There are 7.125 billion people in the world. Each person is a unique, complex individual with their own likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, less than 50% of global businesses offer personalized customer service, despite a desire from 70% of customers. And while 69% of customers expect businesses to link communication channels together in real time, only 38% of businesses offer that.
However, there’s an inherent danger in generalizing global customer service, partly because expectations vary from country to country. For example, in Japan, customers experience omotenashi, or the absolute dedication of service to a customer and their needs. In South Africa, customer service employees are expected adhere to the principles of Batho Pele (People First), which include high levels of courtesy and service standards. But in Eastern Europe, customer service representatives view service as more of transaction than a relationship, putting customers on hold without asking and addressing customers in a direct manner.
But meeting cultural expectations is just one of the many challenges of global customer service.
Listed below are some of the common challenges global customers face, along with a solution to each of them.
Challenge: Response time and resolution
If there’s one universal customer service complaint, it’s waiting on hold. Over 60% of global customers are frustrated by waiting on hold for a long time, but what constitutes a long time will vary from country to country:
- Less than half of German customers think response times are “good” or “excellent.”
- French customers think their phone calls should be answered immediately. In fact, 73% of French consumers expect an immediate response on any channel, and they expect their problem to be solved then and there.
- Brazilian customers have high standards that appear to be met—81% think the speed of response is either “good” or “excellent,” and 82% rate resolution the same way.
- Only 35% of British consumers are satisfied with the speed of response, and only 36% are satisfied with resolution
- South African customers expect an answer to their phone call in under three minutes.
- Only 30% of Japanese customers expect an answer right away, compared to a global average of 50%.
Solution: Automation and time-based routing to other agents
As listed above, many global customers expect answers to their questions almost immediately. When they receive poor service, 66% of global consumers will stop doing business one brand and switch to another. However, agents are only available so many hours in a day, and not all calls may require human intervention. Automated time-based routing can immediately direct callers to other available agents. Alternatively, automation provides customers with the option to self-serve, which 40% of customers would prefer. Either way, an automated communication solution ensures customers get the answers they need when they need it.
Challenge: Channel preference
You might think phone would be the preferred international communication channel, but that’s not the case.Over 35% of European consumers think the phone delivers the worst customer experience, and about two-thirds of American, British and Australian customers will only use the phone as a last resort. In fact, several other countries use other customer service channels:
- While most Australian customers (59%) use the phone, they also use alternative channels like self-service (33%) and live chat (21%).
- Over 60% of Brazilians will try any channel available to get their problem solved quickly.
- Over half of Japanese customers would be willing to use self-service channels to solve their problem.
- 81% of Asian consumers like to resolve problems online.
- South Africans prefer phone calls when interacting with a contact center.
Solution: Engage with customers using SMS
A study conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach found that 64% of American consumerswould rather text than call for customer service. While the poll was strictly limited to the United States, the use of and preference for text message spans across the world. Over 75% of cell phone owners worldwide use text messaging, and for some of the poorest countries in the world, texting is the most used feature on their phone. Although global restrictions may vary, the high usage of SMS and the global preference for any channel other than phone make SMS a strong, affordable global customer service channel.
Challenge: Consistency across channels and agents
Another global service complaint is having to repeat problems. Over 65% of customers are frustrated by having to contact a company multiple times for the same reason, and 55% are frustrated by having to repeat their problem to multiple agents across multiple channels.
- German customers expect a unified approach to customer service.
- Almost 90% of South Africans are frustrated by being transferred multiple times (much higher than the global average of 66%), and 64% are frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple agents.
- Nearly half of French customers (48%) expect to be able to reach the same agent regardless of channel.
- 80% of Britons think companies are focused on selling across multiple channels than providing a seamless experience for customers.
- Over 40% of Australian customers think they should be able to contact the same agent regardless of channel.
Solution: Automatic updates.
Almost 90% of global customers think companies should provide an omnichannel experience, meaning that they should be able to switch between channels and agents without losing context. With a cloud-based communication platform that automatically updates, service agents will be able to see the person a customer last talked to and the last channel they used, then pick up the conversation where it left off.
Challenge: Unfriendly service representatives
Another universal customer service complaint is about service representatives, with 60% of global customers ranking it as a top frustration. Customer service agents sometimes lose their temper, which can lead to fractured customer relationships and massive media fallout. However, the gold standard across the world is to treat the customer in a friendly manner, though the method varies from country to country.
- In the United States, employees usually treat the customer in a genial manner and try and work with customers to solve their problem.
- In some northern European countries, agents can be direct and use phrases like “Your idea is wrong” with customers.
- Representatives in Asian countries typically limit themselves to a small smile, but take personal responsibility in solving a customer’s problem.
- Thai consumers are pleased by courteous, knowledgeable staff more than Malaysian or South Korean customers.
- In South Africa, good service is built on personal and emotional connections. Emotionally detached agents lead to a bad service experience.
- A 2015 customer service survey found that almost 50% of mobile phone users in South Africa, Nigeria, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Morocco were dissatisfied with the customer service agents they spoke to.
One of the top six global customer service frustrations is dealing with employees or self-service sites that can’t answer questions. Companies that train their agents to be knowledgeable, culturally sensitive and technologically savvy will reap the rewards–over 65% of companies in the Asia Pacific region reported that staff training had the most impact on customer satisfaction. By training agents to be able to work on multiple channels or use a CRM, companies will be able to provide agents with a great customer experience the world over.
Providing great global customer service is a daunting task, as not staying attuned to global customers’ service preferences can have significant repercussions. Poor customer service costs companies $83 billion every year, and companies without an omnichannel strategy lose an average of $22 million. In addition, a 2013 Accenture Survey found that 66% of global consumers stopped doing business one brand and switched to another due to poor customer service, while 82% say the company could have done something to stop them from switching.
Global customers are also not opposed to voicing their grievances after a bad service experience. Over 40% of French customers will tell friends and family about a bad service experience, impacting future purchase decisions. Similarly, over 40% of Australian customers will share bad service experiences with friends and family, and 13% will go on social media.
However, global consumers will reward companies for a good experience. Over 80% of Australian customers will use a brand again if they have a good experience, and 41% will spend more money with that company. For more and more consumers, a good experience is an omnichannel one: over 25% of global consumers are using more channels to contact organizations. Companies that provide an omnichannel experience, 45% of global consumers will spend more money with them.
Ultimately, it’s important to be able to communicate effectively to your customers no matter where they are. By familiarizing themselves with global customer preferences and multiple support channels, service representatives can make a world of difference.
To learn how to provide a seamless, omnichannel experience for your customers, download our ebook here.