How Customer Support Differs by Region
As your company grows and scales, considering the ways in which customer support differs across industries and regions, there can be a huge impact on your customer satisfaction rankings and on your support offering as a whole. As you start to offer more widely varying support in order to cover different time zones, you may also have to start staffing different kinds of employees from those regions to keep up with volume and maintain the tone that the specific customer group expects.
For example, 24/5—support offered 24 hours a day, 5 days a week—is a huge bonus to customers who live in other time zones and are worried about their inquiry being responded to in a timely manner. If you can get your customer a quick answer from a person that understands the things that they value and care about though, that’s even better.
Different cultures and regions care about different aspects of customer support experiences. In this blog post, we will break those down and explain a bit more about how each aspect impacts the customer’s experience.
Different Regions for Support
The globe is split into several different regions, which allow us to categorize handily by both timezone and language. Knowing these different regions and which ones your support team is serving is extremely important to be able to provide an excellent experience. But before we dive deeper into why it’s so important, here are the different regions that are served by businesses globally:
- ANZ – Australia and New Zealand
- US – United States
- UK – United Kingdom
- Americas – North & South America, excluding the US
- MeNA – Middle East & North Africa
- India & APAC – India & Asia Pacific
Why is This Important to Consider?
Over the past decade, customer satisfaction and the qualities in support that contribute to it have changed drastically. It used to be that perceived performance of the support person contributed to customer loyalty. Value and customer expectations contributed to CSAT, which then contributed to value and customer loyalty.
Here’s a chart from the Customer Happiness Benchmark Report that shows what the relationship used to look like:
It seems pretty straightforward. Perceived performance and customer expectations affected customer satisfaction.
Here is what the current chart for customer satisfaction looks like:
There are so many different pieces that come into play now. Customer expectations are constantly evolving and the factors that differentiate a good experience from a bad one are also changing. There’s an obvious shift in emphasis from performance to value and quality, and that comes into play across regions.
Different Cultures Value Different Kinds of Service
Different regions value different kinds of service. Research shows that regions with collectivist cultures such as Asia and the Americas place higher importance on service than on product. What that means is that people living in Asia and the Americas care more about the customer support experience or the service that they receive during sales than they do about the specific product that they are purchasing. In these cultures, in order for an interaction to be deemed as a positive customer experience, it actually requires the involvement of a person in the process. For example, interacting with customer success would be very well accepted here, but a frictionless (ie: person-less or automated) sales process wouldn’t.
However, this isn’t the case with individualistic cultures such as in the US or Europe where a product and its attributes are much more important when determining a positive customer experience. In countries like the US and Europe, people would rather read documents or talk to a bot than reach out and discuss things with a human. But in China, a collectivist culture, it is the exact opposite and people may not be satisfied unless a person helps them.
If you’re wondering if the region that you’re dealing with is a collectivist or individualistic culture, a few common traits of collectivistic cultures1 include:
– Social rules focus on promoting selflessness and putting the community needs ahead of individual needs
– Working as a group and supporting others
– Giving families and communities a central role
A few common traits of individualistic cultures2 are:
– Individual rights take center stage
– Independence is highly valued
– People often place a greater emphasis on standing out and being unique
You can use these to help calibrate your support strategy in specific regions. For example, maybe you take a more white glove approach in collectivist cultures, and focus more on chat and AI technology for surfacing self-service in individualist ones.
Communication Shifts Cross-culturally
Just like the preference for the method of support delivery differs across each region, communication across cultures is usually varied and can have an impact on how support is received. For example, German customers who use German as their native language in support conversations may be surprised with the lack of formality an American customer support agent uses during a conversation.
Seek out culture-specific language habits3, like the example above, through practicing conversations with native speakers. If you have already hired employees to work in those specific regions, they are the perfect candidates to gain more insight from. Once you have a bit more information to go on, start to shift your own communication and service strategy. Add details about the different languages and region preference in your onboarding and training documentation. Consider creating separate tone and style guides, if you have them, for each of the regions so that your customer support agents have something to refer to.
When you have detailed knowledge of the specifics regarding the preferred methods and types of communication of the regions that you are working with, you can save your agents from some awkward conversations, and increase CSAT for your team.
Build an Audience Internationally
Lastly, having a deeper understanding of different regions, their communication preferences, and what they value in a support interaction will help you to start to build a larger international audience. As Esben VonTangen4 says, there is no doubt that the time invested in knowing your customer will make a huge difference in your ability to show understanding, reduce uncertainty and create trust, which all combine to create the foundation for successful customer service across cultural boundaries.
Not only do these aspects serve as benefits to serving your international customers, but becoming more aware and knowledgeable about the best ways to provide support and communicate with different types of people will level up your team across the board. More empathy and understanding of human needs will never be a bad investment.
Take stock of which regions you are currently servicing with your support team, and which you hope to serve in the future. Once you’ve determined the ones that you are targeting, focus on providing the best support possible to those regions: research what they value, what kind of language style they use for communication, and also any historical data that you have. Once you’ve created a support team that values preference and insights across culture, you may find that you’re offering stellar support in your home region, too.
Main illustration done by Vinodhkumar Neelakandan
1 – https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-collectivistic-cultures-2794962
2 – https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-individualistic-cultures-2795273
3 – https://www.providesupport.com/blog/customer-diversity/
4 – https://esbenvontangen.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/effective-customer-service-across-cultures/