Taking Your Customer Service International

February 24, 2023
5 min read

With any e-commerce business, there are a plethora of moving parts and processes that require care and attention. Often, brands that don’t pay attention to these moving parts miss out on revenue and opportunities. One aspect that’s frequently overlooked is customer service (CS). And, while customer service may only play a minor role in the majority of e-commerce brands, those that prioritize it will see much bigger wins and understand the importance and benefits of investing in it.

Why customer service needs more attention

First of all, everyone knows that a customer-centric business model is the key to success. Even Jeff Bezos said; “If there's one reason we have done better than our peers in the internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience.” And you probably don’t need telling that his company is worth a trillion dollars.

But, if that’s not enough to convince you of the importance of customer service (CS) and its improvement, just know that the global market in customer experience management is increasing 16.9% year-over-year. Driven by the demand of consumers that want better CS, it’s likely to keep growing, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.7% through 2027.

Missed opportunities

A traditional view on customer service is one that focuses on the current customer base - and if you’re not getting an influx of complaints and service requests, then you don’t need a customer service plan, right?

Actually, 84% of consumers consider customer service to be a key factor when deciding whether to purchase, and only three percent say it’s unimportant.

Customer service shouldn’t just be seen as a post-sales service, but more of an acquisition channel. Even displaying live chat - whether the customer is using it or not - may be enough to swing a purchase decision.

Cost of acquisition

With the cost of acquisition rising in e-commerce across ads, organic traffic and social media, brands are instead optimizing their retention strategies. While we’ll save the deep dive into retention strategies for another article, all of the time and effort put into retention is wasted if you don’t have a decent CS strategy.

More than 9 out of 10 consumers will churn from a brand after 3 or fewer bad customer service experiences. This affects all brands but can be even more damning for subscription-based brands or those that are focused on improving type: embedded-entry-inline id: c4LJ3QjEzNS9IsP8XR2zmFt.

How to build your customer service strategy internationally

Customer service is relatively easy when doing it natively, but as your brand grows and you push into new markets, it’s important to focus on your customer service in these new markets too, for all the above reasons. However, there are some important elements that should be considered before moving your customer service strategy overseas.


Localization isn’t a new concept. Essentially, it’s a way for brands to fit into local cultures and offer the same (or better) experiences that a native brand would. To do this successfully, brands need to carefully consider every element of the consumer journey, least not the customer service strategy. Learn how to sell like a native, here.


The most obvious step to localization is translation; even subtle changes like American English vs British English spellings can make a difference. But when you’re moving into a market that has a different language entirely, how can you offer customer support?

There are 3 options:

  1. Train your existing customer service reps to speak a new language (yeah, right?).
  2. Build out an entirely new CS team in the new market (great, but expensive and requires lots of time and effort).
  3. Outsource your customer service (ideal for getting off the ground in a new territory and gives you the flexibility to scale up or down).

Much like using dropshipping partners to test new products or test new markets, outsourcing your customer service can be a time-saver, especially when you’re focusing on all the other elements of localization; marketing campaigns, warehousing, shipping, supply chains etc. GQ Fu from customer service outsourcing solution, LTVPlus, explains further:

Outsourcing your customer service allows brands to quickly tap into the languages that they need help with and currently cannot provide. You not only get fluent multilingual agents, but you also get the expertise from an outsourcing partner that brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from working with many other brands in the industry.


Time zones

Another bonus of outsourcing your customer service is you can ensure reps are available during appropriate times. But, if you decide that you don’t want to outsource, automation is a simple way to ensure the majority of your CS requests are dealt with while your reps are offline.

Tools like Gorgias and Heyday offer AI automation responses, allowing your consumers to ask questions and get valid responses. The great thing about these tools is that they learn from actual customer service reps on how to reply, which means the longer you use them, the more effective they become. Plus, they both offer tools for different translations too - Gorgias can automatically detect up to 54 different languages.

Cultural expectations of customer service

Trompenaars’ model of cultural differences is a framework used to explain the cross-cultural differences between communication styles. For example; Neutral vs. Emotional. A neutral culture is where emotions are usually reserved, whereas an emotional culture expresses emotions openly.

British and Japanese cultures are often regarded as a neutral culture, whereas Mexico, Italy, Israel and Spain are often seen as emotional. Understanding these cultural nuances can make all the difference with localization, especially in your customer service strategy.

(This model of national culture differences has seven different dimensions. Explore these dimensions to better prepare for entering new market places.)

Preferred methods of communication

In the United Kingdom, live chat is the preferred method of communication for 26% of the population, whereas in Germany, this drops to just 6%.

What’s more, some territories may even use technologies to communicate that aren't even available in your native market. For instance, in Asia, LINE is a very popular communication tool that outranks WhatsApp, messenger and SMS.


Customer service is not a plug-and-play solution, nor is it a set-it-and-leave. Yes, it can require time and investment to get it right, but will reap the rewards. In fact, according to Oberlo, “68 percent of consumers say they are willing to fork out more for products and services from a brand that’s known to offer good customer service experiences”.

Building out a localized customer service strategy requires research into time zones, translations, cultural expectations, which methods are the most effective and how all of this integrates with the rest of your e-commerce strategy.

Need a helping hand with your customer service? Drop us a line.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about what’s hot in e-commerce and Shopify Plus. Straight to your inbox.