working towards great client service

How Is It Different Working With Local Client And Foreign Client?

The one that I am going to interview is Ms. Nguyen Dieu Ngoc, a Research Executive at Vietnam Market Intelligent Service (VMIs). Speaking of which, from what I have gone through in the university, I have to admit that the first thought came to my mind is: “Research is a boring job! How could a person doing a boring job give me some interesting stories?” Lucky me, I finally had a great conversation with great story to cover: the differences between local client and foreign client.

Difference in expectations…

In her work life, Ms. Ngoc has corporate with various types of client who comes from either a local company or an international organization. Therefore, I asked her whether it is the same working with local client and foreign client. Not surprisingly, she answered as I expected: “Much different!” She used two images as the metaphor to describe the significant difference between two types of client. A straight line represents foreign client and a complex network of lines represents local client.

“When foreign client has a project that needs to do a market research, they will give us a really detailed guideline containing all the questions that they want us to ask the audiences. At the very first meeting, they will tell us to do this then this, step by step. In other words, they know exactly what they want,” she explains. “This is why I describe foreign client as a straight line because they always set up a specific goal ahead and make everything clear in terms of what to do to reach that goal. They want us to follow their instruction.”

Foreign client is like a straight line…

She gave out an example of Yahoo! Vietnam in which the client wants her to do research about netizen’s behavior on using blog. Initially, the client provided her a brief and a discussion guide that clearly explain all the questions that should be implemented during the focus group interview such as “When the user access to a blog, which is the first part on the page does he move the mouse pointer to?”, or “How long do they spend on a specific part of the page?”. A foreign client knows what kind of questions they need in order to get a right answer.

In contrast, local clients tend to put more works on the agency since they do not have a thorough briefing or guideline. “What they give us is really general without giving a clear instruction. Typically, they tell us “Just do the research and we’ll look at the result later,” she emphasizes. “However, when we are in the process, they suddenly add more requests. When the results come out, if they don’t satisfy with it, they’ll ask us why not to do this or this, which they obviously haven’t mentioned before.” The image of a network combined by many lines pointing towards different directions refers that local clients do not work in a logical way but they prefer things to be random.

…while local client is like a complicated network’

Ms. Ngoc admitted that working with local client is sometimes annoying, yet she has to deal with it in order not to ruining the relationship between client and agency. Client expectations are varied and the agency’s mission is managing it effectively, not complaining. As Peter F. Tedstrom says, “Managing client expectations may be the most important thing we do for our clients. If we don’t do an adequate job of managing expectations, we set ourselves up for a failed relationship.” (Horowitz 2012, p.6)

Difference in responding…

Both client and agency have to mutually participate in the working process. Although local clients, as what Ms. Ngoc described, always give the agency more works and pressures than foreign client, yet they are really enthusiastic in helping the agency when it has struggles. Whenever she got problems with the project, she can always ask for support from the client. Even though their response is sometimes slow but they still try to support as much as they can.

Meanwhile, the agency could only call foreign client in case of emergency. “The foreign client will immediately respond to me if the project has critical problem; a video conference between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will be set up right after I call them. But remember, it’s only for emergency, otherwise, you have to find a solution by yourselves,” she emphasizes.

Difference in saying NO…

Solomon (2008, p. 105) states that “There is no No in your client’s vocabulary.” I told Ngoc about this statement and she agreed with it. Yet, it does not mean disagreement is not allowed. An agency should know their limitations in case the client is expecting too much that goes beyond the agency’s capability (Boughton, Nowak & Washburn 1996). Indeed, Ms. Ngoc explains that there are other ways to refuse without saying the word ‘No’ and they are different for local client and foreign client.

“Currently I’m working on a health care project and the client wants me to interview a number of doctors. At first, the number is quite high that I couldn’t achieve because it’s hard to find that many doctors in given time. Therefore, I have to say No,” she laughs. “However, to a local client, I have to explain to them that it is unnecessary and costly when interviewing that number of people. It would be more reasonable and efficient if they narrow it down. I definitely won’t tell them that we don’t want to do it because we can’t find enough doctors. In contrast, we just being honest with the foreign clients and tell them the real problem.”

The way of saying No to a local and foreign client reflects what she has mentioned about the difference between two types of client. A foreign client prefers a straightforward explanation while it takes a more complicated way that goes around and around to find a suitable explanation for local client.

All the information above is based on Ms. Ngoc’s experiences and may contain her personal opinions. Therefore, it should not be applied in every situation. However, it can provide you a mindset that suggests not all clients are the same and you have to gain some certain knowledge about that difference in order to deal with each one of them.

Wordcount: 1066

Posted by Le Pham Ha Trang – s3326150

Proof of Life:


Solomon, R 2008, ‘The Art of Client Service’,Kaplan Publishing, New York.

Horowitz, A.S 2012, ‘Managing Client Expectation’, Practice Management Solutions, p. 6-7.

Boughton, P. D, Nowak, L & Washburn, J 1996, ‘A decision model for marketing research relationship choices’, Journal of Services Marketing, vol. 10, pp. 56 – 69.

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One thought on “How Is It Different Working With Local Client And Foreign Client?

  1. Ms. Ngoc’s experiences are a great source for young client managers! Good choice of interview subject and topic Trang! Good exploration of the differences, there is no right or wrong way to deal with it, just an acceptance of the different cultural norms. What would be interesting is to find out what happens in a multicultural JSC for example? ~Mel C

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