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The Global Service Advantage

Selling the product is just the start of your international journey

David Iwinski Jr.

Managing Director

david.iwinski@bluewatergrowth.com.

AUTHOR

David-Iwinski-Jr.png

David Iwinski Jr.

Managing Director

Blue Water Growth

david.iwinski@bluewatergrowth.com

US Mobile: +1 412 352 7997

China Mobile: +86 183 2128 4064

Skype ID: david.iwinski.bluewatergrowth

The Global Service Advantage

Selling the product is just the start of your international journey

By David Iwinski

Congratulations! You took the first bold steps and attended a tradeshow in Frankfurt, visited distributors in Rome, and sponsored a focus group in Lille. First shipments have gone out from your US factory and the feedback coming in is highly positive. More inquiries arrive daily from potential customers and distributors eager to represent you across Europe.

 

However, there’s a cloud on the horizon. A few products arrive damaged, and perhaps a few were misused. Now some of the folks who sent you excellent feedback in on-line forums are now saying that shipping the product back to Milwaukee and waiting for repair is simply unacceptable.

 

When it comes to international product servicing, your ability to respond quickly and cost-effectively to customer needs can be the difference between a successful international launch or costly failure. There are two essential ways to handle this challenge.

 

Find a Partner The easiest way to get in-country capacity for service and responsiveness is to find a partner; someone you can contract to handle repairs, warranties and replacements.  A partner comes complete with service techs and phone numbers that answer in local languages and time zones. This can be a huge advantage in Europe, where you might be serving nine different countries. They will also normally have warehouse space where spares and repair parts can be housed to make exchanges fast and easy. You further won’t need to deal with multiple entities being set up in different countries, nor subjected to highly variable tax regimes.

 

At the same time, if you are a small player and just entering the market, then your volumes may be too low to be a priority for your partner. You might also find it difficult to gain useful market intelligence and feedback on products, usage and defects, as a partner may be reluctant to share if they think it might reflect badly on their performance.

 

Go It Alone  If the concerns about having a partner give you pause, another option is to set up shop on your own. The best part about your own operation is control. Quality of technicians, speed of responsiveness and the wealth of data that comes from direct interaction with customers can all be critical in your growth strategy in Europe. You may set up a centralized operation, or may discover that small satellite offices suit your products better. You may also find that when the service technicians who answer the phones work directly for you, they can also act as sales staff and offer new products and upgrades that a partner may be unwilling to handle.

 

Of course, with all that control comes cost and risk. The biggest challenge is hiring the right people and managing long-distance leadership. All too often US firms hire a service manager, give her a budget and rent an office, and then turn their mind back to domestic issues. It is hard work to make far-flung operations feel like a part of the global team. The US leader must make special efforts not to neglect young and growing service markets.

 

On the balance, I generally advise starting with a partner when volumes are low and the risk to your brand is minimal. However, just having a partner doesn’t mean you don’t need to be diligent. You should budget quarterly trips to visit customers and work with your service provider to be sure that they’re delivering as per contract and to industry standards. Measure them carefully on performance and, if possible, set up a reward system based on strict quantifiable criteria.

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