John Clark, president and CEO ofMasterclock Inc., knows a thing or two about international sales and marketing. The St. Charles, Missouri-based manufacturer of precision timing devices supports its products across a wide range of vertical markets in more than 100 countries, and that can create significantcommunication challengesaround the world.
“One recent issue that opened my eyes was with a longtime customer of ours in South Korea," says Clark. “We manufacture PC timing cards for their automation systems, and after we switched to a new format our customer could not get the system to work."
Clark says the two companies went back and forth for about six months trying to troubleshoot the integration problem. Masterclock engineers were unable to reproduce the issue in-house and did their best to provide guidance, but time differences and language barriers hindered the process.
In an effort to support the customer, Masterclock asked the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) if the state's local representative in Korea could help. So, late one night, central time in the U.S., Clark and his senior support team got on a Skype call with the customer's team and the Missouri DED rep—who was at the company's facility to help translate.
“Once we could communicate with them in real-time, we offered to send a working system to the customer," says Clark. “After they received it on-site, we demonstrated that our system was functional, and helped them further identify where to focus to fix the problem."
Even while the bugs were still being worked out of the interface program, the customer had already placed a new order with Masterclock.
“While it's good to get the wins," says Clark, “you have look at exporting long-term, and you have to demonstrate that you're willing to support your products and do everything possible to demonstrate your commitment to supporting the customer."
Moreover, Clark adds: “Performance and ethics can translate across cultures much easier than words can."