Improving Customer Experience Across International Markets

“Sometimes we’ve had great products which were well-translated and culturally well-adapted, but poorly adapted in terms of functionality. As a result, the value of the product was close to nothing.”

Head of international customer experience (CX) at a B2B services provider

Localizing your product does not guarantee that customers in overseas markets will want to do business with you. That’s what a business leader (quoted above) told me when I discussed his company’s efforts to improve CX across international markets. The firm had to adapt its offering to cope with local differences in the customer journey, which extended beyond the product itself. Among the functional constraints that affected the customer journey in each geography were the telecommunications environment and the need for specific payment options.

This simple example offers just a glimpse of the difficulty of managing customer experience on a global level. 

It’s a hugely complex challenge for companies that operate internationally. They struggle with the complexity of their own global organizations and the difficulty of consistently meeting diverse expectations across multiple markets. I was recently invited by CSA Research to write a report titled, “The State of Global Customer Experience,” that explores how companies are dealing with this challenge.  

What does global customer experience or GCX mean for your organization? It encompasses the approach and the set of capabilities required to drive customer-centric transformation across an organization that operates in more than one country. GCX drives an ongoing cycle of improvement to the customer experience in local markets as part of a unified vision for the enterprise. It can include enhancements to existing products, services, and interactions, or the introduction of new ones. GCX represents a shift in a company’s attitude and its view of the world. It forces the organization to take a customer-centric view in all decisions, with the mission of achieving faster and more profitable growth. 

To understand the practice and its impact on the organizations driving it, we surveyed a panel of 348 business executives, directors, and senior professionals involved in GCX or marketing. Their responses provided insight into the current state of GCX programs, their motivations for pursuing GCX, the size of their teams and budgets, the way they’re structuring their organizations, the capabilities that they’re developing to take on the challenge, and the obstacles that they need to overcome. In addition to the survey data, the report also draws from interviews with five subject matter experts and eight leaders in global customer experience . They related some terrific stories that bring the data to life.

One finding that struck us as we were preparing the report was the importance of a GCX vision as the foundation for a successful program. We were able to segment companies based on their level of readiness, labelling companies with a defined vision and some established GCX practices as “Pathfinders.” The survey data showed that other companies generally lagged behind the pathfinders in developing GCX capabilities and progressing toward GCX goals. That’s not to say that Pathfinders all have mature GCX practices. They don’t. But unifying the global organization through a shared vision is an essential first step in a disciplined, methodical, approach to GCX.

In addition to exposing and analyzing the state of GCX at companies in a range of industries, the report also outlines a set of critical capabilities that all organizations should develop if they want to master GCX. We divided these capabilities into three disciplines (Set the course, Sustain, and Globalize), each of which contains nine subcategories (for a total of 27 capabilities). Readers who have used capability maturity models for software development or CSA Research’s localization maturity model (LMM) will be familiar with this approach.

The full report with 32 data figures, two tables, and specific recommendations for business stakeholders, localization professionals, and translation companies, is already available to CSA clients on the CSA website. In addition, I will make a presentation at an event hosted by mct for Japanese clients in Tokyo on December 16th, 2019. I’ll post details of the presentation here and on the mct blog very soon. 

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