Business in old days was confined to a local area, state or to a country. However, in the present day scenario of globalization, there are no borders for business. A globally expanded company may be required to support its customers who are located across continents. Before getting into the topic of how support differs by region, let’s understand what is customer support and why business needs to provide support to its customers.
Customer Support: Business have realized the increasing needs and expectations of customers. Customers of the present day do not deem the transaction as complete after receiving the product or service. But they expect the companies to be with them to address their concerns or challenges while handling the product. If we take the example of a customer buying a mobile phone from a company, the customer expects the company to provide warranty and support on the product for an extended period of one year after purchase of the mobile phone.
Why business needs to provide support?
Business across the globe are going every possible extra mile to attract and retain customers. After selling a product or service, it becomes an obligation or customary on the part of business to provide extended support to customer. Besides, the customer himself may advocate the business through word of mouth after receiving good service or product. This provides all the more reason to business to provide good support to customer.
Customer support then and now: Selling a product or service is the thing of past. Customers of present day are more interested in buying the experience that comes along with the product. Let’s take the example of Ikea, the Swedish founded world’s largest furniture retailer. The end product of the company is ready-to-assemble furniture. However, Ikea stores across the world are designed in a similar fashion supporting the need to sell the experience to customer alongside the product. Though the stores have their end product as furniture, they have their in house restaurants that cater to the local taste of customers. The stores also have ‘Smaland’, a play area for kids. Why a furniture selling company needs to have a restaurant and a kid’s play area? The reason is simple; Ikea wants its customers and their children to have a memorable experience when they visit the store.
Think globally, act locally: Business are forced to think globally to increase their customer base which thereby increases their revenue. However, while selling the product and providing the service they are inevitably forced to think locally. When business expands and spreads across continents, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t really work and there are multiple reasons behind this.
Different culture: The culture of people varies from region to region. Let’s take the example of Japan and US. In US, personal life takes precedence than professional life unlike Japan where priority is on the work life. Companies that have business in these countries need to take cognizance of this work culture differences and perform business accordingly. Another stark contrast while comparing Japanese and American work culture is remotely working vs face-to-face interaction. In Japan, people tend to have a face-to-face meeting rather than contacting via email or telephone which is the natural way of conducting business interactions in US. Hence, a company selling a product or selling a service tends to have a personal interaction while performing business in Japan and the same company might have a telephonic or email interaction while managing business in US.
Cost: A business is run for profit and every decision including providing customer support is arrived after considerable thinking by the ownership. Every service provided by the ownership of a business has cost associated with it. If ‘not providing customer support’ viz a viz ‘providing customer support’ is more cost effective, then business may have a second thought in providing customer support.
How support differs by region: Lot of factors influence the business while deciding the type of support it needs to provide to its customers. Business, ultimately needs to recover the cost that goes into setting up a customer service center. In a least densely populated country such as Tuvalu, it doesn’t create any value to establish a support center pumping in money for the infrastructure. Business may adopt a different approach such as email marketing which is more cost effective in such a kind of scenario. Similarly, it is not feasible and cost effective to have chat support in the country Libya which has one of the world’s slowest bandwidth speed. Business may take a tele calling or physical approach where they can have trained personnel visiting the customer location to provide assistance to the customer. Man power availability is another major factor which can influence the type of support that a business provides. In countries such as Sudan which have one of the world’s lowest literacy rates, it is difficult to get customer service training and skilled man power. Business may remotely assist customers virtually or via telephonic conversation to overcome man power availability problem. Factors such as geographic and climatic conditions also play a key role in deciding the type of support that a business sets up in the region.