How to Communicate effectively - Part (VII) Communications beyond E-mail

E-mails constitute a very important part of communication with customers in far-away countries and we have discussed how to portray a positive image through it. However, there are a few other things besides e-mail that can contribute significantly towards your image building. For the purpose of this article, let us call this set of desirable behaviour as 'Export Etiquette'

Proper use of export etiquette should improve communication, impart a reassuring professionalism to the contacts you make and the image you project, and in general, provide good service to your current and prospective clients. They are mostly valid independent of the type of business you conduct.

 1. Good Manners

  • Your company is only as good as the employees you chose to have contacts with customers. The impact of rude or incompetent telephone operators increases with the distance of the caller. 
  • Its always desirable that during initial contact with a prospective buyer, mention the name of the person in your company who will be the key contact. That person should be able to communicate in a language the buyer understands.

2. Respect Customer's Time

  • Respond to all correspondence within 48 hours max. In case you are not able to answer the question or send requested information within 48 hours, acknowledge and request more time. Your correspondent is far away, may not know you or your organization and may believe that letters, e-mail, faxes or other messages are lost or ignored. Prompt acknowledgment along with a target date for a full response will reassure him.
  • Have a 24-hour fax line (with adequate paper supply) and check your mailbox frequently. Remember, your correspondent may work in a different time zone and will be very frustrated if the fax line doesn't answer or worse if it picks up but is out of paper.
  • In this age of Instant Messengers and Chatrooms - invite your customer for one-to-one chat whenever required. Besides being inexpensive and time-saving - chat is very useful when you and your customer have difficulty in understanding each other's accent.

3. Avoid Confusion

  • Communicate in advance the list and dates of local holidays, 
  •  Always write date with month spelt out (April 15th 2002, NOT 15/4/02 or 4/15/02).
  • Avoid any abbreviation, acronym, unless you explain its meaning early in your document.
  • Convert units as appropriate (Metric and U.S. equivalent).
  • International pricing should not include any reference to local taxes which the buyer will not have to pay, like Sales Tax, Excise duty etc.

4. Clear and Unambiguous Message

  • Use proper INCOTERM to explain the conditions of sale. When in doubt about the buyer's understanding of your sales conditions and the INCOTERM, provide a short explanation about its meaning. (for more information on INCOTERM, please see earlier issue of SUVIDHA) 
  •  If necessary, hire someone who can speak the language, who knows your product and its market, and who understands the export business.

 5. Background Knowledge

  • Have some background knowledge of the market in the importing country (Size, customs, key customers, distribution systems, pricing structure, Key competitors etc.)
  • You should have a thorough knowledge of regulations governing the export of your product and a basic knowledge of the regulation in the importing country. (A good international logistics operator can help you.)
  • If selling electrical appliances, know the predominant voltage and frequency of the buying country; if selling cars, know which side of the road they drive on, etc. and make sure your product can be adapted accordingly.

6. Shipping/Storage:

  • Know how your product can be shipped, the weight, dimensions and stackability of your boxes, how many can fit in a 20' container, etc. If possible, this information should be included on the sell sheet.
  • Shop around for freight deals.

It could make the difference and clinch the deal. Happy and Productive Surfing !

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 7 June 6' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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