If you or your clients are planning to expand into China or other growth markets in the Asia Pacific region, there are a number of issues to consider when offering contact centre services.
The first of these is that of language. If you would like to cover all of China, agents should be able to communicate in both Mandarin and Cantonese. If you plan to reach out to the region as a whole, you should include Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and both Malaysian and Indonesian Bahasa too.
Second, it is important that customers can call in by means of a domestic regional telephone number. Making an international phone call remains a psychological and economical barrier not only in emerging markets, but in established ones like the United States too.
Next, consider the communications channels available to you.
Like us in the West, the Chinese are voracious consumers of social media. But twitter and Facebook are irrelevant in China, whereas Sina /Tencent Weibo, Renren, Qzone and WeChat are not.
Of these, WeChat is fast becoming defacto the standard way to communicate in China, and already boasts a user base of 600m and growing. Furthermore, Its number of international users is also growing exponentially, so a WeChat Channel should be integrated into any contact center activity.
Whilst the concept of the virtual office is nothing new, for western companies looking to expand into China the benefits of a virtual office versus the costs and risks associated with establishing a real one are particularly attractive, and they instantly help bridge the cultural and linguistic challenges associated with overseas expansion.
Those involved in the contact centre industry probably already have clients that are using their services as part of their globalization efforts. Rarely do such companies wish to focus on just one market. By offering multi-lingual voice and data solutions, or by teaming up with a company that does, you will be able to add value and help clients grow and prosper internationally.
Doing so, will help customers grow domestically too. After all, there are over one million Chinese speakers in the UK alone. Mindful of the fact that the vast majority of the Chinese population worldwide cannot read or speak English, those companies that interact with them in their own native language stand a much better chance of benefiting from the enormous opportunities afforded by the Chinese market than those that do not.
Finally, when working with your clients with regards to promoting any new engagement channel, it is best to engage in the services of a native speaker for translating purposes, since automated translation tools can sometimes do more harm than good.
Given that China is set to become the World’s largest economy, contact centers that look eastwards will be able to add value both now in in years to come.
In his bestselling book ‘The World is Flat’, Thomas Friedman describes it as a level playing field in terms of commerce, where all competitors have an equal opportunity.
That metaphor is particular apt for those involved in the contact centre space.