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The Culture Vulture flaps around the globe keeping his hungry eyes on all the news relating to Cultural Awareness, Intercultural Communication, Cultural Competence, Translation, Languages & Multilingualism, Interpreting, Localization, GILT, Business Training and Design.

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Customer Service and International Online Sales

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Do you sell online? Have you started considering foreign markets to boost your sales?


Targeting foreign search engines and online revenue abroad could spell big business for anyone who uses a website as their route to market. This article looks at how to use language and culture to ensure maximum international sales through customer service.

So what do you need to take into consideration when selling abroad and online? Firstly, being successful in the sales process is first and foremost about understanding and reacting to the needs of the customer. Understanding their needs and aims, and working flexibly with them, is essential to quality customer care. Developing a relationship based upon these values will ensure that a customer is comfortable with giving you their money.  Secondly, success comes with a good reputation; when people hear good things it encourages them to want to buy from you. However, this will never happen without good buying experiences. Thirdly, communication skills are vital in terms of developing a way of speaking to your customer that is clear and open is key.

Although building good relationships with customers may be easy in one’s own country, it can be quite a different ball internationally. Whilst it remains the case that trust and communication is essential, the means to achieve this will vary in different cultures with different values. A salesman taking on a fresh set of customers is starting from scratch in the hope of eventually building a good rapport with said customers.

Speaking the local lingo


It is important to understand your customers and speak to them on their terms. This is why international sales will be different than anything domestic. It is very important to be able to speak your client’s language – whether spoken or written. Having your website in another language could be seen as a waste of time if you are unable to communicate with people in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or whatever language you have targeted.
If you are going international, look at how you can offer good customer care in the local language. This doesn’t have to be a full-time multilingual sales person; there are plenty of alternatives that can still offer the same results.

Website localisation


Despite the fact that we, as English speakers, may feel that many people can speak our language and that they will therefore believe that anything English is always legitimate, a translated website will make a customer feel a little more comfortable when dealing with your company. What does this achieve? Ultimately, it enables the customer to engage with the content on a deeper level, and this in turn increases their trust within the company because they are able to fully understand. The translation of your website is one of, if not the, way to expand your e-commerce website abroad.

Translating a website into a whole host of languages is a commitment, and therefore, you’ll want the translating to be done by a genuine, specialised translator and have the content proof-read by at least one individual – the last thing you want to do is to go to all the effort of translating your site when hidden within the content is some real translation howlers. That’ll only put off any potential customers because they will regard it as unprofessional. Customers like professionalism, it makes them feel safe.

Translation is not necessarily just about translating words into the desired target language, but it’s about adapting the content to the new audience. It’s more than just changing the words and syntax, it’s about pushing the values that appeal to the new market and localising content, from pictures through to vignettes. Many consultancies provide a transcreation and/or localisation service whereby they are able to offer such solutions.

Social media


At the present time, companies are beginning to rely on social media to get business and reel in customers. This, of course, will vary from country to country with some more reliant than others on the web. So, you need to think carefully about what it is you want to achieve by using social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and ensure that the content can be understood by those that may be visiting your pages from abroad. It has to be culturally appropriate.

In conclusion, it’s all about respecting cultural differences and doing your research in order to provide outstanding customer service globally.
The Culture Vulture moved from Africa to work for Kwintessential back in 2007. His job is to fly around, keeping an eye on news, making sure you keep up-to-date with developments in the world of language, culture, localization and international business.