LaFleur Trading Company is an international food supplier located in Vancouver, British Columbia. They handle a large amount of different food and wine products and ship to consumers around the world. Their trading partners are listed to be in 38 different countries and they are based in Canada (which makes 39). LaFleur’s website lists the company mission as “We will provide our customers with the highest quality foods at a reasonable price.” (LaFleur, 2009) The list of products includes seafood, cheeses, wines, and fruits. Most of the customers for LTC come through the internet. The only real interaction that the company generally has with clients is through emails and phone calls. The desired reputation of the company is that of a high standard for product quality. The website says that the company “will act fairly and justly in the conduct of our business” and also acknowledges that customers get their perceptions of the company from the interactions with employees. LTC goes on to assure customers that their buyers “only deal with reputable producers and exporters” (LaFleur, 2009).
With such an avid focus by consumers on labels, it is critical that LTC uphold their claim to maintain Canadian organic standards for all their organic products and to be able to regularly inspect products from each different country to ensure it all meets the same strict standards. Reasonable prices and high quality are the two promises that the company makes throughout their website. Certainly the ability to keep their promises will be determined solely by the dedication of the employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability. LTC employs individuals that are responsible for customer service, shipping, business to business relations, and quality assurance. Salesmen in the customer department as well as representatives responsible for securing purveyors can be eligible for commission bonuses. Quality assurance team members can be offered rewards for continuing to keep the standards set by the trading company rather than letting certain products slide. The organic label is one that must be more rigorously inspected, as the standards in this area are constantly being improved as environmental standards worldwide become stricter. The shipping team must be responsible to compare rates as well as the delivery times and package conditions upon arrival.
This area can lead to many challenges since the company is involved in shipping in so many different countries. Certainly it is a huge challenge to run a company with so many different cultures represented in their partners. Learning to merge local cultural ideology with the company’s ethical standards is something that must be addressed. One Boston, MA based company found a solution to this challenge when they opened their Bangkok branch. They built an entire team for such enterprises and appointed a director of worldwide culture and communications. The team, called Winning Operations Worldwide or WOW, had a purpose of building a bridge between the home office and the regional offices. The goal, according to the director was to decentralize operations so that the regional office employees would be able to successfully make their own decisions.
They began providing extensive training exercises. “taught Team WOW members how to inject corporate values–teamwork, the interplay between speed and quality, risk taking, and thriving in change, and open communications–into their training programs” (Dunn, 2000) LaFleur Trading Company receives most of their customer orders online through their website. Safeguarding customer information received such as credit card or bank account information from being stolen or fraudulently used is a pertinent concern. Another issue that plagues online consumers is personal information such as e-mail, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. Customers value their privacy and companies that take the initiative to honor that wish for privacy are able to build better e-commerce. Fast Track 500 companies are working diligently to disclose any uses for customer information. “Nearly 95 percent of FastTrack respondents said top executives at their companies consider protecting customer privacy a critical part of their e-business strategy.
According to the survey, top managers with profitable e-commerce ventures are even more likely to have this issue as a top priority” (Paul, 2000). LTC is an e-commerce company that would benefit tremendously from this type of focus. Customers want to know that their purchases and their information are protected. With partners in 39 different countries it would be virtually impossible not to have heightened security on their website and in their company policy. One potentially difficult ethical challenge to a trading company dealing in food would be the assurance that each product is free from harmful contaminants. This is an issue that would start at the local level with the production of the food (or wine) and then involve the shipping process. Because of dealing with so many partners in different countries, it would take an entire team full-time attention to make sure that one set of standards is maintained throughout the product range. Customer service would be fairly involved at LaFleur Trading Company. Service specialists must have the ability to potentially communicate in multiple languages.
Special translation software can help for online communications but phone representatives would need to include individuals who speak a variety of languages. Also, there would be cultural differences to take into consideration, such as some cultures prefer to only have men conduct business. Some cultures do not allow certain products, and most of the time customers will expect business to be conducted in the manner of their own culture rather than the manner of the parent company’s culture. Sometimes it is easy to offend someone of a different culture without even realizing it. “When in Rome do as the Romans” is an old adage that would apply here.
Another possible solution would be to hire customer service representatives in each local market and route orders through the local affiliates. Providing a quality product at a reasonable rate through ethical business practices is a good standard for any company. Organizations such as LaFleur Trading Company have a very complex task to consistently provide that same level of service in such a large international market. Focusing on quality assurance, secure transactions and cultural diplomacy are three ways that organizations can succeed in the new global market. Keeping the concept of “local” as part of “global” will ensure long-term success as a grassroots effort spreads across countries worldwide.
Dunn, K. (Feb 2000). Values Training Spans From Boston to Bangkok. Workforce, 79, 2. p.90. Retrieved November 09, 2010, from General OneFile via Gale: http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/gps/start.do?prodId=IPS&userGroupName=uphoenix LaFleur Trading Company (2009). Mission. Retrieved November 09, 2010, from https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/aapd/CIST/VOP/Business/Lafleur/intranet.ht