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
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.
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.
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 !
- Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad
Vol: 3, Issue 7
June 6' 2002
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 email@example.com