One of the downsides of taking BigChange Stateside is the time difference between the UK and the US. I’m over in Los Angeles right now, and I can’t seem to sleep past 3am.
I’m writing this from a hotel room. It’s pitch black outside and my phone keeps buzzing with emails from the UK.
There’s no way I’m going back to sleep so I’ve decided to use the time wisely: to write about my experiences expanding into overseas markets.
There are a lot of tips out there for entrepreneurs expanding beyond their home borders. The usual ones include things like, ‘Always get on a plane’ – I get on lots of planes. They also tell you to expect cultural difference and it’s true, one size does not fit all when it comes to rolling out a product or service globally.
But there is one all-important point that never seems to get a mention. You must – and I mean must – make sure that all the process and best practice that you have painstakingly built up in your domestic market is transferred to new territories. Otherwise all is lost.
That’s one of the reasons I’m in the States. BigChange is planning on making major inroads here and we already have a couple of customers. I want to make sure that our nascent business is following the processes and brand guidelines that I’ve put in place in the UK.
It’s critical for a couple of reasons. First, is the Net Promoter Score. This is the holy grail for modern companies. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the NPS, it’s an index that ranges from -100 to 100, and indicates a customer’s willingness to recommend your brand to others. It’s source of enormous pride for me that BigChange has a score of 60 in Q3, which means we offer outstanding customer service.
It’s easy for customer service to be eroded by expansion. Too often, companies chase new business without thinking of what kind of experience those new customers will have. Everyone must follow our rules, with no exceptions. Especially when it comes to RoadCrew – our customer service function. This impacts everything from how we interact with customers, to how queries are handled, and the speed of our response.
One of our best routes to market out here is through existing customers; they will help us make connections through their networks. That means we have to be doing a brilliant job, consistently.
The second reason that process is critical is because it maintains efficiency. When you are building a business that is based on automation, you need to follow the rules or else new layers of complexity somehow find their way into the system. Rules can be reviewed and updated regularly but, ultimately, they are sacrosanct.
Luckily, we use our own JobWatch software, which allows us to bake in the processes that we want followed and to check that every ‘i’ has been dotted and ‘t’ crossed. We are expanding both through proprietary sales and through resellers and distributors, so without checks in place it would be easy to lose control.
These are the things I think about when I can’t sleep, and I’m far from home. At least it stops me thinking about the Election tomorrow.
Got any unusual tips on expanding overseas? I’d love to hear them. Please share them in the comments below.