The global marketplace today means great opportunities for businesses and consumers. Businesses can reach out beyond their borders (both geographic and language) to a larger buying audience. Consumers can enjoy more options as they search for goods and services they want. But what happens when a foreign-speaking customer needs customer service for questions, issues, exchanges or returns? Suppose that individual wants to speak to someone in a business call center or engage in live chat? In recent years, a number of companies have invested in some multilingual support. In the U.S., customers who call in can tap “1” for English or “2” for Spanish. But they certainly can’t tap “3” for Chinese or any of the other myriad of languages spoken in this country. In other countries, good-sized businesses usually have an option for English along with their native language.
Benefits to Both Consumer and Business
The benefit for consumers is obvious — they get to interact with a business in their own language and get more satisfactory results. But there is a benefit to your business too. When you offer service tailored to a customer’s language, you gain advantages. Here are four reasons for you to invest in multi-lingual customer support.
1. You Build Trust and Loyalty
As early as 2014, a study showed that 74% of consumers preferred to make purchases from a company that provided post-sales service in their native language. Further, 58% of businesses surveyed reported that, if they offered customer service in native languages of their customers, they experienced greater brand loyalty., Think about your own experiences with customer service. You want to be able to communicate clearly, and you want the person at the other end to communicate clearly with you. Your customers want the same good experience, no matter what the issue — a simple question, some type of troubleshooting, a complaint, etc. , When foreign-speaking customers get support in their own language, you build their trust. And with trust comes additional purchases when they need or desire arises.
2. You Gain a Competitive Edge
Suppose you had experiences with two companies, both of which sold similar products of relatively equal value and durability. You had the need to contact customer support for some reason. One company provided a rep who spoke your language, preferably a native of that language. You were able to speak easily and receive answers that you fully understood. The other company did not have such support. Who would you go to in the future? And consider this: Many consumers will pay more for a product because of the exceptional customer service they receive from a company (66% in fact). It’s an emotional thing. Struggling with a language barrier is an uncomfortable situation for a customer. And it sets up an emotional barrier between that customer and the company.
The bottom line is this: customer service has a powerful impact on all consumers — so much so that, when they have a poor experience, they are often likely to publicize it on social media or popular review sites. When they have a great experience, though, they may not write about it. But you can be sure they will return to you rather than go somewhere else.
3. It Expands Your Customer Base
Here’s a simple analogy. Suppose you are an online electronics retailer. One of the things you offer is obviously computer hardware. Now suppose you only offer one brand of laptops with only one screen size. You will probably make some sales, but how many more sales could you make if you expanded your inventory to tablets, PC’s, and other devices?
The same applies to customer service. If you only provide customer service in a single language, say English, you limit your customer base. So here is the recommendation. Do some research related to your target audience. What languages are trending among those groups? This is probably more important in Europe than elsewhere because consumers on the continent normally purchase products from a variety of other countries also on the continent. And they have them shipped directly. A retailer in Germany can easily have a large target population in Italy or the Netherlands. Without customer support in their native languages, you are seriously limiting your base.
4. You Will Boost Efficiency
The greater the language barrier between your customer support department and customers of other languages, the longer the time that will be spent meeting their support needs. But you must focus on efficiency. The faster you can resolve a customer issue and move onto the next, the better. And because much of this communication will occur by phone or live chat, you need immediate and rapid response. (Email is a bit different, because you may have a bit more time to get things translated in order to respond). If you have done the research and know those few languages that many of your current and potential customers speak, having native speakers in those languages for phone and chat communication will boost your efficiency and reduce the amount of time your reps will need to spend with each customer.
Two Other Critical Considerations
As you think about honoring the needs and wants of your foreign audiences, there are two critical considerations that must also be met.
1. Your Website
If you have not invested in translation and localization of your site, you need to right now. And you may think that simple translation into multiple languages will do the trick. Think again. Localization means far more than that. It means honoring the cultural values of a target audience, with your words, your images, and your presentation of products/services. For localization, you need to contract with a translation agency with successful experience in localization for the foreign audiences you seek. You can check Pick Writers, a source for the top translation companies that specialize in localization of your content. And if you can provide as much support and answers to anticipated questions in that localization process, even some self-service customer service options, you will be going where a lot of your competitors are not.
2. Use Natives if at all Possible
If you have made the move to multilingual customer support, do yourself a great favor and hire native speakers in the languages you intend to include. There are lots of people who are fluent in foreign languages, but their training has been largely academic. They do not always have the nuances and phrasing that native speakers do. And you want to make the customer service experience natural, not stilted.
If you are an e-commerce retailer looking to grow and expand, you know you will have to move into audiences that are foreign-speaking, within your own country and abroad. It’s the natural outgrowth of internet marketing and sales. Now that you understand the benefits, it’s time to get going.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. She observes with a special interest how the latest achievements in media and technology help to grow readership and revenue and shares her opinion. You can find her on Facebook and Medium.