jared Cornell is a customer support head, a marketing evangelist and a book lover, associated with ProProfs Help Desk. Jared is passionate about customer support and loves to solve customers’ queries. He is always keen to develop new strategies to help customers seeking Help Desk assistance for a delightful experience.
Connect with him on Linkedin.
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