This page provides insight for managing your cross-border ecommerce sales channel after-sales services, ensuring growth of customer loyalty in overseas export markets of interest.
Last Published: 12/6/2017

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Compared to a traditional brick and mortar store, ecommerce has the advantages of removing the inconvenience of travel time, physical barriers, and expenditure of resources in making  purchases from your online store.   

Potential online customers do face the added burden of conducting product research on your site, and navigating your payment and shipping registration process.  As such, exemplary customer service and support is required  every step of the way so that these these prospective customers have a good “customer journey.”  

What customer service assistance do you currently offer? 

Customer support and sales service is a vital component of your overall business reputation and brand building strategy, and the quality and depth of customer service you provide to overseas clients should be equal if not greater than the service provided to U.S. customers.  This means responding to international email inquiries within 24 business hours or less, and making sure you clearly communicate to the person in another country on their requests for after-sales service or other assistance..   Put yourself in their shoes, what sort of customer service would you expect from a business on another continent from which you purchased something online?

Is your product complex and prone to online customer guidance?

If your product requires extensive customer support in the U.S., then expect to provide as much or more guidance and support for an overseas customer. This is due largely to language and business customs that could further complicate the transaction.

Have you considered language and time zone differences?

Be aware of international time differences. For example, if your market focus is Southeast Asia, are you taking into account that the majority of your clients are making purchases, conducting product research, and requiring customer service anywhere from 8-17 hours ahead of your current time zone?  If you aren’t available to communicate with your customers during their time, make sure to respond to their inquiry immediately through automatic responses.

Warranties and Returns

Legal considerations such as product warranties and return/refund policies should be written clearly and comprehensively so as to instill consumer confidence in your online business and brand.  Spending the time and resources to develop a thorough plan for handling such legal considerations will save on how much time you spend on returns.  Moreover, it will keep your customers happy and returning for more business.

What will you do when product is returned from an overseas ecommerce purchase?   

Is your logistics strategy set up to handle international returns? Will you have the product shipped back to your U.S. warehouse or the local in-country distributor? If the product is eligible for refurbishment, will you keep the repairs and reselling in-country, or ship it back to the United States? You should discuss with your logistics or fulfillment service provider these possible scenarios, and find out how those costs can be absorbed by your overseas market entry strategy.

Do you know the standard return policies & culture in your target markets?

What is the local business culture like, and how are returns generally handled in the local market - how are your peers and competitors forming their return policies in these markets?

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



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