The challenges of serving international customers

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International customers can be hard to serve, but as a business owner, the challenges of serving international customers is often worth the expense. Bringing a product to a new, international market can increase revenue and help a business fund additional business opportunities.

Challenges of serving international customers must be considered on a country-by-country basis.

The challenges may include:

Language Barriers

Language barriers can ruin a business. Saying the wrong word or phrase can hurt a brand’s image, causing a forecasted successful launch to be a disaster. Translation errors have hit many companies hard, including some of the largest companies in the world.

KFC’s “finger licking good” phrase was translated into “eat your fingers off” when the company expanded into China.

There will be language barriers in:

  • Translations
  • Marketing materials
  • Customer service

Businesses, even the likes of KFC and Nike, have had errors in their translations or key phrases that do not translate to the target language appropriately.

If a native speaker is not helping with the translations, it may be time to hire a translator and have the translator’s work double-checked for accuracy.

Cultural Differences

Nike underwent a massive recall when they had a fire embellishment on the back of their shoe. The fire looked like the word “Allah” in Arabic. The company had to recall the product due to the massive backlash. The company is also facing backlash in 2019 due to their sole design resembling the word Allah.

A lot of people love flowers, but there’s an old Victorian flower language that some cultures still follow loosely today. People would send flowers to express emotion, with almond flowers meaning “stupidity” and basil meaning “hatred.”

It’s essential that any company that plans to serve international customers has a thorough understanding of the cultural differences that may impact their brand’s reputation. The last thing a company wants to do is insult the very customers that they hope to appeal to in the new market.

Managing International Staff

Managing international staff can also be very difficult. The manager will need to speak the staff’s language, and if an owner may have to help during the initial few months or years of management.

There will be differences in:

  • Currency
  • Language
  • Culture
  • Laws and regulations

Laws and regulations will be very important, and this is where some businesses will diverge and choose to outsource their management to someone well-versed in the country’s laws and regulations. It's the responsibility of the owner to learn the laws and how they will impact the company’s operations.

Companies must also consider:

  • Tax laws
  • Government controls
  • Duties
  • Health standards
  • Safety standards

All of these elements vary from one location to the next. Political power and economic uncertainty can both change very rapidly. It's important to have a pulse on all of these aspects of business when operating in a foreign country.

The rise of outsourcing has allowed many companies to pass the responsibility of compliance on to others while also having an easier time hiring foreign employees. Entire management teams can be hired to help with the transition to operating in a country.

About Al Davidson

al davidson

Al Davidson founded Strategic Sales & Marketing, Inc. (SSM), where he helps deliver B2B lead generation services and appointment setting solutions for clients around the world. Under Al’s direction SSM has designed and implemented new business development plans for thousands of B2B companies which generated over 7 million new sales leads and millions of dollars to his clients.

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