The logistical headaches of expanding a business internationally are what they call “a good problem”, but they’re a headache nonetheless. With global opportunities come international challenges, and only businesses that understand how to deliver an excellent customer experience will be able to handle the common roadblocks like shipping costs, language barriers, regulations, and cultural differences.
Big customers with big orders can always be accommodated. Modern containerized shipping has been a boon to globalization of markets. But just because international shipping is more difficult and costly overseas, smaller customers can’t be ignored. It is relationships that guarantee future business, so savvy companies have to find ways to get orders of any size across oceans if they want to compete globally. One such strategy is consolidation: to combine small orders of many customers and hold off shipping until a complete container can be filled.
From electrical outlets to systems of measurement, different countries come with different standards. Convex mirrors, for example, are typically round in North America. In Europe, those same mirrors are just as often rectangular. An American company producing roadway mirrors for use in the European market, therefore, might have to retool their factory to meet the standards in the region they plan on serving.
Cultural Nuances and Language
The digital age has made the world smaller and easier to navigate. Applications such as Google Translate can instantly breach language barriers that would have been much more imposing just a generation ago. Although it can sometimes result in imperfect translations and awkward back-and-forth discussions, the combination of email and basic translation software can bridge most gaps. But don’t completely rule out the human element. Sales trips, trade shows, and even overseas calls may still require the service of professional translators.
When doing business across time zones, prepare to become a 24-hour operation — and to get a lot less sleep. Although scheduled calls and use of email can take some of the pressure off, the realities of mismatched clocks demand some extended hours, revised scheduling, and even making calls from home in the wee hours.
Businesses with global aspirations must be prepared to meet the challenges that come with stepping into the international arena. Only businesses that are built on stellar service will be able to weather the challenges of language, culture, logistics, and time discrepancies that are always just around the corner.