The benefits of expanding internationally can be incalculable, but entering into the global arena requires significant forethought and planning. Your organization needs to ensure your global service strategy aligns to your business and customers’ needs. Having an upfront plan can help reduce costs, ensure compliance, drive scalability and delight your customers all at once.
While there are many factors that influence a successful global strategy, I suggest keeping the following four at the top of your list:
Location and structure
Successful location strategy often takes on a hybrid structure: elements of service are delivered globally, regionally and locally.
- Do you want a 24 – 7, “follow the sun” service model?
- Do clients require multi-lingual services?
- Do you seek a co-location strategy to align with partners for delivery of services?
- Are there data privacy considerations that impact where you can manage customer information from?
- Will onshore, nearshore, or offshore be the best fit for the talent and cost in my location?
Answers to these questions make it easier to determine a model that fits your needs. To find the perfect balance in service and cost, assess aspects like time zone coverage, language requirements, and where your customers or partners are located.
Knowing your budget and setting constraints from the start can help formulate a cost strategy that meets your needs and the needs of your organization. Since payroll costs are typically the single largest expense, it’s imperative to predetermine salary requirements in each location you’re considering. Working with local recruiting agencies, you can assess the availability of the talent, typical rates of pay, and levels of turnover for your industry. Local experts can also walk you through varying social costs and state-mandated programs that affect salaries and pay like rates of inflation, foreign exchange fluctuations, and employer tax obligations.
Further, if your service model involves billing customers for services based on delivery location, you will also need to consider the tax implications to your company and customers to avoid unnecessary charges or fines for noncompliance.
Structures like call centers, live chats, online inquiries, or a knowledge base are all effective in improving your customer service experience. They can reduce cost in delivering service to your customers, and when deployed effectively, streamline processes for ongoing improvement and development for your internal teams.
While many service delivery tools offer a broad array of services, it is equally important to understand how they can integrate with other platforms that already exist in your company. If you use tools for invoicing, purchase orders, contracts, pricing models, or shipment and order tracking, find a service model that fits in with your established processes. This will give your customers and service team the widest view of your process in the fewest steps.
Comparing available tools against your customer needs, the type and location of services, and your available budget will aid in shortlisting viable options. Consideration should also be given to factors related to your location strategy, such as hours of operation, multi-lingual support, and security and privacy.
More and more countries are enforcing new laws and requirements on everything from security standards to accessibility of information. The EU, Brazil and India, just to name a few, have passed massive privacy legislation that will roll into effect in the next few years. If your company manages confidential or personally identifiable information, you will be subject to new or additional rules outside of your local country regarding this data. Ensuring proper adherence to these laws will reduce financial liability and risks for your company while also ensuring customers feel safe and secure with your management of their sensitive information. It is important to seek legal assistance on a local level based on where services are rendered to ensure laws and security requirements are fully understood. You can also engage with larger scale auditing organizations to understand industry best practices and ensure you meet or exceed standards.
Investing the time and effort to deeply understand and explore these four factors is the essential first step in a global journey. They are all interdependent to each other, and if one falls behind, the others might as well. Finding a trusted partner and expert in a new country will be the key to success. They can guide you through intricacies, expedite processes, and give you the real story of doing business in that country. Global expansion doesn’t have to be an expensive, drawn-out process as long as you have the right people by your side.