Global reach, local roots: yes, globalization is a thing. It’s been a thing for a while. It used to be a thing we just learned about in school. Then it turned into a real thing. Ten years ago, before cloud computing and integrated email systems, it wasn’t so easy to claim to be a ‘global’ company with ‘global reach’. The big conglomerates did it, of course, like Coca Cola, Google, Apple, Microsoft, but for the smaller fish, that wasn’t entirely achievable. We tried, of course – expanding into global markets is all part of the game.
What is Globalization?
First things first, what is globalization? A quick Google defines it as:
Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world. [Source]
Great. Now what does that actually mean? In a nutshell, globalization breaks down political, cultural, and economic barriers through the development of technology. Think Pony Express.
Before the invention of the telegraph, the best means of communicating along the length and breadth of the USA involved riding ponies between relay stations. At the time, it was the best way to communicate across the country.
(Would all Gen Z readers please stop laughing, those were hard times! Also, I’ve included useful links explaining these things in case you think I’m speaking in tongues.)
Now, of course, it’s no longer just email – we’ve got Skype, Slack, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger – and a whole host of other tools that we use to instantly communicate around the world.
The improvement in technology has allowed companies – and individuals – to view the world in a whole new way. We are no longer stuck waiting for correspondence, or for data to be transferred; we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, pretty much at any time, and this has transformed the way we do business.
And Globalization affects Customers how…?
The simple answer is: while businesses have changed the way they do business, consumers have also changed the way in which they buy products and services. Never before has such a wide segment of the population had such easy access to information. We’re now able to compare and contrast products and services in a way we never could before.
We do our homework:
In the Middle Ages, things were different. If you wanted a table, you went to the carpenter’s guild; you needed new clothes, you’d go to the weavers. It was fairly straightforward and choices were limited, not only because we didn’t have the Internet to double check prices or check if there was another weaver/carpenter in a neighboring city we could go to – but simply because we didn’t have the option to travel to another city. When you needed something, you stuck to your own market place.
Thanks to globalization, markets have expanded and we can now access imported goods, or go onto eBay and get it direct from the source (more or less). The power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. Consumers now have the ability to research their needs and find the products/services that best feed their requirements and their capabilities.
This has resulted in a necessary shift in how we approach customer service.
It’s no longer about the sales pitch:
Before, it was about selling a product. We’d walk into a electronics shop looking for a new MP3 player (again, Gen Z, bear with me here), the salesperson would materialize and talk us into buying the player that they believed would best meet our requirements at whatever price was set. Now, if we’re going into a store to buy an MP3 player – i.e. the latest smartphone – we’ve usually got a better idea of we’re after.
We’ve been online to research the differences between the latest models between brands, we’ve debating the pros and cons of Android vs. Apple with our friends. We’ve checked out reviews to see what our peers think of the technology. We’ve done all of these things before we’ve gone into buy it – assuming we go anywhere, we might as well order it online right?
Customer service representatives have to adapt to these changes. They’re no longer necessarily facing their customers – they might be dealing with people using messengers, email, social media – and they’re no longer dealing with an uninformed crowd – these people know what they want and why they want it.
We know why we want something:
A few years ago – okay, nearly half a decade ago – I walked into a local electronics store in Canberra, Australia. I wanted a new Sony Vaio laptop. I knew all the specs that I wanted. The salesman tried to talk me out of buying it but I’d done my homework and I knew what I wanted. The fact that the salesman was trying to talk me out of my decision simply because “I’d be paying a lot for a fashion accessory” (I know, I know… let’s just leave that can of worms unopened, okay?). When I told him why I wanted it I got a blank look. In his defense, I was wearing pink, had just straightened my hair, and I didn’t look anything like the gaming, computer-savvy female that I actually am.
Point being: not only do we now know what we want, we really know what we want and customer service reps have to recognize that most of us now walk into a store armed with that knowledge. A customer who walks into a shop is already 60% sure of what they’re going to buy and how much they’re going to spend on it. [Source]
Has Globalization destroyed the Customer Service Experience?
Has it transformed it? Most definitely. The most successful companies in this modern age will be those that recognise the changes in consumer behavior and adapt accordingly. Instead of flooding the floor with salespeople, they may choose to set up online sales systems and delivery services. Consumers are more likely to engage online than physically come into a store to ask for information, and as a result companies now have websites, increasing number of social media accounts, and live chat options to field complaints and comments.
We are currently witnessing an evolution of the customer service experience. This evolution will integrate more technology, more 24 hour communication options, and a different approach altogether for the traditional customer service representative.
Is that it?
There are also problems with becoming a global company – customer service can suffer if you’re not prepared to take on the whole hog at once. If you’re going to take on the world, then you’re taking on the world, not just a small part of the world. The Internet has made that impossible – short of some censorship issues in certain areas of the world, all information is now accessible the world over. We can no longer count on the fact that a negative review in Australia will not be seen in the USA.
The world is a smaller place, and that’s both a good thing and a potential downfall.
Global Reach is great…what next?
I guess we’ll see. At AQ, we’ve learned that change is important to survival: if you’re not adapting you’re going to fall over. Yes, we’ve got a global presence with offices all over the world – this gives us intimate access into those markets – but we’re also aware that a global presence is only part of what it means to be a successful global company. Similarly, we recognize that the world is a great place, all in all, but you can’t forget your roots either – focusing only on a global approach is just as important as maintaining local markets and connections. Global reach, local roots.