There are so many aspects to providing a great customer experience in any business. Responsiveness, understanding, empathy, follow up ,clarity and technical knowledge are all critical, of course, but when speaking about international real estate technology, there is much more
For one, it is hard to underestimate the importance of culture in international customer service. This is one of the areas we often see North American companies fail at when expanding services beyond their national borders. These wonderful companies may have all of the technology tools and years of providing great service in North America but moving to a new country can neutralize all of those strengths quickly if there is not a deep understanding of local country customs and culture. This lack of understanding can become evident to your clients in so many ways, from the language being used in training materials, to North American real estate terms being used that are totally inappropriate for that country to a lack of basic understanding of how real estate transactions are carried out day to day in that locale. As soon as a client realizes you aren’t local and don’t understand their world credibility is lost and there will be a lack of rapport and trust. All good communication and service begins with establishing rapport. Clients need to feel and believe you care; you understand and you have the ability to help. Understanding culture is the first step!
Language is also very important, of course, in any international real estate platform and support of that platform, but that is just the first step in working internationally. Too often, language requirements are under estimated when creating international tools. The old days of using Google translate and thinking that will meet international expectations is over. Today, international systems, of any type, need comprehensive language translation tools in the back end that allow for customization of vocabulary and direct text editing. Even within a single country there can be significant variations that need to be accounted for region to region. Local users need local control. It’s OK to provide initial translations that may not be 100% accurate for local dialect as long as the tools you provide allow users to modify the translations as needed. Many real estate tools are public facing and they have to be written and translated perfectly for the local language and culture or they will not be trusted by potential real estate clients. Without these accommodations your technology will be dismissed quickly as not being suitable for that local market.
Maybe the most important aspect of customer service in any country or culture is speed of response. We all know today that attention spans have shortened and in this age of the Internet and instant gratification you only have seconds to grab someone’s attention or to respond to them in a way that makes them feel they are really receiving great service. That is very difficult to do when serving clients in a country like Germany with all of your staff in California. You may be able have a call center, and German speaking support people but we all know that many things people call or text in about can’t be resolved by the tier one support group. They may need to speak to senior management or specific developers, or functional experts and those people may not even be in the office for another 8 hours. This means actually resolving an issue can takes days, instead of hours! What this translates to for the customer is a poor experience. Time differences of six hours or more compounds to many more hours when you consider work schedules and resource availability. What’s the answer? If you are committed to being successful internationally you need to establish a local presence in that time zone. It doesn’t have to be in every country necessarily, but by being in the same time zone you eliminate all of the delays that occur from cross ocean connections. Of course, you still need to speak the language and do all of the other basics of good customer service but eliminating the time issue is your first major hurtle. If you aren’t ready to commit to that investment you may want to think very seriously about international expansion.
So, remember, all great customer experiences and service begin with establishing rapport and trust.
To do that, your products, solutions and service need to take into account the local culture, local real estate processes, language differences and you need to eliminate the issues of cross ocean time differences or all of the great features your tools offer may be overlooked.