Why You Need To Know Your Clients Expectations Before You Outsource Your Customer Support Overseas
Clients from different cultures have different expectations on the type of service you provide them. And when you outsource your customer support to another country you may open your company’s communication up to a whole new set of cultural blunders.
My own cultural expectations, living in one country, buying something from a company based in a second country I’m very familiar with, were frustrated because this company had a call center in a third country with different cultural habits and a totally different outlook on my own client expectations.
And I was not expecting to have to adapt to this third country’s cultural values. Here’s what happened:
- I am North American and I live in France.
- I wanted to buy an airplane ticket from a North American airline company for my 18 year old daughter.
- My two major purchase factors were that I wanted an inexpensive ticket. I wanted to see if there were any deals for young people.
- This company did not have any sales offices in France.
- I had to go online and find the deal I wanted and then call a customer support person to make the purchase. This customer support person was located in India.
- I spent half an hour on the phone asking my questions and sorting details out. During this half hour the price of the ticket increased 3 times to well over 20% the price indicated online just before I called.
The Cultural Difference
- The person on the other end of the phone just could not understand my frustration at having gone through all of the hoops I was asked to, and being penalized for it.
- I was given incorrect information concerning the prices. The prices indicated online were changing regularly. This feeling was not acknowledged or considered in any way appropriate by the customer support personnel.
- I was spoken to as if I should accept any large increase in price now because I was European, therefore rich, and therefore could afford any price increase as well as any further price increases. The differences between my culture and any form of North American « political correctness » and this person’s cultural background were huge.
This is not the only cultural conflict I have experienced with call centers outsourced to countries with totally different cultural values to the company selling to me and myself.
It is obvious that some companies are setting themselves up for constant communication issues by outsourcing to cultures incompatible with their clients’ cultural service expectations.
So, my conclusion is: if you are in international business and want to find cheaper options for certain tasks, evaluate very carefully just how outsourcing to a different culture may create communication barriers for your clients.
Outsourcing may save you money in one hand and cost you a loss of revenue in the other hand.
Sure, you can invest heavily in training your outsourced center and you can create excellent call scripts. But it is near impossible for companies to eradicate inborn cultural values in their employees when they are living in their own culture.
Successful outsourcing is also obviously based on good operating practices.
- If I had had a local representative to speak to here in France, or even an actual North American representative to speak to, my bad experience would not have happened.
- Many companies are finding they can provide a better experience by only using call center personnel from the same country as the buyer. It is often easier to open a call center in a local area with high unemployment than to risk outsourcing to a different culture.
- If the online ticket ordering process had been totally online and able to answer my two questions on prices, my bad experience would not have happened.
How To Get Beyond Frustration
But I wanted to get beyond my own frustrations. I understand companies who take decisions based purely on their ROI. As a small company owner I have to do the same thing.
How can companies create a better match between differences in their clients’ expectations and the low cost labor markets with different cultures where their customer support is outsourced?
The choice in the right country to outsource your customer support involves a lot more than cost.
Good prior evaluation reduces the cost of losing clients through what boils down to very bad international communication.
The Answer Lies In The Differences In Cultural Behavioral Values
A study of the different behavioral values of different countries involved provides some clues as to why this situation happened in the first place.
What Are Behavioral Values?
Cross cultural communication experts define different cultures as having different ways of behaving along 5 different scales:
- High Individualism versus High Collectivism Behavior
- High versus Low Uncertainty Avoidance Behavior
- High versus Low Power Distance Behavior
- High Masculinity versus High Femininity Behavior
- High versus Low Context Behavior
How To Interpret Cultural Behavioral Values
Looking at the results of research done on these different behavioral values does not give you absolute certainties.
Cultural generalizations are not always 100% accurate. Your market may have other determining factors. But cultural behavioral values do give a very clear indication to why cultural miscommunication happens when it actually does.
Studying and simply being aware of the differences in cultural behavioral values can help you to come up with solutions and work around the communication barriers.
The Cultures You Need To Look At
It is important to look at the cultural behavioral values in your own country compared to those in the country doing your outsourced work.
Your international clients will come from all over the world. But you should be able to identify strong client bases. And you might want to look into the cultural behavioral values from those countries.
Then you have to evaluate your needs and your clients’ needs.
Be sure to evaluate your clients’ expectations before deciding on your international customer support strategy.
Good Cross Cultural Communication.
Good cross cultural communication is something you gain from experience. But there are two things worth noting:
Good communication is part of all successful businesses.
Good cross cultural communication is part of all successful international businesses.
If you would like to learn more about different cultural behavioral values, the Get International Clients Newsletter will be covering a different behavioral scale each week for the next 5 weeks.
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