4 Tips to Mastering Multilingual Customer Service | Hacker Noon

June 12th 2020

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@priyanka-desaiPriyanka Desai

Founder of iScribblers, a content writing agency for technology and SaaS companies.

Most online businesses have customers from any part of the world. How would you make them comfortable to use your service or product? How will you ensure a great customer service experience without getting stuck with the language barriers?

The answer lies in speaking with them in their native language. This builds trust at all stages of the purchase cycle and even post-sales.

That being said, providing support in multiple languages is far more difficult than delivering a product in those languages. With a product, you know the exact number of pages, information, screens and experiences you will have to translate. In the case of solving customer queries, the challenge is to deal with unexpected issues on short timescales.  

Clearly, having a call center with an international team of support reps is not economically viable. You may want to support the top few languages. Or you may want to cover all of them. Making this decision is not easy. At the end of the day, you want to make your users feel comfortable by solving their queries while avoiding the financial nightmares involved in this process. 

So then, how many languages should you support? Does it make sense to hire native agents for every language? How will you adapt your company’s customer service to foreign culture?

Let’s cover the top 4 tips to help your team master multilingual customer service.

#1. Knowing what all are the languages your customers speak – While you think this is obvious, the answer might surprise you. To get an accurate picture, look at your data to understand user behaviour. Email addresses, IP and other contact information will indicate the geographies where your users reside.

Multiple language factors come into the picture while you are considering multilingual customer support. They are:

  • The second language – In countries like Israel and Spain, English is widely spoken. In countries like China and India, that’s not the case. The second language is not always English in various territories.
  • Having a product-market fit – If you are receiving more requests for support in a language as compared to the users, there could be a fundamental problem with the product. It could also be an issue of cultural misalignment. Whatever the case, instead of obsessing over the translation, think about the product. Start with a roadmapping process to map out the vision, objectives, market requirements and offerings of your product.
  • Analyze the language trends – Only 20% of all content available on the internet is in English. For companies around the world
    who want to be global, there are a lot more languages that need to be
    addressed.

So which languages should you address?

As per CSA research, by 2022, we will be able to reach 90% of the internet accessible users by translating the offerings in the top 17 languages.

These languages include Simplified Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French and Arabic.

#2. Give your customers the option of self-service – The majority of your users are online-savvy. They do not prefer waiting for your support team to reply to their emails or calling the customer care center. The main reason they cannot resolve an issue on their own is because of the lack of or too little information available online.  

As per a survey reported on Harvard Business Review, 81% of customers prefer finding the answer to their matters themselves before reaching out to a support agent. Start with translating your knowledge base, FAQ page and blogs into the languages your users speak. Every time you update your product, give the translated customer service information a rewrite or fine-tune it.
Another study reported on Nextiva predicted that by 2020, 85% of the service will be automated. Think of automating the customer service interactions in the form of video tutorials, DIY guides, chatbots, helpdesk and user communities.

Remember that any content in the primary language that the customer must understand should be translated into the local language.

#3. What does the local culture expect from the support agents? Cultural norms will influence the tone and method of communication. For example, casual language is considered suitable for English speaking customers. On the other hand, the Japanese prefer a formal tone.

As a result, the expectations from the support agents vary. This will impact the channel of communication, response time and approach. Priceline, a US-based travel services company found that South American customers spend the more time on phone talking to the support agents. Hence you would require a bigger support team to cater to this market.

The same article notes that customers don’t like to talk to support agents who get the linguistic details wrong. The Japanese can tell the difference between a Japanese from Singapore and the USA. For languages with numerous honorific (titles and forms of addressing), train your reps to use them correctly.

Culturally suitable replies yield a higher satisfaction than rushed out replies.

#4. Speed matters in customer service – We are time-sensitive. We have an in-built expectation of how long a reply would take. For example, we expect the “verify your email” to reach our inbox within seconds. If we tweet a complaint, we expect the brand to reply within a few hours. In case of an email, the response is within 2-24 hours.

As per Zendesk, for most industries, the speed of response is the single most important factor in customer satisfaction.

When you expand to a new market, there will be more time zones to address.

Consider your service hours are 8 am-8 pm and you take 2 hours to respond to the query. On the other side of the globe, this would be a painful wait of nearly 14 hours. The reason why many companies have 24/7 support centers is primarily this.

Answering the following two questions will help you decide the speed of customer service your multilingual audience requires:

  • With the current staff, what are your best and worst response times?
  • Is that adequate to serve customers in multiple time-zones? 

Whatever the size of your staff, these 4 tips for providing global support will help you build a long-lasting relationship with your customers. This article helps you convert the complicated multilingual customer service into a smooth and efficient process.

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