Expanding your Business Abroad? First Implement International Telephone Forwarding to a Dedicated Customer Service Agent

The internet has created the first, true global marketplace. Enterprises are now able to expand their operations overseas without having to open satellite corporate offices. But even without an office, customers in other cities and countries need a way to reach out. Though business can be conducted almost entirely online, telephone contact is still a necessary way to connect with customers. In fact, in many parts of the world where internet access is limited, the telephone is still a primary means of communication.

Online telephone systems give global companies a way to create a local presence without increasing overhead.  Local, toll-free numbers can be set up in any city around the world in which you already do business or wish to conduct business.  And through call forwarding, those customers can be connected to a service agent at an office or call center in another city without paying a toll charge.

But what happens when that customer agent answers the call? There are some unique challenges to handling inbound international calls. Language barriers, a lack of cultural fluency, and time differences can lead to poor customer experience. When you’re expanding your business abroad, it’s critical that your call centers are prepared for these challenges so that you can properly nurture your new client relationships.

Access: A Key Challenge of a Global Customer Base

A customer in India who needs an answer to a question at 3:00 PM local time will expect her call to be answered. If your call centers operate only on Eastern and Pacific Standard Times, this could present a problem.  Your international customers are placing local calls and expect to be able to reach you during their local business hours.

Call routing will be essential in ensuring customers can access an agent. But managing the logistics of answering every international customer call can be a challenge. With the right communications system, you can route your calls efficiently to ensure every caller can access an agent, no matter where they live.

Call forwarding of your local, toll-free numbers is just one piece of the puzzle. Proper call routing is required to reduce customer wait time and improve interactions. With online phone systems you can choose which location answers calls during specific times of the day. At the close of business in one center, calls are routed to the next location, which may be in full swing or just opening for the day. Routing calls this way is called “Following the Sun.”

But even if you route your calls based on time of day, what happens when one call center is completely bogged down? Customers have to wait in the queue, and may become agitated and angry. To resolve this, you can set up simultaneous and sequential call routing.  When a customer calls a local number and all call centers ring, that’s known as simultaneous ringing. The first agent to pick up the call is connected to the customer. This type of routing can greatly reduce queue wait time.

Sequential routing allows you to set phones to ring in a certain order, rolling to the next center if no one answers after a specified time frame.  A combination of simultaneous and sequential ringing is often utilized in global call centers to maximize efficiency.

Overcoming Language and Cultural Barriers

International callers will have some expectations when an agent picks up the phone. They will expect to be addressed in their native language, and they will expect that the agent will be able to relate to them culturally.

Multilingual customer service representatives will be crucial to the success of your global business. But these agents must have a cultural understating of your customers, as well. Cultural barriers can create awkward situations. Agents who don’t have a firm grasp of the social norms of a culture may insult a client, permanently damaging your brand’s image with that customer.  And in a world of social media, one poor interaction could turn into a wider public relations problem. 

But knowing how to staff new global call centers can be challenging for enterprises. It can be difficult to determine how to hire the right people to ensure the needs of all customers are met. As you begin expanding your business abroad, it may be wise to hire a consulting firm that can help you meet these unique staffing concerns.

Expanding your business abroad comes with many challenges. But dedicated customer service agents can help you meet and overcome many of those challenges. When you combine the right technology to route and receive calls with the right staff to handle the unique needs of international customers, you can cultivate a strong global business.

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