Service for clients and customers involves maintenance, repair or replacement of goods, along with keeping an open line of communication: answering any questions or concerns customers have with your products.
The idea behind this simple, and much the same as it is with domestic customers. If someone who buys a shipment from you has a problem, you need to be able to provide them with a solution, even if you are half a world away. That solution may require nothing more than an email or phone call, or it might involve hands-on, in-person service. When it comes to the latter, you will need to ensure that you have a viable framework in place to provide that in-person service.
Service for consumable goods like food may end when it arrives at its final destination, and quality criteria and return policies have been identified. Other goods however, like manufactured products, tools and machinery, will require a much more hands-on approach.
Many buyers of industrial goods will actually place service above price in consideration of what to buy; it’s that important.
There are several options to consider when setting up an after-sales service network.
Return the Product to Canada
Having buyers return their products to your Canadian operations for repair or maintenance requires the buyer to ship the products to you and you to ship them back. This is expensive.
For companies without a physical presence in an international market, this may seem like the most practical approach, but there are other methods to consider.
Using a Local Partner
If you sell through a distributor, you should ensure that the distributor has the ability and willingness to service the product.
Ask your distributor about the type, quality and age of its service equipment, training practices for employees, and the company’s experience servicing similar products.
You should include provisions for service in your contract with the distributor.
If you are entering the market through a joint venture or partnership with a local company, you may also find that your partner has service capabilities. Make use of these.
You can also make use of locally-based service firms that specialize in after-sales support, and while this will certainly be an expense, it may be cheaper than sending your own employees overseas or setting up a service office.
Setting up Shop
Establishing a subsidiary operation in a foreign market may be a good idea if you are doing particularly well in a given region.
The branch you set up could be a one-person operation or a more extensive facility with administrative, sales and service staff, be they local or Canadian.
This is an expensive option, but it enables you to ensure a high quality of reliable after-sales service. It also gives you complete control over your operations, and the ability to serve multiple markets in a single region.
Be sure to do your legal and tax research before heading down this path.
More information on establishing physical operations in your market can be found in sections 4.2 and 5.1.
Whatever method you choose to service your customers, keep in mind that the level of service you provide will affect your reputation in your target market, for better or for worse.
Also, it’s important to be very clear about the parameters and provisions of services you will provide when negotiating sales contracts. Know what you are prepared to do for your customers and how much it’s going to cost.
Source: Export.Gov, U.S. Government