By guest author Laurel J. Delaney, small business global expansion expert
This article is adapted from Laurel’s latest book, “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably” published December 2013 by Apress.
The way you choose to interact with your customers (i.e. customer service), will greatly impact your brand’s reputation and customer loyalty. To achieve exceptional customer service with overseas customers, you must plan for it and then act on it. Consider the following two tips as part of your “common sense blueprint” when developing your own customer service plan for your ecommerce business.
Follow Up and Solicit Feedback
The customer relationship truly begins after the sale, so it’s important to reach out to customers once the sales transaction has been completed. Customers like approachable businesses, knowledgeable follow-up and a show of a heart. Expand the relationship in a way that lets additional possibilities fall into place. For example, ask about the purchase/delivery experience and what more your business can do to help.
You may also consider following up with customers in a week or two with a list of information designed to foster the relationship. It could be, for example, information on how the product purchased can be used for other purposes, or a YouTube video that shows the product in action. Taking these steps can potentially increase sales, and growth is vital to sustaining a long-term customer relationship.
You should also take steps to find out how your customer feels about you and your company after he or she buys your product. Only then can you determine if a customer is satisfied or if there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Consider setting up an online survey (using SurveyMonkey or MailChimp, for example) that allows customers to weigh in and evaluate the experience they had with your company. They will see that you are trying to improve your service and appreciate your brand more for it.
To build the relationship and learn as much as you can, strive for personal interactions with your customers to ensure each customer is treated as a priority and taken care of in the way she he or she expects. Remind each employee that part of their job is to serve as a “brand ambassador” for the firm.
Care About and Support Your Customers
Show some love, and take a humanistic approach to handling all inquiries. If you can’t fix the thing that made the customer unhappy, refer him or her to someone else who can. Remember, based on the type of product you sell, you might need on-the-ground support in the overseas market to help your customers better understand your product.
Finally, listen to both what’s said and what’s not said. I once had a client whose only child had gone off to college, and I could tell it impacted him by the delays in our communications and short responses when he did reply. After asking how he was doing and how his son was coming along, he poured out to me in an e-mail what it was like to send your only child off to school and have an empty nest at home.
Sometimes addressing the elephant in the room, or opening up a discussion with your customer about what’s going on in each other’s lives, can be both cathartic and an emotional bonding opportunity that strengthens a relationship. It also shows heart and support in a time of need.
In the end, you must have the courage and strength to do what you know is right for the benefit of your customers. If you are constantly asking your customers what they need and want, your employees can deliver the best. Do your best work and your international online business will grow.
For more insight on how growing your business overseas, check out our international shipping page.
About the Guest Author:
Laurel J. Delaney is founder and president of Chicago-based GlobeTrade.com, a management consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses go global. You can contact Laurel via [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @LaurelDelaney.