2012 is poised to be the year of the customer. During lean economic times, every consumer is looking for ways to not only stretch the budget, but expecting to feel like every dollar spent delivers high value. Companies will be wise to develop strategies which yield the end result of customers feeling like they are amply receiving everything they paid for. In the end, there is only real strategy when it comes to customer experience management: giving the customers what they want.

Open communication and other elements may play some role in customer satisfaction, but a customer who does not receive what they pay for will go elsewhere to obtain it. That being said, not every customer is like the next, though they can be separated into some broad categories such as domestic and international. International customers have a single, overwhelming request.

The Key to Good Customer Experience in Foreign Markets

9 out of 10 customers surveyed in the EU would prefer to visit a website in their native language. Conversely, a slim majority of EU internet users would even consider using a website that is not in their native language. The message from overseas customers is clear: if they are going to spend their money with a company, they want to interact online with the company in their own language. And, when taken from the point of view of the customer, it isn't hard to see why. Customers have a desire to feel catered to and to see that real effort is being exerted to see that their needs are being met. The message that an English-only website can often send is that the company prefers to save money rather than provide content which is easy to access and understand to a local customer base. The message that the company is more concerned with the bottom line than about serving the customer needs is not a great first impression.

Return of the Sticky Site 

The modern customer understands the realities of business and can detect haphazard or uncommitted businesses and avoids them. This customer prefers to spend time working with a business who demonstrates that they hear and are responsive to customer needs. Savvy international consumers understand the fiscal realities surrounding localization and know that it is an area where many companies decide to focus, to their detriment, solely on cost savings.

The impression that a localized website gives is one of stability and permanence in the overseas market. Spending the necessary funds to localize a website signals to the customer that you intend to be around for a long time in their market, providing them the services that they will need over the long term. Customers see localization as evidence that a company can be trusted to be there not only at the time of sale, but for a long time thereafter.

The international customer sees this stability as desirable and acts accordingly. Visitors stay for twice as long if a service, product or website is in their own language. When a customer is looking for a transaction partner, they are looking for somebody who will cater to the need they are trying to fulfill. When they find a site that not only offers the service they are after, but provides intangible appeal, they will naturally want to stay and carefully consider what the site has to offer. Sites that cause this desire to stay and browse are sometimes referred to as being sticky, and it is clear that for the overseas market, a key to increasing how sticky a company's site is begins with localization. And how does having a sticky, localized site affect sales? Localized websites lead to four times as many sales as websites which are only offered in English.

The Perils of Being Penny-Wise

Prosperity in 2012 will come at a price. That price really boils down to going to the effort to understanding the needs of the customer and then delivering on those needs. Companies who are seen to be taking steps to make open communication with the customer much more convenient will, in the end, have a happier and growing customer base. These companies will stand out of the crowd of companies who prefer to rely on the old, penny-wise ways of communicating with potential customers.

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