Go Global or Go Home

No, this isn’t a post about my favourite topic of outsourcing. Or even about international buying or selling. It’s a post about operations, and it’s for the vendors. Really.

Those who do global business follow the sun. That way they can offer 24/7 customer service, and do it during normal business hours. Most people don’t want to work twelve hour shifts or work all night, and most companies don’t want to pay overtime or the higher wages that workers in many markets would want for the privilege.

However, the leaders have realized that if you want to stand out from the crowd, that’s not enough. You also have to support your suppliers 24/7 and be ready to take action as soon as something goes wrong — even if that’s 2 am Friday morning. As a result, many companies have started putting people on the ground in a local time zone near their suppliers. And it’s these local people on the ground who are doing most of the work. And they themselves want to be supported.

As a result, today’s leading customers care a lot more about where your support team is than where your headquarters is, where you account managers are, or whether or not you’re best in class (because many of them only need good-enough solutions most of the time, as long as these solutions are there when they need them). So if you’re planning to expand your operations as a supply management software or services provider, forget the global sales offices. Smart customers don’t care. They care about whether or not you’re there to support them when they need it. And putting someone on the ground there with them goes along way towards negating that worry — as more and more vendors in the space are realizing, and doing. (In fact, I recently talked with one CXO who said “I’m not hiring anyone else local. I’m here, and since most of my customers aren’t, why would I need anyone else here? I can support the few customers I have here by myself. I’m going to hire the people where they are needed.”)

In other words, if you think you’re the next vendor to cross the ocean, or the continental divide and you aren’t planning on establishing a local presence, think again. You’ll just be wasting your time and money. Customers don’t just want differentiating technology anymore (as they have enough of that), they want differentiating service — and if you can’t provide it in this increasingly crowded space, you won’t survive. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s just the way it is. Have a nice day.

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