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Why is Cultural Competence Important when Working with International Customers?

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If you provide services or sell products, you’ll know how important a positive Customer Experience is.

Positive interactions and experiences retain customers and drive repeat business.

They are also essential to generating business through ‘word of mouth’.

For individuals who succeed in creating a positive Customer Experience in their home country, it can be tempting to think that the same strategies will be equally successful when applied internationally.

However, this is not the case. Why?

Because culture has a huge influence on the customer.

A customer strategy that works well in the USA, for example, might alienate customers in the UAE or even cause offense.

The critical role played by culture makes Cultural Competence an essential attribute for individuals working with international customers.

Professionals who lack cultural competence are unlikely to produce successful customer campaigns and may even risk losing customers or damaging company reputation.


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Home Depot Fall Flat in China

Let’s illustrate this by looking at the case of Home Depot, an American DIY chain.

When Home Depot expanded into China it soon had to close all seven of its outlets as the Chinese tend to have a ‘do it for me’ culture rather than a ‘do it yourself’ culture.


HomeDepotStorefront

This poorly planned approach lost the company over 160 million dollars! The team responsible for the venture, had failed to explore the culture and expectations of their Chinese customers when planning the expansion.

Had the team been Culturally Competent, then the cultural attributes and expectations of the Chinese target market would have formed an essential part of the feasibility planning, meaning that the expansion would either have been considered a bad idea, or that the concept would have been amended to suit Chinese consumers.

Home Depot is just one of millions of examples that highlight the need to ensure that companies do not approach their international customers with a one size fits all approach.


Target Miss the Mark in Canada

The US brand Target is a prime example of a company that tried, and failed, to do just this.

When Target expanded into Canada, the company relocated US staff to Canada to help establish the stores.


Target exterior in Northern Virginia - November 2019

Rejecting the attempts of Canadian staff to present the stores in a way that met Canadian expectations and buying preferences, the US staff members instead insisted on replicating the US setup.

The stores subsequently failed, with billions of dollars lost. Although failure was attributed to a number of reasons, the brand’s lack of appeal to Canadian customers was believed to be an important factor.


Cultural Competence Wins Trust

Whether customers are face to face or online, understanding their culture and researching critical areas such as buying habits is essential.

A Culturally Competent professional will know that German consumers, for example, value information and might well need a little more information, such as detailed data or quality accreditations, to convince them to buy the product.

They will also know that Indian consumers place more trust in the company than they do on facts and figures, meaning that Indian consumers tend to have greater confidence in companies with accessible telephone numbers on their website.

By understanding cultural differences, Culturally Competent professionals will instinctively look at cultural drivers and form strategies which respond to these drivers.

By taking this approach, they are better placed to win the trust of the consumer and to promote their services or products in way that resonates with the customers’ needs and expectations.


Take a Course on Cultural Competence

Online Training Course

 

If you want to learn more, then why not sign-up to our cultural competence eLearning course?

It's packed full of information on cultural differences and working with diversity.

 

 



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