This article first appeared in ICMI.
If your organization is getting ready to go global, or you are executing a CX strategy within a global organization, ask yourself if you have a CX strategy that recognizes the cultural, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of your global customer base. Also, does the strategy take into account the diversity of the talent pool in your desired location?
The business world is wrought with examples of US-based brands that thought they could easily expand globally without consideration to local customer expectations and needs. A few examples include Best Buy building mega-stores in China when customers prefer localized shopping in smaller environments; Target entering Canada but unable to build a loyal customer base there; or the legend (not true as it turns out) that the Chevrolet Nova didn’t sell well in Mexico because it means “no go”.
While initially these might be dismissed as brand or product failures, at the core it really was about the customer experience. If you’re going to take your brand global, then your customer experience (CX) must be global, as well. A core principle in creating effective CX strategies is that brand and experience are one in the same. As a wise person once said, “Brand represents a promise made to a customer; experience represents the promise kept.”
When organizations decide to globalize their products or services, they often concentrate on gaining market share, growing revenues, reducing costs, or increasing brand recognition with potential consumers. The lure of new opportunities in exciting new countries can sometimes impair the vision of well-meaning leaders who are intent on proving the efficiencies of their ROI’s.
For any globalization effort to be successful, it must move beyond the balance sheet and consider elements of culture, language, preferences, beliefs, and behaviors unique to a particular country or region. Globalization of your products or services is not about imposing your way of doing business on prospective customers; it’s about marrying your business acumen with the expectations of the customers you want to acquire and retain.
Sensitizing your organization, your leaders, your processes, and your approaches to the new environment allows you to hear the voice of the customer and act on what you’re hearing, not on what you want to hear. It’s important to break through your preconceived notions of how you think business is done in a market. Using the voice of the customer and local expertise can help you broaden your perspective and better understand the culture.
Ensuring your CX strategy is aligned to your brand while being agile enough to accommodate your global expansion is an approach that creates a successful expansion of your products or services. Maintain your core strategy because that’s what made you successful while providing enhanced experiences based on your new market or customer base you intend to serve. Walmart’s EDLP (everyday low prices) strategy is at the heart and core of its brand – that doesn’t change when it expands to a different region outside the US. What does change is how it executes that strategy and creates experiences that reflect the expectations of the customers in that region.
It’s also important not to overlook the employee experience. Understanding the unique aspects of the available talent pool can sometimes be more challenging than understanding customer expectations.
Employees seem to want three things universally across the globe:
1) Listen to my voice and help me recognize my potential
2) Give me the tools and processes I need to be successful in my job.
3) Show me that my contributions matter.
With these values at the core of your employee experience, it’s then possible to customize them to meet local cultures and employee expectations.
There are many ways to do business across the globe that may differ from how we do business in the US. That doesn’t mean that global expansion is the time to abandon what made your organization successful. The real question is whether the way other countries conduct business aligns to your organization’s values. If not, then you should consider this as another factor in determining whether globalization is a fit.
Bob Azman is Founder and CXO of Innovative CX Solutions, LLC a Customer Experience Consulting firm specializing in CX Design and Execution, Sales and Service Experience Design, Customer Service, Supply Chain and Operations Management and Talent Development. He is a Past Chairman of the Board of the Customer Experience Professional Association (CXPA.org). He is a Certified Customer Experience Professional. Bob has a wealth of diverse, global operations and leadership experience as an executive at organizations such as Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Thomson Reuters, Ceridian, and Deluxe Corporation. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management’s Supply Chain and Operations Management department and at the Rutgers University School of Business Executive Education programs. He earned both his MBA and bachelor’s degrees from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.