As a business owner, it is important to maintain a positive relationship with your clients, contractors, and contacts. But having a cordial business relationship can be particularly challenging when dealing with international clients whose cultures and languages differ from yours. Also, you must deal with different exchange rates, laws, and taxes. One honest mistake from you can make the client misinterpret your gestures or actions and get offended. Or you can face serious legal problems. You can’t afford to let that happen.
However, you shouldn’t shy away from doing business with customers from foreign countries simply because you’re not sure how to handle them. Your business can benefit significantly from going international. You’ll be able to tap into new markets and connect with customers that are clamoring for your products or services. This will give you an advantage over the competition. Another appealing factor when working with global clients is that your business can still thrive even if there are economic challenges or natural disasters that can slow down patronage from local clients.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach for dealing with global clients, it’s important to know the basics. This guide will show you how to handle international clients and make them feel comfortable when doing business with you.
1. Understand the Time Differences
When you have a client living on another side of the globe with a different time zone from yours, take note of the time difference. You wouldn’t want to start calling or chatting with customers when it’s midnight for them. You can set different clocks on your phone and computer or set reminders of favorable meeting times with your international clients. With such reminders, it’ll be much easier to schedule meetings during your customers’ normal working hours. Also, when sending out emails to your international and local clients, be mindful of the time differences. Don’t start your message by saying ‘good morning’ simply because it’s 7 a.m. for you. You can create multiple versions of your email introductions to suit clients in other time zones.
Try to learn about your customers’ local holidays and seasons because it can impact their availability for work and shipment delivery times. Knowing about your clients’ local seasons and holidays can also guide your ad campaigns. For instance, since winter doesn’t fall at the same time for everyone, an advert promoting winter clothes during the peak of summer heat in another country may not be very effective. You wouldn’t want to make such a mistake. `
2. Respect the Culture and Language
You should understand and respect the difference between your client’s language and culture and yours. When there’s mutual respect for each person’s cultural orientation, it becomes easier to maintain a cordial relationship that will benefit you and your customer. Beware of any stereotypes or myths associated with specific gestures, actions, or statements. Don’t make assumptions about what a client will consider acceptable or not. If you have any doubt or questions about your customer’s culture or language, do some research or get the help of a professional translator. This is especially important when drafting official documents.
For instance, if you have a Japanese client, you may need to hire Japanese translation services. Even if you have knowledge of a language, it’s best to avoid awkward scenarios. You wouldn’t want your written or spoken statements to carry a different meaning from what you intended. Also, ensure that the images on your website are culturally acceptable to your international clients. Images have different connotations in various cultures. So it’s crucial you know how the picture on your site resonates with your global audience. Consider testing images you want to use on your website among a small group of your target market before using them on a wider audience.
3. Offer Them Excellent Customer Service
Customer service matters in any type of business. Many companies rely on small teams within their organizations to work with their international clients or use local distributors when managing them. In other cases, there’s no specific team for customer service calls, so you find that an accountant, marketing department assistant, or shipment personnel is answering calls from foreign customers. But, not all staff are ready to deliver excellent international customer service.
Some employees may struggle with understanding an international client’s accent. Others may become frustrated when the customer spends a long time explaining their situation. This can negatively impact the way your foreign client sees your brand. To avoid this, make it clear to your employees that customer service is a company-wide responsibility.
To define your expectations, create an international service standard for your company that emphasizes politeness and listening skills. All communications must be clear and friendly. Consider training your staff on how to make your foreign clients feel valued and on smart ways to handle common situations like challenging phone conversations. You can collect basic information about your interactions with international clients for follow-up calls.
4. Follow the Official Rules and Regulations
Every country has its own laws for regulating international trade. So, research your client’s rules on international trade so that you can abide by them and avoid any legal issues. Obtain all the necessary licenses and permissions that will allow you to conduct international transactions legally. Also, before entering into business with a foreign client, run a background check on the products and the client to verify they are legitimate.
If the products you sell online aren’t available globally due to specific laws, tailor your website so that anyone checking out your products can only see items they can actually purchase. You wouldn’t want your foreign clients to get frustrated after finding out that they can’t buy some products because they’re unavailable in their country. Also, before signing off on any contract with an international client, discuss the terms and conditions with an attorney.
5. Mind the Exchange Rates
It’s important you know the exchange rates to understand how much money you’ll make from each sale to a foreign client and agree on which currency will be used for payment. Check the exchange rate at the exact moment you’re negotiating a transaction and communicate it to your client clearly to avoid any mix-ups. Also, you should check the fees you’ll need to pay when a foreign client sends money.