Saturday, February 24, 2007

Provide options for customers to communicate with your company

I was speaking with a woman earlier this week who was having difficulty reaching a business in Mexico. The company's home office is in the U.S. with an office in Tijuana, Baja California. The company's web site only provides links to send an email. No fax numbers or telephone numbers are giving.

After searching the company's web site to ensure she hadn't missed the telephone number, the woman then started searching on-line for the Mexican office number. She finally found the phone number of one of the company's U.S. offices and got the number for the Tijuana office. Obviously the woman really wanted to do business with this particular company and their office in Mexico.

How many of your potential customers would go to such lengths to do business with your company? Many companies, especially in the U.S., have decided that email is the only form of communication they want to offer to potential customers. This is a mistake internationally.

What happened to customer service? It's not customer service to force visitors and potential customers to communicate with a company by just one form. The idea behind customer service is the customer gets to choose and have it their way, not what's convenient just for the company.
Many international customers prefer to talk with someone initially rather than sending an email. For some cultures, email is seen as impersonal and a form of communication to be used only after a relation has been started.

Companies may be making all the right moves when it comes to reaching out to foreign consumers. However, if customers can't communicate with a company the way they prefer, they may simply go find a company that understands quality customer service and makes it easy for the customer to do business.

Richard Villasana
The Mexico Guru

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cultural Understanding is a Business Weapon

"Military ramps up education on Iraqi culture" read the headline of an article in the February 4, 2007 edition of San Diego Union-Tribune. The article goes on to explain cultural training is part of a new effort to increase troop awareness of Iraqi culture before they arrive in Iraq. A former Marine captain tells Iraq-bound troops that cultural understanding is a weapon.

Why this focus on culture? Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. says that with cultural knowledge, newly arriving troops might be able to prevent some of the most obscene offenses. Many leaders in both the military and government have pointed to the lack of cultural knowledge as a principal obstacle to winning over the Iraqi people.

One Lt. Colonel warned a class at Camp Pendleton, a Marine training camp outside of San Diego, California, "Make sure you're not the bad American who does something to embarrass you, your unit or the Marine Corps."

What does the U.S. military concern and efforts to dramatically improve cultural awareness in Iraq have to do with companies wanting to do business in Mexico? It is a vitally important reminder that cultural knowledge is critical to a company's success in other countries.

Companies wanting to do business in Mexico must examine their internal effort to understand the Mexican culture. Business leaders must ask which employees are or will be interacting with Mexican professionals and if these employees understand the Mexican culture.

Companies must be willing to invest in proper training to ensure that all staff that interacts with Mexican associates has a solid foundation about Mexican culture. Otherwise, U.S. companies risk losing their investment in the Mexican market.

After spending more than half a trillion dollars (US$500,000,000.00), the U.S. military has determined that cultural training is a critical element for their mission in Iraq. Even though soldiers receive only a week or two of intensive training, the U.S. military is already seeing results in key areas. Foreign companies would do well to take note and make the investment so they do not suffer financially in Mexico because of cultural ignorance.

Richard Villasana
The Mexico Guru

*Acknowledgement to Thomas Watkins, Associated Press, for his wonderful article.
February 4, 2007 , San Diego Union-Tribune