Having a successful multi-cultural customer experience management programme can set retailers on the road to international business success.

The Chancellor’s recent announcement to double the UK Export Finance lending scheme and cut lending rates by a third was welcomed by many brands looking to expand and export overseas.

But for well-established brands seeking growth and looking to expand into international markets, key questions start to emerge around how best to put the customer at the heart of the business across widely different markets and ensure global consistency while addressing local customer needs.

Consistently delivering great experiences is a huge competitive advantage in emerging markets and a key differentiator in mature markets. However, achieving this across borders, markets and cultures poses a number of major challenges which can make or break a growing business.

To manage a business globally, being able to compare performance across locations and countries is crucial. But some businesses make a mistake in trying to make all things the same. A one size fits all approach is certainly not the way forward and recognising that you’re not working on a level playing field in different markets is a vital first step.

In global customer experience management (CEM), there are multiple layers of challenges - from differences in technological capabilities and readiness to adopt customer experience strategies to cultural restrictions.  

Cultural challenges

In some countries the concept of ‘customer service’ is a new idea, and being asked to give your opinion even newer. In markets where people have not previously had the freedom or the cultural impetus to express their preferences, it can be a challenge to drive responses.

Ten years ago, when implementing the first CEM programmes in Asia, clients repeatedly said “no one will respond - they’ve never been asked to provide their opinion and are too reserved to make their opinions known”. In reality, CEM programmes have thrived in Asian markets when they have provided a culturally appropriate continued engagement with the brand. It is a mark of respect to appreciate your customers and ask for their insight.

Technology challenges

Countries are at different points in their CEM journey. Some still use mystery shopping and/ or paper-based surveys; some have leaped to full scale CEM; while others have yet to begin to focus on the customer experience at all. Some markets have taken advantage of the newest technologies, seeking customer feedback via tablet and Near Field Communication and QR codes, while others have only ever received feedback via pen and paper.

However, don’t simply go for the lowest common denominator - just because some of your target markets may not be ready for a web-based survey methodology does not mean that no markets should move forward with it.

Service challenges

For markets that will be using CEM for the first time, it can be scary to hear directly from their customers. They may not like what they will hear. In such markets where the business focus on customer experience is new, coaching managers to deliver a consistent level of experience is difficult and helping front line staff see the value of consistently engaging their customers is even more daunting.

At InMoment, we assess market readiness carefully in designing a bespoke global programme for each individual brand. We work with you to build the optimal programme under the opportunities and challenges of each of your target markets. What is crucial to the programme design is to understand what drives successful adoption within each particular brand’s business and build on the type of introduction that works in that business.

  • Nan Russell is head of InMoment’s Global Centre of Excellence