By Jonathon Huggett, UK Business Developer at Salesupply

To keep your online business thriving, two aspects are crucial to consider. Turning your customers into loyal returning customers and international expansion to generate enough revenue to keep growing and improving your business. Unfortunately, these two key factors aren’t that easy to combine. Read here how to solve the so-called cross-border customer service paradox.

Customer loyalty – the importance of customer service

With the endless stream of online alternatives, it is not easy to create returning loyal customers. Often, everything has to be nearly perfect for a customer to return. From browsing through the products up to payment, delivery, and returns, all steps of the journey can be frictionless, fast, and intuitive. A Salesforce study shows that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Customer service plays an important role here. Whenever a customer has a question during the buying process or has a question or complaint afterward, a prompt, friendly response is vital in retaining customers.

Furthermore, a bad customer experience will not only scare away the customer but also their network. The following statistics underwrite this:

  • 91% say they are willing to use a webshop more often after a positive customer service experience
  • 60% will not return to your company after one bad customer service experience
  • 50% will tell others about a bad customer experience

Cross-border ecommerce

As a retailer, you have worked hard to get to this point. If your domestic online store generates a steady amount of income, you have a sufficient base of returning customers, and you are not solely depending on paid channels to attract website visitors, you are now ready to take your store cross-border!

Important steps in expanding internationally:

  • Localised general website copy, terms & conditions, and product descriptions
  • Adapt to local preferences in terms of payments and shipping
  • Arrange fulfilment in such a way that you can compete with local stores on both delivery times and delivery costs.
  • Ensure customer service is up to local standards in terms of opening hours and available service channels. And most of all: think about offering native customer service in every market.

The importance of native customer service

What if an international customer has a question for your service team? Most likely they will contact the customer service department in their own language. And they expect an answer in their own language as well. According to CSA Research, 74% of consumers are more likely to return if customer care is available in their own language.

And marketplaces like Amazon demand their vendors to provide customer support in the local language.

call center worker

So what to do, recruit an exchange student? This might be an option, but what about the fact that a big share of all online orders is made during the evening hours? This means the customer service team needs at least two students a day. And we haven’t included the weekends yet. And what if a student gets ill, has exams, needs a vacation, or returns home? You will need to recruit at least 3-4 agents to offer basic service. That’s quite an investment if you are just entering a new market.

How about outsourcing international customer support? This is certainly a valid option, but be careful. Most call centres will demand you to ‘lease’ at least 3 full-time agents, including evenings and weekends, probably even more. That investment doesn’t make sense if you are just entering a market and your volumes are low.

Welcome to the cross-border customer service paradox

In order to grow, international expansion is often required. To become successful in any market, it is important to offer your target audience a localised customer experience that is as good as the customer experience offered to your domestic audience including native customer service. Unfortunately, more often than not, local customer service is unaffordable for retailers that recently entered a new market.

How to resolve this paradox?


Everyday innovation seems to reach new levels. Here are some options that could possibly resolve the paradox:

Translation software 

There is a myriad of options available for the automatic translation of emails, chat messages, and even instant replies by phone. For basic customer service by email on marketplaces, this might work. But what happens when the customer requests become a bit more complex? At the moment the software is not good enough yet to provide your international customers with the oh so important local service experience. It might be the cheapest solution, but in the end, it will likely lead to frustration, negative reviews, and never returning first-time buyers.


Still not the most beloved support channel of all, chatbots do have clear advantages. One of these is the option to program preset answers to all frequently asked questions in whatever language is required. This way a chatbot can serve your international customers with answers in their local languages. But what about all the customers that do not want to interact with chatbots? And what about all not-so-frequently asked questions?

The same goes for the increasingly popular self-service portals, they solve part of the challenge but not all of it.

Pay-what-you-use outsourcing

Remember that most customer service outsourcing businesses work with a high required minimum number of customer service agents? There are some exceptions.

There are some customer support providers that help with international expansion. They provide online retailers with the option to share native customer support agents with other retailers. This way your clients will find a well-trained native customer care agent whilst you save substantial budget for generating traffic to your new international webstore.

Salesupply is an international ecommerce customer service and – fulfilment provider. We offer flexible customer service in 36 languages and 15 strategically located fulfilment centres, enabling online stores to compete like a local anywhere.

Published 04/04/2023




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